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This content is taken from the Deakin University's online course, Transforming Digital Learning: Learning Design Meets Service Design. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds CHIE ADACHI: What opportunities does social learning offer for people and their development? What do we learn through conversations with others? Here’s what Jorge and Mei think.

Skip to 0 minutes and 20 seconds JORGE: My passion is service and working with people. So my career as a math teacher was perfect for me. But now I am retired. I want to support my community by volunteering at a local retirement home. I just joined a FutureLearn course to learn more about caring for older people, which I’m enjoying very much. I especially like that I can learn, share, and discuss my ideas with others from all over the world. Just the other day, I had a very interesting conversation with a lady from India about the different cultural challenges we face in caring for older people.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds MEI: I really like using WeChat to chat with my friends, send messages, share videos, and find people to meet with. It’s good, too, for working on group assignments with my classmates. I also use internet to buy things and watch videos to improve my English. Sometimes, I watch tutorials. But I also love to watch Aussie TV shows and learn new words, which I hope will help get me into an Australian university next year. So really, learning online through anything free and accessible is important for me.

Getting social with learning

Some of our most powerful learning happens through interactions with others. This is equally true for how we learn online.

Early on in this course, we talked about Deakin’s philosophy of online learning and the importance of learning with, from and through conversation with others.

We also met online learners Mei and Jorge who are good examples of social learners when it comes to illustrating the role that the social plays in digital learning.

The role of ‘social’ in learning

According to anthropologist Karen Stephenson:

Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people. (1998, para. 2)

In the last few steps, we’ve seen how digital technologies provide numerous opportunities for more-connected, networked and mobile learning.

Likewise, as technology advances, digital tools are continually evolving to create more functions and opportunities for social interactions online.

Blurring boundaries

Today, social media is a powerful tool not only to connect, communicate and socialise with others through private networks, but also to collaborate and make an impact professionally through public digital platforms (Professor Brian Cox’s use of Twitter to communicate about science in an engaging and accessible way is one such example).

Just as digital platforms, such as those provided by social media, allow binary distinctions between private and professional spaces to merge, so too in education are we seeing distinctions between formal and informal learning also blur.

Building belonging

In the contexts of digital learning and social learning, one study shows that building a sense of belonging through online learning communities enhances learning experiences and outcomes for digital learners.

This is supported by a 2018 survey of 1,500 online college students in the US, which revealed that ‘interactions and relationships with peers are key to online students’ success’.

Your task

Take a moment to reflect on your own experience of social learning in this course so far and discuss your thoughts in the comments. For example:

  • Have you been applying the 3C philosophy (curious, constructive and compassionate) in your engagement with others? If so, how?
  • What have you learned from others that you didn’t know previously?
  • What are your thoughts about the social learning features of this platform? What do you like/not like? How could these be improved?

If you haven’t already, get even more social by using #FLdigitallearning to extend the conversation by posting on social media what you’ve learned so so far.

Behind the scenes: Chie’s story

Within the FutureLearn platform, you can see some of the ways in which social learning is supported online. Features such as ‘like’, ‘follow’, ‘reply’ in addition to conversational posts are directly and pedagogically embedded into the platform to encourage teacher-learner and learner-learner interactions. I find ‘liking’ useful to give quick social feedback, especially in a MOOC environment where there are large numbers of learners.

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This video is from the free online course:

Transforming Digital Learning: Learning Design Meets Service Design

Deakin University

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