Learning is embracing social networks, finds a new Open University report examining global trends in education
Education can be dramatically enhanced by social networks, according to a report released by The Open University on Nov 13th 2014. This 'network effect’ comes from many thousands of people learning from each other, but it needs careful management to reach its full potential.
Millions of people are now studying massive open online courses (MOOCs) for free. Massive open social learning exploits the ‘network effect’ where the value of a network increases as more people use it, bringing the benefits of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to people taking online courses, by recommending, liking and following the best content created by other learners. This encourages online learners to connect to each other, join productive discussions, share ideas and create material that other learners can use.
“Social networks have transformed entertainment from delivering books, radio and television programmes into holding a global conversation. The same is about to happen with education through social learning. By its nature, we don’t know how this conversation will evolve. For instance, on an online course with 10,000 learners, there are 50 million ways that pairs of them could connect directly.
“That is a huge opportunity, but also a challenge to manage the discussion and file sharing. Learning on that scale can’t only be controlled centrally. It has to come through social network techniques that put learners in contact with others who share their interests, reward the best contributions and allow learners to report issues.”
Mike Sharples, Professor of Educational Technology at the OU and lead author of the Innovating Pedagogy report
The Innovating Pedagogy reports are published annually by The Open University to highlight new and future trends in education. The report identifies 10 methods of teaching, learning and assessment that are gaining influence but which have not yet had a major impact on education. Other key trends covered by the report include dynamic assessment, where learners are offered personalised tests to support their learning, learning through storytelling, threshold concepts that are difficult to teach, and bricolage or creative tinkering with resources.