Is Collaborative eLearning an Unstoppable Force?

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Social media has toppled dictators, coordinated volunteer rescue efforts during natural disasters and united like-minded people since its debut. U.K. social media and learning consultant Jane Hart shows supporting evidence for its effectiveness in her presentation “The future of e-learning is social learning.” However, data privacy and security issues concern her with data “scattered all over the Internet.”

Beyond Facebook: Using the Right Social Tools

Self-learners began sharing knowledge online even before the Internet flew the DARPA coup and long before eLearning became a household word. Today’s social media tools (blogging/micro blogging, RSS feeds, social bookmarking and networking, file sharing, and communication and collaboration tools) provide the building blocks for a comprehensive learning experience.

Keeping It in the Family

Large businesses and organizations share Hart’s enthusiasm for social networking as well as her privacy and security concerns. Programming tools such as SocialText allow organizations to develop in-house Intranet social platforms based on the building blocks mentioned above. elgg’s open source engine provides similar capabilities and is used by Wiley, University of Florida, the Australian government and others.

A Platform for Engagement

Social media brings a platform for engagement to some students left behind in the traditional classroom setting. Schools in Paris, France, engaged unlikely participants when they required students to post reviews of classical literature to a blog.

In 2006, the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County put together a wildly successful model Learning 2.0 project that fostered “Learning 2.0 programs all over the world,” teaching public and private library staffs how to exploit the power of the Internet for learning.

Central Piedmont Community College, in Charlotte, North Carolina, has seen anecdotal evidence that suggests “communication can increase retention.”

The many successes of social media integration with eLearning point toward its continuing success. How successful may depend on the amount of social collaboration the topic can garner.

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