The Magic of Learning Social vs. Solo

As learning designers, we all integrate at least one element of online collaboration or social learning in our courses. This could be discussion forums, blogs, or wikis to ensure learners share and learn from each other. Facebook and Twitter are also the newly popular tools being used. The effectiveness of these tools goes beyond just knowledge sharing. I personally experienced the power of social learning, which I’d like to share with you here.

I was long thinking of starting my own blog, but never seemed to really get it done for different reasons. Having met some virtual colleagues on Twitter, I shared my intention and concerns, among whom; Mathew Guyan responded and gave me insights and moral support to start my blog. He even followed up if I had my first post ready.  What amazed me was the encouragement I received which really made me obliged to get cracking.

I’ve heard from many learning designers and instructors that their students don’t actively participate in any of these collaborative and social platforms. Even grading does not seem to attract the students to share and exchange their ideas there. Perhaps if we share with them how these tools can help them, it would motivate them to participate. When I was teaching, I always shared the reason for each assignment and their impact on learning with my students.

Learners need to see why something needs to be done and how they can benefit from it. In my recent research, students were sharing their difficulty to cope with work, study, and assignments in their blogs. In return, they received encouragement or empathy from their peers, which kept them more motivated.

Social learning with its fast-paced growth has the potential to make learning more effective if instructors help learners realize the potential of these platforms, and guide them in using these tools effectively. Marks may not always be a good incentive.


6 thoughts on “The Magic of Learning Social vs. Solo

    • You’re most welcome Matt! That was indeed my thoughts. It would be the best if instructors and learning designers experienced this for themselves. We will be able to understand the students better.

  1. I have currently wrestled with the idea of including social learning in my current teaching environment; corporate technical training. We have come to a crossroads in instructional design where social learning meets social media. Not only are we bringing in new ways of instruction but also new technology; resistance is evident and also expected.
    I agree with your statement, “Perhaps if we share with them how these tools can help them, it would motivate them to participate”. For myself, I envision this to be a lot of communication of the “What’s in it for me”, modeling social media, and engaging my students in the use of social media. Since my students are instructor themselves, I will be modeling for them what they should be modeling for their own students. I am looking forward to the possibilities.

    • @sherrylamon, modeling is the best practice. Please do share your experience with your classes with me. I did a study with pre-service teachers a few years ago and they shared they learned most by observing and analyzing their own instructor. All the best to you!

  2. Hi Elham,
    I’m an Instructional Design Graduate student at Walden University and we use social media on a daily basis…so I can attest to its effectiveness. I emphatically agree with your assertion regarding the need to obtain learner buy in.

    Having said that, your assertion that students are unwilling to interact using social media learning platforms is most peculiar. Of course for every post on (LinkedIn for example) there are probably ten or more lurkers who refrain from posting. It also seems probable that many threads (most especially if part of a grading requirements) can rapidly devolve into ‘love your post’ rubber stamps of sorts. postings in this vein are likely to discourage earnest students craving substantive discussion.

    Certainly, the Behaviorist principles of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior can be applied to requirements for active engagement in social media.

    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks for your comment! I also used discussion forums and wikis during my studies in Instructional Technology, and it was compulsory as a matter of fact due to the nature of the course. Peculiar as it may sound, unfortunately that’s the fact in many universities and schools based on my observations and research study. The problem partly lies in the lack of training for instructors who conduct the lessons. In my observations, discussion threads are merely answering to a question posted by the instructor, and what seems to be missing is real interaction among the students.
      Behaviorist principles are one aspect that instructors have to follow. I’ll further elaborate on this in another post.

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