I have a hard truth to share with you. Our learning management systems are letting us down. They are not getting the job done.
The slow rise of social learning
Over the last decade, the internet has gone from a primarily static content distribution system, to a social publishing, communication and sharing environment. As we’ve seen this “social web” develop, several social learning theoretical frameworks have been developed and tested, including connectivism, social constructivism and the conversational framework. These pedagogical models of learning remain at the periphery and have yet to achieve mainstream adoption.
That uptake will be slower in coming than some of us might wish, due to many stumbling blocks. I’ll mention just a few here:
- our policies (both governmental and institutional) are slow to adapt because policy changes are not made at the speed of social media,
- a “content is king” culture exists in learning and training that is hard to crack,
- some long-standing organisational habits are not conducive to transformation (timetabling, lectures, a weighted teaching-research balance),
- there are debates about what constitutes proof of learning; is it tests and exams or projects, group work and portfolios,
- the struggle for investments needed for large IT projects in an age of funding and budget cuts,
- digital literacy skill challenges of the parties involved,
- and a persistent belief that nothing trumps face-to-face interactions.
I’m sure that there are gradations to which these stumbling blocks are present in your organisation and that there are others. And there’s no need to point fingers. These are large complex changes that affect every single part, process and person in our organisations. It will take time, new practices and some very hard thinking to adopt this new social learning. But it’ll be totally worth it.