Social Learning: How e-Learning Developers can Benefit from the Boom in Social Computing and Social Machines

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A recent issue of the Newsweek Magazine (April 3, 2006) featured an article on the second internet boom, referring to the new ways people are living in this knowledge-interactive age, enjoying the growth of opportunities of personal computing, mobility, connectivity, and work productivity like never before. In another article, “Web 2.0,” written by Paul Boutin, who contributes to magazines like Business Week and Wired, detailed mention had been made about many applications and devices “creating network effects through an ‘architecture of participation,’ and going beyond the page metaphor or Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.”

Who among us have not heard of or actually used Internet services and personal smart machines (i.e. PDAs, smartphones, iPods, etc.) that promote socialization and sharing? Who among us do not recognize that networking sites and software applications like Friendster, LinkedIn, PodCasting, Flicker, Blogs, Wikis, and others have been shaping how people communicate, socialize, and learn together all at the same time. The lines between all of these activities have blurred, but with positively effective results nonetheless.

1. The social machines and social computing services are tools that allow people to freely do what they want. With the tools they have the independence to pursue what engages them or what is important for them.
Trainers, who are constrained by the “I want to control the training” mentality, will not benefit from this trend. They need to learn to “trust the learner,” and realize that the learners can, in fact, learn by themselves.
2. The services and machines available to us now promote learning and sharing. The challenge we face therefore is: How do we leverage these resources to expand and enhance our e-Learning delivery? Five steps have been tried and tested to be effective by successful e-Learning practitioners.
Step 1 Identify those people in your organization who practice “social learning”.
Step 2 Interview them and ask how the services and tools help them in learning or in solving problems?
Step 3 Ask them in what way should you develop and organize your e-Learning programs to be a “social learning” tool.
Step 4 Develop some small tests in collaboration with your “social learners”.
Step 5 Report your experience and findings back to management and the “social learners”.
Doing and processing small tests will enable you to have real-time, first-hand experience in “social learning” and to observe new learning behaviors.
For further reference, please preview this slideshow on “e-Learning Behaviors“.
You can learn more about social computing by visiting:

Index of e-Learning Survey – Learn more about the Index. Compare your e-Learning programs with the 10 e-Learning standards. Complete the survey and download an article on “Index of e-Learning“.
If you have an interest to see examples of a PDA delivered e-learning program, send an email with subject “Social Computing” to

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”