Social Learning and Online #HigherEd

The past two days I enjoyed observing social learning at work in my classes.

Friday I gave my sales classes a midterm. I then allowed them to form groups to retake the tests to improve their individual scores. It was fun to watch them discuss issues I consider important and reach consensus within their groups. This simple technique (which I highly recommend),¬† turns the exam into a genuine learning activity! I have been doing this for several years: I have gotten some negative feedback (a couple students have cited the retest as proof that I am “easy”), but the process is an incredible improvement over the former professor-led test review.

Monday I decided to have my social media marketing class present their progress on their individual semester projects at the half-way point. I had intended it mostly to give them a push to get going. What a wonderful session! Students talked about what they have been working on and got feedback and ideas from other students. Great learning session, likely the best next to my great guest speakers!!!

Use of MOOCs

These two great examples of the power of social learning or peer-to-peer learning lead me to be skeptical of current MOOCs…

I freely admit that somewhere on planet earth there is likely someone who gives more engaging lectures on personal selling or social media. I also believe that lecturing is one of the least effective ways to learn, and that watching a 40 minute video of my lectures would suck. Unfortunately for the more  simplistic MOOCs I believe that watching a series of videotaped 40 minute lectures from the very best lecturer on earth would also suck Рjust a bit less.

Flipping, social learning and social media

Thus I think the best use of the much heralded MOOCs would be be to provide raw material to “flip” classes. (For example, instruct students to watch some of the lectures online if they can stand them and then apply the concepts in class by problems and discussion.) Ultimately, of course, lectures can be made more palatable by cutting them into 10 minute chunks and using animation to replace talking-head professors. [not cheap]

However the key to online learning success will be to bring my wonderful Friday and Monday classes online – online social learning. This will be a valuable application of social media. I have seen some evidence of social learning in Facebook groups and wikis in my classes. I expect the effort to mirror in person social learning via social media to be difficult, really difficult, but not in the end insurmountable.

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