Thursday, December 15, 2005

Educational Social Overlay Networks

I’ve personally railed against the proprietary LMS and how it has hindered the opportunity to create truly effective e-learning – and I'm concerened about the future promise of social software being squelched by fear and a lack of imagination. Here we are with a wide avenue of social software ahead of us and we're still stuck in an LMS box. But embracing social software for educational purposes demands a great degree of change - for teachers (less control), students (more control) and adminstrators (more openness). Is the promise of Social Software doomed because those who fear change will cling to the LMS - the imperfect learning host of the “electronic classroom”?

Maybe not if we follow along with Terry Anderson’s vision of Educational Social Overlay Networks:

"Educational social software can be used effectively to create a type of overlay network to enhance the more formal institutional network consisting of student support , library, tuition, registration and other institutionalized services. ….. The overlay network serves to facilitate routing, search and retrieval of information in the physical network (Doval D. & O'Mahony, 2003). Ash Maurya (2005) expands the concept and discusses social overlay networks that operate at more abstract levels and focus on enhancing social relationship and collaboration in both online and offline contexts.”

The overlay network could free the learner from the confines of the LMS and meet the demands of institutional learning. This is a path worth exploring.

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