VI International Seminar on Open Social Learning (III): Code, Community and Commerce for Open Social Learning

1 December, 2009
VI International Seminar of the UNESCO Chair in e-Learning
Code, Community and Commerce for OSL. Joel Greenberg, Technical Director, SocialLearn Project, The Open University, UK

Notes from the the Open Social Learning, organized by UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning and held in Barcelona, Spain, on November 30th and December 1st 2009.

The world of the students of today has always had Internet, texting, cell phones, digital music, video on demand, …

We have to recognize that our students have digital lives. Higher education must remove artificial barriers. Students adapt to the educational system, but it should be the system the one that adapts to the learner. And meet them where they are / live.

The mission statement of the Open University of UK is about people, places, methods and ideas. Now we are extending openness: open source, OERs, open economics and, of course, open social.

The Open University of UK started their VLE in 2006. We also have presence on Facebook and students create communities around the courses. Other media such as YouTube and BBC channels are used as well by so many people around the world.

OpenLearn contains 400 self-study web units (over 6000 hours). We also have contents on iTunes University, but we don’t have that much return from our learners, it’s something we need to improve.

For example, OSL coding is nowadays a very “messy” scenario; you have very different languages and many development platforms on top. You have also Facebook or Google environments which are even bigger. There are similar examples of e-Commerce, etc.

  • people like me: people who challenge me
  • friends: learning peers / mentors
  • informal chat: learning conversations
  • quick facts / info exchange / learning journeys
  • simplistic numeric ratings: endorsement and critiques
  • tag clouds: connected ideas
  • shopping recommendations: learning recommendations

The project is being brought into the core of the University. The OSL building blocks are social networking (using open source platforms), conceptual networking (issue based information system, promoting user contributions starting from a question, building learning paths to help answer a question, adding activities to build and assess learning as well as reflection points to help consolidate learning, forging new paths from existing paths, creating connections among all the elements), learning analytics and learning recommendations.

We need to nurture learning communities, to extend reach, to enable personalization, to empower teachers and to sustain a learning marketplace.


How many people are really taking a path? How do you know you are doing right?

Questions are the most important resource in the system. Questions help to understand the whole point.

What about evaluation?

It happens immediately when somebody finishes learning, not during the learning process. Reflection becomes very important. Comments, rankings and so are also very relevant.

What about proprietary tools, corporate learning and so? Are going to be open APIs so we can develop external tools for accessing information inside the VLE/LMS? What about standardization?

This is very important. We need a more open approach, open our code so everybody can take it and use it. But, who owns the data? We want to invite people to contribute, rather than imposing it.

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christian louboutin10 February, 2010 at 7:14 am

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J Fanthorpe15 March, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Dear Sirs
We could say that the system is far to slow at adapting to modern trends and ways of life. The whole digital sytem now moves on so fast is it possible to keep up with modern trends in how society moves forward at such an alarming pace today? The use of open source platforms has got to be a move in the right direction and extend and sustain the market learing place for future day to come.

Jim Foster4 April, 2010 at 5:39 pm

The use of modern platforms such as these is most impotant in modern times.All students live with in digital lives and it is so important to keep moving forward to kep up with these changing trends in social word today

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