Open Social as an eLearning platform.
Knowledge is a fundamental part of society. The spreading of knowledge and furthering of education is one of the cornerstones of creating a better future. Although technology has been used for educational purposes for a while now, the spread of globalization and digitalization has resulted in innovative eLearning and ideation platforms. Open Social has recognized the potential of innovation and eLearning, and in response has focused on building eLearning features and modules.
This article, the first of a three-part series, discusses the relevance of eLearning and the growing role of communities. The second article will dive deeper into the course module mechanics and how to build a great eLearning platform. The third article will focus on less traditional knowledge spreading and ideation concepts.
Knowledge propels society
Nowadays, e-learning, innovation platforms, and LMSs are used to distribute knowledge within companies, the educational sector, and NGOs. According to Educause, older technology only facilitated the passive act of passing on information from one to many, while now it’s possible to reach millions with your content and help people connect, discuss, and grow with and through each other. The widespread accessibility to internet and technology, even in less developed countries, leads to a myriad of possibilities to bring knowledge to people and encourage innovation. Due to these developments, it’s essential to provide open source tools to grassroots movements, NGOs, and other independent parties to support the spread of content, create new ideas, and help people grow.
Nowadays, eLearning, innovation platforms, and LMSs are used to distribute knowledge within companies, the educational sector, and NGOs. Where older technology only facilitated the passive act of passing on information from one to many, now it’s possible to reach millions with your content and help people connect, discuss, and grow with and through each other. The widespread accessibility to internet, even in less developed countries, leads to a myriad of possibilities to bring knowledge to people and encourage innovation. Due to these developments, it’s essential to provide open source tools to grassroots movements, NGOs, and other independent parties to support the spread of content, create new ideas, and help people grow.
What is eLearning?
eLearning refers to (online) systems that facilitate and stimulate learning of any kind (i.e., virtual classrooms, rapid eLearning, innovation platforms, LMS, simulation tools, mobile e-learning, podcasts). The impact of eLearning has also grown with the increasing importance of digital communication. Online colleges, as well as less formal course platforms, are becoming immensely popular.
Each system mentioned above differs greatly; each of them has its own market. Most of these technologies focus on facilitating the traditional one-to-many approach to learning. They rely on teachers or other experts to create content that is redistributed to users. However, LMSs focus on collaboration and an exchange of ideas from many to many.
LMSs are among the most relevant learning tools in our modern world. They are commonly used to manage, train, and develop learning. Most people in Generation Y and beyond have interacted with an LMS already since most universities (and even schools) have adopted them. In the mid-90s, the original LMSs were static software-based courses filled with single-source content. They did not allow for collaboration and were limited in application. Since the shift from local software towards online-based systems, there are now options to collaborate within communities and even imitate traditional classrooms online. In the future, AR and VR will only help facilitate this process.
The size of the eLearning market
According to Orbis Research, “…the Global E-Learning Market is accounted for $165.21 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $275.10 billion by 2022 growing at a CAGR of 7.5% during the forecast period”. Clearly, this market has an enormous economic impact, highlighting the importance of eLearning platforms. It’s also growing quickly due to the widespread adoption of technology, the ease of use of eLearning technology, and its relevance for many use cases.
eLearning technology is not only used in the educational sector but is also very relevant for NGOs and corporate structures. Organizations use these platforms to spread existing knowledge and lower boundaries between teams. These platforms make it possible to connect millions of people to information that can help them grow better crops, build better technologies, manage emergencies, find the right content, and much more.
Open Social as an eLearning community
Despite the rapid adoption and its many advantages, the eLearning market is not saturated by a long shot. And we believe that communities will play a large role in the continuing growth of eLearning. People are used to interacting in a social context online; most of us even have up to two or three online social circles. According to MIT, several studies have shown that social experience greatly supports learning progress.
Open Social’s community software is great as an eLearning platform. The Drupal modular background allows our software to be flexible enough to adapt to specific requirements of different fields, use-cases, and target groups. We provide accessibility without vendor lock-in due to our open-source nature. And lastly, we have a great foundation to build a thriving community around relevant content and knowledge.
The core feature used to deliver content in a meaningful way in Open Social is the Course Module. Courses are an easy and effective way of presenting content to users in a guided, structured, and sometimes pre-defined way.
Course Module based on learning principles
To ensure that the native community platform is an effective learning tool, we based the course module on the following learning principles:
1) The Segmenting Principle
The segmenting principle is simple, really. It states that segmenting information into ‘bite-sized’ segments allows users to engage in learning without overloading their cognitive system. The course module consists of courses that are segmented according to sections, and each section has various parts. The sections in the courses help to better structure the content in meaningful bits. The material is presented to users one at a time, allowing them to ingest the information at their own speed. Moreover, individualized progress trackers show users where they left off from the last time.
2) The Multimedia Principle
The multimedia principle states that words and graphics together are more conducive to learning, rather than having both separate. The course materials in Open Social consist of a combination of various different media, from text and pictures, audio files, and videos. The URL embed functionality allows course creators ton naturally add external materials (including pdfs and word documents) from other platforms into the module. This enables a rich learning environment with different types of stimuli for the users.
3) The Learner Control Principle
This principle states that self-regulated learning users can maximize their personal learning by choosing their own pace; fast learners can go fast and slow learners can take their time. In Open Social, the user is in control of the materials and can determine the which frequency the material is consumed. The course creator can also choose how much learner control to provide to users.
Courses in a community environment
The great thing about hosting eLearning in a community platform is that you can decide how to distribute the knowledge in the community; either you can feed knowledge to an existing community through individual courses or build an entire community around the courses. We’ll explain how this works in more detail below.
Feature courses throughout the platform
It’s possible to introduce courses to an already existing community. For example, an organization could teach employees certain skills through their intranet. In Open Social, basic courses (courses that only on the course material) can be shared through landing pages or grouped via a taxonomy. This helps community managers to share various courses with users and helps users to find the right courses (e.g., courses can be segmented according to beginner, advanced, and expert levels).
Additionally to the categorization, it’s possible to crosslink courses with each other to encourage users to find further relevant content. Course creators can even determine which page users reach after every course (and even after every segment). This allows creators to present users at every moment with the right information users.
Build a community around courses
Aside from the basic courses, communities can also have advanced courses. An advanced course, rather than just focusing on content, creates a small community around the course materials. Users get access to additional content, they can add events, relate the material to conferences, and post on the activity stream of the course. This creates a stimulating learning environment in which users can exchange and grow with each other.
eLearning and beyond!
There’s a certain obligation to make eLearning accessible to a broad audience due to the financial and social impact that learning has. The online tools are relevant for corporations to teach new employees and stay flexible with a globally distributed workforce, can help to reach regions that are not connected to traditional schools, universities, learning institutions or knowledge platforms or can help facilitate real-life learning environments, just to name a few use cases.
Open Social supports learning and knowledge distribution in many ways. A prime example of this is the course module that enables companies to create a platform that focuses on almost all learning-focused use cases. In part two we will move away from eLearning and the one-to-many approach and look into different approaches to knowledge distribution, ideation processes, and crowdsourcing.