Open Social Learning Communities

With the advent of open education resources, social networking technologies and new pedagogies for online and blended learning, we are in the early stages of a significant disruption in current models of education. The disruption is fueled by a staggering growth in demand. It is estimated that there will be 100 million students qualified to enter universities over the next decade. To educate them, a major university would need to be created every week.

Universities have responded to this need with Open Education Resources—thousands of free, high quality courses, developed by hundreds of faculty, used by millions worldwide. Unfortunately, online courseware does not offer a supporting learning experience or the engagement needed to keep students motivated. Students read less when using e-textbooks; video lectures are boring; and retention and course completion rates are low.

Therein lies the core problem: How to engage a generation of learners who live on the Internet yet tune out of school, who seek interaction on Facebook yet find none on iTunes U, who need community yet are only offered content. We propose a new approach to this problem: open social learning communities, anchored with open content, providing an interactive online study group experience akin to sitting with study buddies on a world-wide campus quad.

This solution is enabled by state-of-the-art web technologies: really real-time collaboration technologies for a highly interactive experience; intelligent recommender systems to help learners connect with relevant content and other learners; mining and analytics to assess learner outcomes; and reputation techniques to establish social capital.  We will discuss these technologies and how they can be combined to address the problem of education in a manner that is highly scalable yet interactive and engaging.

This approach can be used for other types of learning communities. We will show an application to healthcare information access to help consumers learn about their healthcare questions and needs.

Keynote talk at SIPA Conference: Entrepreneurship—Idea Wave 3.0, Mountain View, CA, November 12, 2011.
Keynote talk at the International Conference on Web Intelligence, Mining and Semantics (WIMS-11), Sogndal, Norway, May 27, 2011.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Spinoffs « Open Social Learning Communities […]


  2. “Therein lies the core problem: How to engage a generation of learners who live on the Internet yet tune out of school, who seek interaction on Facebook yet find none on iTunes U, who need community yet are only offered content.” <—-Mr. Ram, this hits the nail on the head so hard it disappears into the grain…

    I've been searching for an "OpenStudy" for years. Now that I've found this website (the day before yesterday) I'm really considering abandoning all other social networking to this life boat, and bringing about 150 friends with me.

    If not for it's advertising uses (I'm a musician who finds some of Facebook's features to be rocket fuel for PR productivity) I would have dropped it a long time ago. And if I had dropped it, I would never have discovered the advent of this epic learning/sharing community you have here in OpenStudy.

    I just want to let you know that I'm currently pretending that I am an administrator of your website, or even THE administrator (because of how passionate I am about this). I've spent the last couple of days contributing non-stop to the efforts of perfecting it —in every way the moderators will allow me to do so (only stopping to do homework for a few hours).

    If there is any way I can become part of this team more directly, even if only to become one of the moderators, I would be jubilant. There are many other ways I can see to contribute other than make suggestions from the user stand-point. I want to be part of their behind-the-scenes discussions.

    If I could contribute financially, the check would already be written, so I apologize for that.

    I'll appreciate any amount of consideration you give this, and I will most sincerely thank you for the time you take reading this.



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