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Future of social learning at The Open University

Discussion moderated by Martin Reynolds (OSRG) at the OSRG Social learning symposium

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10 March 2010

Discussion moderated by Martin Reynolds (OSRG) at the OSRG Social learning symposium at The Open University, 17 March 2010

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Example of a Dialogue Map created in Compendium as a summary of the discussion

Example of a Dialogue Map created in Compendium as a summary of the discussion

added by Simon Buckingham Shum


Martin Reynolds
3:36pm 11 March 2010

Some possible questions relevant to symposium?

  1. What might be considered as constituting social learning at OU?
  2. What's new or particularly relevant about social learning to  current challenges and context of OU?
  3. What opportunities are offered by the OU SocialLearn initiative in promoting social learning?
  4. How might SocialLearn fall short of social learning?
  5. Why might it be a good/ bad idea to coalesce activities/ endeavours around social learning?


Sandrine Simon
10:01pm 11 March 2010

Interesting set of questions, Martin. I would also be interested in seing the following being discussed:

a) the contribution of systems thinking and practice in the context of sociel learning - in particular when dealing with 'conflicts' - different perspectives on the issue, cultural differences in interpretations and modes of communication, etc. and

 b) dealing with social learning in the 'virtual world' - how to facilitate, enable and maintain a learning environment online and what are the learning 'boundaries' - where does it stop, where does it start, who takes part...

One of my projects here deals with social learning amongst muslim women - about their changing and sometimes confused identity and potentials for emancipation.

Have fun on the 17th! All the best to you all


Rebecca Ferguson
1:28pm 12 March 2010

That sounds interesting, Sandrine, have you got a link to the project that you could add here?

Sandrine Simon
4:45pm 16 March 2010

Thanks, Rebecca. No website yet, but a research paper submitted to the journal of Gender, Technology and Development and also some project descriptions to bid for more money with colleagues from the CERF (Centre d'etudes et de recherches sur la femme) at the university of Fes, Morocco (UNESCO Co-operation programme and Arts and Humanities Research Council Networking programme). I could send them to you if you are interested (not sure how to post a full paper on cloudworks - can we?). The general idea of the project is to enable a variety of (Moroccan in feasibility study) women to articulate their own understanding of 'emancipation' and 'identity of the muslim woman' in a society where the cohabitation between tradition and modernity is both celebrated and source of confusion. This is done through a platform using images selected by women themselves as being representative of what can help heir emancipation, and recording of their comments on the image selected. The focus on the audio-visual is aimed at enabling both literate, urban women but also illiterate wormen who have strong oral trasitions, to take part in the dialogue. The images and comments are then discussed by other women of the group, which helps them in understanding how varied women's situations and states of emancipation are in their own country. It is a form of social learning partially based on words but also based on visual representations of identities and aspirations. .. Lots more to say on the subject! Hope this is a good start!   

Rebecca Ferguson
9:42pm 16 March 2010

I look forward to discussing it with you at the seminar :)

You can put a paper in Cloudworks by uploading it to Slideshare and then embedding it in the Extra Content section.

Patrick McAndrew
2:38pm 17 March 2010

First part of discussion:

What is the motivation for contributing and aggregation. For OpenLearn - traffic depends on what is happening in the popular meaning, leading to serendipitous grouping around content. Similar things happen in wikimedia.

Is the overall praxis an individual one or a collective/social one?

Social Learning may not be rewarded or have it built into existing practice - unless they feel part of a community. Need to support the shift into this view.

Dependence on trust - to be able to present "half-baked" ideas and have ideas challenged rather than individuals.

Trust in Social learning systems - depends on tangible: people, resources, environment and facilities. Plus less tangible: domain, quality, trust, relationships, praxis. Is a practical approach to work first on the tangible and then develop the less tangible over time. Trust need attention inparticular.

More than participation: but need to address exclusion. Boundaries that exclude people - SL spaces may need to be protected spaces.

Patrick McAndrew
3:22pm 17 March 2010

Implications for the Open University: discussion points -

Social learning - is it a place where less comfortable challenging ca ntake place.

The social driver - lead with social then connect with learning.

Professionalism - e.g. participatory video demands technical skils PLUS additional skills in facilitation, ethics, project management. Social learning raises challenges for new skills to do this cf requirements to work with tools such as compendium. Need an awareness of what you are doing. Reflect on how you employ skills.

Reflection is vital - wil not a achieve this with a mechanistic approach.

Approach where social learning is the only solution (messy, wicked problems). Need to help people engage in this practice by doing it well.

Are there are examples: in technique terms probably yes. But not at the level of the course - Linda Pollin design for learning approach crosses over roles of faculty and students. This goes further. Good examples in OU where there are courses that build on learners context and knowledge.

Does the OU need knowledge cartography applied to courses?

Trust is important - in course teams can do this. Does SL help foster trust? Or are there techologies that inhibit trust?

Can trust be developed? Perhaps by allowing very informal anything goes environments - rather than structured clear argumentation. SL is becoming the glue to join up environments.

Is there a difference between the virtual environment or real environment?

Trust development depends on the community. Tight communities helped by face to face and then engage with technology. Virtual need to learn to trust through e.g. profiles, activity, reading their contributions, ...

Quality issue - wrong views can persist unless maintainance is applied.

SL is more likley to happen if SL practices are embedded in the SLers practice. This means that it *does* happen with some parts of the OU staff/students/networks. BUT not a common part of practice. OU does not have an embodied SL practice.

What motivates the question? Research driven, and/or learning driven. University exists to make a difference to the world through learning. SL may give a route to applying research to our bigger purpose.

OU does practice social teaching. Then a tension between those qualities and managerial drivers. The gut feel for getting social learning to work in a room, may not be there for social learning in a virtual space.

Is Social Learning always a good thing? Is all learning Social Learning? To be more effective need to be clearer about the definition and focus. Can apply to our apporach to "Deisgn for Learning" but cannot exect to control the learners experience.

Should we coalesce around SL. There are distinctions between collaborative learning and collective learning. Look at effective of these forms of learning.

There has been a position of colaborative learning as future, some of the technoogy is suited to bring out support for these. But htat is the tip of the iceberg - can move towards self-created, deschooling, wikiversity approach to education. Change the instituion v small change to own practice.

What are pre-conditions for SL to be effective? May depend on context - if there are particular cases where SL is requireed , would be clearly beneficial - then talk to SocialLearn project. Aim to get a core of technology that can be tuned to contexts and to get there need to work through cases where it helps.

SL may be suitable for teaching diagram based courses.

Cannot assume that the younger generation can just do this.

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