Learning is moving onto social networks

Education can be dramatically enhanced by social networks, a report from The Open University claims. Massive open social learning brings the power of social networks to people taking online courses, by recommending, liking and following the best content created by other learners. The so-called ‘network effect’ comes from many thousands of people learning from each other, but it needs careful management to reach its full potential.

The Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report (www.open.ac.uk/innovating) identifies 10 methods of teaching, learning and assessment that are gaining influence but which have not yet had a major impact on education. Other innovations covered by the report include: dynamic assessment where learners are offered personalised tests to support their learning; learning through storytelling; threshold concepts that are difficult to teach; and bricolage or creative tinkering with resources. Creative educational games such as Minecraft are bringing together bricolage and social learning, allowing millions of people to build shared cities and machines out of virtual interactive bricks.

Mike Sharples, Professor of Educational Technology at the OU and lead author of the Innovating Pedagogy report said: “Social networks have transformed entertainment from delivering books, radio and television programmes into holding a global conversation. The same is about to happen with education through social learning. That is a huge opportunity, but also a challenge to manage the discussion and file sharing. Learning on that scale can’t only be controlled centrally. It has to come through social network techniques that put learners in contact with others who share their interests, reward the best contributions and allow learners to report issues.”

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