We live in a hyperconnected era. This is the most plugged-in time in history, and we’re more reliant on machines than ever. In fact, most younger people can’t stand to go more than a few hours without some form of online connection.
Totally terrifying, right?
Actually, I’m going to have to play the tech devil’s advocate here.
This amount of technology people are using is a little alarming, sure, but this has been true with almost all other major technological advances. This generation is enjoying groundbreaking literacy rates; which makes sense when you think about all those text messages and status updates. And all those text messages and status updates aren’t going nowhere; they’re proof that people are communicating with one another more than ever.
Why would we call it a social network if people weren’t networking and being social? Humans have a basic need to be social, and may even work and learn better in groups. And if your LMS doesn’t allow for some form of social learning, you may be missing out.
So what do I mean when I say social learning? Social learning is when working with others in some capacity helps contribute to the learning method. Social learning comes from interaction and instruction, person to person. You can have social learning when one person does something and then explains the process to someone else. You can even achieve social learning through a video (where you see an action performed and copy it).
When you look for social learning options in a learning management system, you could be looking for a lot of things. What does that mean? Lots of things! It could be:
- Equipped with instant chat function
- Has forums where your users can share information
- Scores and lesson responses are shareable between learners
Broad? Yes. But this variety is excellent, because it means you have a wealth of options. And when you do it right, social learning methods can have a hugely successful impact on your learners. Let’s break down some of the most popular learning management software that comes with built-in social learning options.
Best of both worlds
The highest ranking LMSs are highest ranking for a good reason. With positive reviews pouring in, these are some of the top software products in the industry. And, more than that, these are the highest ranking tools that come with social learning optimization.
That said, just because something is the most popular doesn’t mean it’s the best option. Sometimes the need for a low price (even the lowest possible price) trumps the desire to have the highest ranked LMS.
But I have good news: you can have both. All of these software systems are not only free, they’re highly rated by reviewers, too.
Blackboard knows what’s up. They’re a well known LMS used widely in schools. They also have options designed for business, including CourseSites, which is a free version of their software, aimed at small platforms and single course instructors, though this version is limited to five courses.
Blackboard is so social that you can connect directly to it from various social media logins. Link it to Google and Facebook to maximize off-site learning. In-system it also has interactive real-time classrooms with prominent whiteboards, forums, and instant messaging between users.
With an attractive and easy-to-learn interface, Dokeos is a popular LMS designed for large businesses in particular. It’s also open source and cloud-based.
In terms of social learning, Dokeos comes equipped with a built-in live conferencing system (think Skype’s video and text chatting, but internal), webinar capability, and screen-sharing. The software also allows you to publish videos internally, so you can create specific instruction that can be viewed as often as needed by your learners.
If you’ve used Dokeos, review it here.
For better or worse, everyone has at least heard of Moodle. Excellently open source, Moodle is one of the most popular eLearning software systems period, and the most popular free LMS. And if you think it’s only for schools, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Moodle’s primary social learning functionality comes in the form of direct messages between users, chat functions, forums, as well as media embedding. My favorite social learning feature, however, is the workshop function, which automatically shares work for group feedback.
Have strong feelings about Moodle? Review it here.
Don’t let the name for you — Schoology offers options for both schools and businesses. It comes in two forms, free and paid. The paid version is designed for corporations, but the free version is 100% free for educational institutions, so if you’re a school, that’s the plan for you. Schoology’s cloud based deployment and Google apps integration makes it super convenient.
Another strong example of live video conferencing, you also have discussion threads on posts, live annotations on assignments, the ability to record and share video lessons, and an interactive whiteboard as Schoology’s social learning features.
Open source and cloud, Sakai is a valid competitor for Moodle. It’s aimed at schools, but that doesn’t necessarily make it unusable for corporate learning purposes.
In terms of social learning, Sakai offers multimedia embedding, forums, chat functions, messaging, and video tutorial optimization.
You don’t have to choose between a widely used and liked system and one that costs nothing or next to nothing. Social learning is offered across so many software systems because it works so well. Take advantage of that by using an LMS that gives social learning features the spotlight they deserve.
Have you incorporated social learning into your eLearning plans? What’s your favorite social learning method: video, chat, something else? Help me social learn in the comments.