Social Learning is here. Are you ready?

I’ve been deep in e-learning for quite a few years now, and it’s amazing to me how it’s grown. Back in the day we hand-coded every action, created what we called “decision tree”  question and answer options, and we even won some awards for innovation for our methods. Since those early days on-line learning has come a long way. Course authoring tools like Articulate,  Adobe Presenter and Lectora offer up all of our favorite tricks and a whole lot more.

So then, what’s the next big thing in e-learning?
Some are already talking about “e-learning 3.0” and “social learning” as the next step. Social learning? Yes, doesn’t it fully make sense that now, with the resurfaced interest in community and social interaction on-line that course-ware should incorporate social media tools and techniques to enhance the experience?

In traditional learning the teachers constantly tweak their courses based on the ebb and flow of discussion in the classroom. They bring in articles or newspaper clippings to demonstrate what’s going on in the world to bring the course to life and make it current. The students interact with each other and the instructor to understand the subjects more deeply. So why not in on-line courseware?

OK, OK, there have been attempts at this. Many of the old-school on-line courses incorporate some kind of forum where the students and teachers can interact, but they are often klunky and difficult to manage, and only the most innovative educators really manage to make it feel alive and active. Remember those first college courses where it was basically the textbook presented on-line? Yucko.

So where am I going with this?
Well, I’ve just seen where e-learning is going, and I find it truly exciting.  A new client (Composica.com) brought me in for some consulting about how to introduce their newest version which incorporates a  social media component into courseware in a number of ways, allowing learners and educators to fully interact and both add to the value of the course, and my excitement  about e-learning is definitely re-vitalized. This is the future of e-learning no question, and Composica is at the top of the wave.

The design is easy to use and fully customize-able without code, so pretty much anybody can use it, yet the social media aspect allows you to do some very sophisticated stuff. Bring you-tube video, RSS feeds and even search the web right from inside the course. Add a blog widget where learners can share their feedback, rate the section or add links to related content to share with the group. Even better you can access these components externally, so learners don’t even have to open the course to add their feedback or provide new resources.

What’s the big deal about that?
OK, maybe you’ve never designed a course before, but I have, and in a lot of these apps it can be a very painful chore to present the content in an engaging way and then keeping it up to date can be a matter of hacking up a previous version and editing it in. But what if you could bring in mash-ups from external sources, videos and blogs and even Google charts that can be updated externally and never even disturb the structure of the course itself? Would that be cool or what?

Open collaboration
Another key element with the Composica solution is the  ability for multiple team members to design and build the course collaboratively. Items can be tagged and shared across platforms and even source code can be re-used and re-purposed. Designers can chat in real-time, post to the blogs, assign and track tasks, all through Composica. Remember creating course and you were stuck with the look and feel of the templates? Not here. You can create your own templates or modify existing ones and then change the look and feel course wide, keeping things looking professional but also individualized. Plus, Composica is web-based so your IT guys will love it. No installs no conflicts.

I could go on for a very long time and not cover the features adequately. So go look for yourself, take a test drive of the demo courses. And then come back here and tell me what you think the future of e-learning is from here.

Want to learn more? Composica is hosting a  Webinar, check it out and then add your thoughts here, and visit their site for download-able courses and games to try out and see for yourself. Follow Composica on Twitter to get more news and info about social learning too.

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  • Jules

    Ah, so this is the secret project you've been working on? Very cool. Remember when I used to have to create courses in Blackboard and it was horrible all the way around for teachers and students. We moved to Articulate now but it's difficult to modify so it fits the website. I will go look at their website and see what the fuss is all about.

  • Andrew

    Isn't it about time e-learning got with the programme? I don't understand why it has to be so hard to use these things. I used Blackboard for a semester and quite disliked it. Is this one compliant with SCORM and will it work with my learning managemnet systems?

  • Yes it is compliant with SCORM and integrates well with most LMS's. I agree. Remember the early nightmares of automated course ware. Times have changed.

  • Great write-up Janet. We're actually a reseller of Composica in the US. We rebrand it as Mzinga Publisher. We're as jazzed as you are about this release. We've also socialized our whole LMS with integrated blogs, social profiles, discussions, ratings etc… so one of the things that I'm really jazzed about is displaying an "expert" blog from the LMS *inside* a course, or showing the instructor or designers profile *inside* the course. Composica has also been great about deeply integrating in our Firefly technology so you can seamless launch and track robust software simulations from within Publisher with basically zero effort from the development side. They are one of the best partners we've worked with and have some really kick-ass technology which really enhances our value proposition to our clients

  • Thanks David,
    I'm very excited about Composica (guess you can tell that from my post?), and I see you are too! http://forums.prospero.com/MZWilkins?entry=51
    I really do think it's about time for a truly social design process as well as learning.

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