I am finally able to publish the last piece of the puzzle on “is e-Learning social?”. In the past weeks I shared the views of an online student and an instructional designer, today the floor goes to an experienced tutor and facilitator.
I had the chance to virtually meet Johnson Opigo thanks to a long-lasting collaboration on an e-learning course about social media for development.
Since I only met him in the ether, I can truly say that Johnson’s skills in moderating conversations and engaging students online are excellent.
So I asked him the 2 following questions:
How can make up for the of lack physical presence in e-Learning? What about real people?
What really comes to mind when discussing the learning environment is the classical teacher in front of the student scenario. The teacher (in a broad sense) is in charge, and is assumed to know everything including preparing courseware for the student. The student may not make any input because standard academic processes for prescribing course content may have been followed. This is an age-long practice that has become a tradition in teaching. However, in this era of social media, all that is about to change or rather is changing! Other people not envisaged in the traditional sense can become involved in the process of learning and in the act of teaching itself and informally providing content. The teacher does not teach per se. He facilitates learning, he provides the enabling environment for student self discovery.
Social media platforms are providing the right medium for other people to facilitate learning in ways that suggest that in the long run the teacher is the student and the student is the teacher. This conundrum of roles effectively brings in the missing ingredient: other people.
In conclusion, would you define e-Learning as a social experience?
For a start, e-learning is a very broad subject matter and predates the social media era. To that extent, certain aspects are not amenable to socialization while some aspects are. Prior to this time, the traditional e-learning methods seem to replicate what happens in real life – a teacher, instructor, moderator or facilitator teaches a group of people. But learning becomes social when everyone has something to contribute. It must be participatory and collaborative using platforms and tools that enables individuals do their own research and have a repository of information of their own. Already social media tools are making it possible for individuals the to do all manner of research and storage of information on their own.
In my opinion this gives them the opportunity to learn along the way without really knowing it.
As a Web 2.0 enthusiast, I have unknowingly tutored myself in several areas of learning just by using social media applications, interacting with others and collaboratively involving my business partners and colleagues.
I have practical experiences to buttress this point. I have friends who say every time they learn from me, they apply same in their workplaces and those people in turn teach their colleagues. This sort of engagement has sometimes led to face to face tutorial meetings where I am able to expatiate further on the “informal learning” they have received indirectly from me. The interesting part is that some individuals are able to take the learning further and are proud to share with us their findings. So I tend to agree that e-learning with social media tools involved in whatever setting can be social.