Social Learning in University

“In the age of information abundance, networking and social learning are critical skills that need to be mastered for a person to move from labor to talent. As Harold Jarche wrote this morning, “…social business is organizational survival, because enterprises must be able to share knowledge quicker than before.“. His observations define some of the changes that have arisen because of the emergence of information abundance. The more that low value work is automated and outsourced, the more important it is for people to be able to develop talent and move into high value, creative jobs. These type of jobs require more high level skills than ever before. Critical thinking, creativity, synthesis – all these buzzwords that are favourites in HE assessment – we really need to find ways to effectively teach them. In addition, we need to teach people the skill of social networking.

Steven Hart pointed out the obvious when he recently said that “Ever since we were wandering around the savannah, showing things to one another and learning from each other how to survive we’ve been learning socially.” He is right that we have and do all practise social learning, however, how do we optimise the necessary skills? How do we move from a university education being a solo endeavour to fostering social learning.

I’m not talking about group work, or even group assignments. There is a well developed area of study surrounding working in groups, the roles assumed, and how things are accomplished. Social learning is not group work – although social learning can take place in a group.

I’m talking about real social learning. The kind of learning that takes place when I sit down at my computer and read through 15 or 20 blogs in the morning, and then think about what has been written. I then swish it around in my head (good thing there’s lots of space), and see what comes of it. I think about my own approach to the subject of learning in the age of information abundance, and how that fits with social business, learning 3.0, MOOCs and anything else that has been written about that day. After that, I sit down and record my thoughts for you to read and look for your view on my thinking, either in the way of comments or in what you are writing. And then I do it all again tomorrow. That’s my view of social learning (it also includes talking to colleagues, giving talks, and going to seminars/workshops/conferences).

How can I foster that kind of activity with my students? Are 12 weeks enough time to build up a community of practice that will allow for that kind of activity? What is the assessment that will satisfy the system? What about the learning outcomes, the weightings, the deadlines – all the things that ensure that learning is a solo endeavour? Building up a formal social learning network (kind of an oxymoron) is what I need to figure out how to do. Attaching some kind of metric to the outcomes will be necessary. Interesting problem.


2 thoughts on “Social Learning in University

  1. I find more and more that I’m consciously including social learning as a deliberate part of my learning design. I ask myself ‘What social conversations do I want to stimulate with my participants as a result of this learning activity?’

    I’m a workplace educator so I ask myself ‘What do I want my participants to be talking about on their way back to their desks, in the carpark, or when they get home ?’ The answers to these questions actually form part of my documented learning outcomes for that session.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s