Nearly half of formal learning is forgotten within the first hour itself, according to the great German psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus, who discovered the famous Forgetting Curve. Yet, it is surprising that our formal education system – including our schools, colleges and universities - has primarily relied on rote learning or information-dispensing methods for years. Till about a few decades back, schools, colleges and even professional organisations saw learning happening through structured modules, courses and programmes delivered by the ‘head’ of the class, typically a teacher or trainer, to a group of passive listeners. Even with digital platforms, the basic structure of learning remained the same, with just automation and technology enhancing the delivery methods.
And then, in strode social media and completely redefined the way people searched and consumed content. Not surprisingly, it made an impact on learning and development, setting the stage for social learning. A term devised by Albert Bandura in 1977, social learning has been reinvented and has emerged as the single most powerful factor revolutionising modern education.
Social learning – a way of life
With the Internet exploding with information resources and tools for learning, teachers are no longer the fountainheads of information. Formal learning systems have just not been able to keep pace and have become more obsolete than ever. A rote chapter on the Renaissance is just no match when augmented reality apps enable students to ‘experience’ the Renaissance era. For the current generation of digital kids who start using tablets and smartphones even before they can talk, social learning is not just an alternative but an inherent way of life. The limited knowledge of a teacher falls way short of almost the infinite expanse of knowledge that students get through shared Facebook/Twitter links, YouTube videos or Quora threads. Now instead of students having to find information, the information itself finds the students in the form of shared blogs, videos and podcasts. Social learning is not an alternative but the norm and the tool that will shape the education of tomorrow.
Is your LMS social learning friendly?
Kids no longer need to be told where they need to look for a particular piece of information. What they need is a secure and structured setting wherein they can use the resources of their choice (text/audio/video) to discuss, communicate and collaborate, thereby making learning more engaging and immersive. While learning platforms have long been integral to school and college education, most existing tools and systems fail to deliver a truly collaborative learning experience. Most LMS are either restricted to automating formal learning or adding in a few social media tools to round off.
Students and teachers need a secure platform that allows them to work on shared documents, make and exchange notes, start live chat or conference calls and start discussion threads with fellow students. All this within a single-point secure encrypted environment that prevents any possibility of the content getting leaked or any copyright violations. They need a smart platform that saves every interaction with the context of the topic, section, notes and other reference materials along with a date and time stamp, creating a robust content archive.
Tools like Skype, Google Drive, OneNote and OneDrive are some of the most widely used channels to share content, communicate and work together. Integrating these cloud technologies with learning management systems is critical for making your digital education platform truly social and value-driven. The last thing students and teachers need is to rely on multiple tools to share and access different forms of content or different channels every single time. A unified interface that drives all activities is central to making social learning integral to digital education.
Content gamification is yet another vital aspect of social learning. As educators, it is important to have an LMS that goes beyond the standard leader boards/point/level system. Number games, word puzzles and even inter-team quiz contests at the end of every chapter or section can truly set the ball rolling and get more learners to participate, work in groups and get more engaged.
Students today are the workforce of tomorrow. And future workplaces are all about using modern tools of communication and collaboration to work in virtual teams spread across locations. Thus, social learning at an early age is now critical in creating a future-ready skilled workforce that is adept at self-organised learning, knowledge sharing and works seamlessly with teams.
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