SocialLearn: the future of higher education?

In a recent post I mentioned the OU’s SocialLearn project, so what is it all about. Simply, SocialLearn is a framework which uses social networking, and other web 2.0 applications, for learning.

At the heart of SocialLearn is a central learner profile. This profile contains the usual user information, contacts, groups etc. By releasing an open API, the OU are hoping that any third party application will be able to add to that profile, using a suite of applications to pull information in from other sites, like OpenLearn, BBC (the web is you oyster), or potentially push out (to other profiles, applications and sites). Cue diagrams …

SocialLearn Birds Eye View [Click to enlarge]  SocialLearn Architecture and API  [Click to enlarge]
Taken from SocialLearn: Why/What/How?

SocialLearn is designed to go beyond the control of the institution allowing the integration of learning personal to the user, in effect allowing users to control the networks, resources or tools relevant to them (either through self-discovery or recommended to them by the network). The OU have already developed some applications which are demonstrated on the SocialLearn » Software page.

While the SocialLearn API won’t be beta released until later this month there is already a tantalising list of tools already supported. I was able to pick this list up from Open Content Online:

MicroLearner, Camtasia, 2Learner, Cohere, Twittearth, Cloudworks, Facebook, OpenLearn, 43 things, Remember the milk. Other applications to write to the API: YouTUbe, GoogleDocs, etc.

This brief interpretation of SocialLearn project is the tip of the iceberg. Once you start digging deeper there are implications for all aspects of being a student and the business model used to support that experience. Traditionally higher education institutions have brokered knowledge, controlled content, defining pathways towards accreditation. With SocialLearn students are in control, they can choose to receive content and support from third parties (including their peers), define their own pathways towards accreditation, blend informal and formal learning.

For more information on SocialLearn, Martin Weller has compiled a slideshare presentation there are also various other documents on the SocialLearn website.