Social contexts for learning

As promised in my previous post about the E-Learn conference, I wanted to share a few thoughts sparked by Terry Anderson’s keynote. The slide that caught my eye — and the one that I’ve been thinking about the most since the conference — mapped out three different types of “many” in social learning environments: the group, the network, and the collective. Based on a set of papers and blog posts by Jon Dron and Terry Anderson over the past few years, the model describes the characteristics of each of these social learning contexts. Here’s a composite reproduction of their illustrations, describing some of the key characteristics of each type of social software:

Dron & Anderson: Groups, Networks, and Collectives

Dron & Anderson: Groups, Networks, and Collectives

While I’m several years late to the discussion, I think that it’s still worth mentioning why I find it so interesting. At Grockit, we’ve also been thinking about contexts for learning, albeit in different terms: we’ve been thinking in terms of supporting learning from experts, learning with peers, and learning alone. I can’t help but see parallels between these three learning contexts and that of Dron and Anderson’s groups, networks, and collectives.

Grockit: Learning from experts, with peers, and alone

Grockit: Learning from experts, with peers, and alone

Notice the similarities:

  • Expert-led classes in Grockit resemble traditional classroom groups.
  • Peer-driven sessions are based on an ever-changing network of participants.
  • Self-directed solo learners benefit from the collective behavior of all past Grockit interactions.

Each of these contexts has advantages and disadvantages, so we’ve opted to support all three and leave it up to the student to choose the way in which they wish to interact with others. We’ve noticed that for many, this choice changes from day to day, or even over the course of a single sitting. The choice is yours: How do you want to learn from others today?

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