A post by Ross Coxon, Director of Learning Collaborative at LINGOs

Social Learning is creating quite a stir in the L&D and academic worlds and if you haven’t yet engaged in this type of learning, you really should. As L&D professionals we need to be conversant with many different approaches to online and social learning.

So LINGOs (our members, Gus, some other friends and myself) just hosted and finished our first MOOC. Or did we?

A MOOC (massive open online course) is the most common name for experience, but it was actually neither massive nor open. The tool we used, Curatr, describes itself as a social learning platform, which seem much more apt but still a bit of a mouthful. What should we call these courses?

In our course ‘eLearning – Beyond The Next Button’ we had 53 people, 635 learning objects views (a curated selection of videos, blogs, podcasts and articles), making an incredible 354 of comments across a 6-week period.

So what did I learn as the tutor/moderator

– Social Learning/MOOC’s are fun (sometimes laugh out loud funny) and I really enjoyed the experience. The social element really helps people engage around the learning and drives interest and connections.

– Curatr is such a great tool and makes it so easy to add a social layer to already existing content such as eLearning courses, videos, blogs podcasts etc. But be mindful about how much you put on there (even if its optional). Too much content can be daunting to get through.

– External reminders like emails and twitter feeds are useful and learners want them.

– Don’t feel every comment you make has to be super intelligent and insightful, but do feel the need to write something after each learning object be part of the community.

– Keep it short and sweet, shorter courses (3-8 weeks) have much higher completion rates.

– Having mentor & tutor engagement is key, to keep up with the leaders and to keep things moving for the stragglers, every good party needs a host.

There has been extensive criticism of MOOCs: too many attendees, poor instructional design, low completions rates, low learner motivation. I happen to agree with much of what has been said, who cares how many people are on your course – what difference did it make?

However, if we don’t get too carried away in the criticisms and look to fix the issues by creating courses with a few more motivated learners, deep and engaging content and keep it fun, while helping our learners get through the experience, surely there is some gold here.

Imagine being able to create inexpensive, engaging, social eLearning, where people learn new things and can make a change in their work. That’s what happened in our “eLearning Beyond the Next Button” course. The curated content and the social drive of these types of courses is what is so completing. Let us not get bogged down in the massive and open bit.

Its worth noting that my great experience, is also down to the fantastic bunch of people who took the course with me and the outstanding Curatr platform. However, I feel this style of learning represents a huge step forward compared with self-directed e-learning, and with a partner like Curatr, we can do so much more as a sector.

Get involved and test drive our upcoming course “Explore Social Learning” 1st Nov – 6th Dec enroll here

I would love to know if others have had similar or different experiences to me?

4 thoughts on “LINGOs takes on the dynamic world of Social Learning: What have we learnt so far?

  1. I agree with all of your observations – especially your notes about engagement. At one time, it was fashionable to be the “guide on the side” as opposed to the “sage on the stage”. But today, in the fully online experiences, I think if you want to lead a highly engaging and engaged fully online course, you need to be a little bit of both. You need to be present in the online discussions and develop relationships with the students – even if the numbers are large.
    I developed an 8-week online graduate course for Georgetown University this year and I have now taught it twice. It’s hosted in Blackboard (their choice – not mine!) – but I also agreed to be a guinea pig for an add-on called Voice Thread – which allows for audio and video postings. It was hard work to develop the course and it is hard work to teach – but I have definitely noticed that the more I engage and let the students know I am present in the discussions – the more I learn about the students and appreciate them as individuals – even though I have never met them in person. I hope the reverse is also true for the students and their feelings about their relationship with me as the instructor.

    1. Hi Sarah, I am sure that your students felt the same as you. In our course we encouraged a lot of sharing of articles and material, which was very effective and engaging. It also mean the learning process was two way. I am inspired by the Voice thread idea – Curatr does offer the abilty to video upload (and record straight from your device) perhaps we should explore this more on the next course.

      1. Voice Thread was difficult for the students to get used to, so the first couple of weeks were rocky. But once they got the hang of it, I think it really enhanced the interactions – and also helped the groups work together on joint assignments. Some of the students took it very seriously and figured out how to embed video into powerpoint presentations that they uploaded for everyone to see. It was very impressive and helped them learn how to make professional pitches for IT funding to their leadership (one of the learning outcomes for the course).

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