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.