“Social E-Learning Software” is the term used in many different contexts, and the various technologies covered by the term are not developed for educational purposes. Terry Anderson (2005a) introduced the concept of “Educational Social E-learning software”, which in the context of distance learning is defined as:
“Online tools that encourage people to learn mutually while retaining individual control over their time, presence, space, identity, activity and relationship.”
As mentioned earlier, social e-learning software is a very hard-to-define concept. The term not only covers a wide range of different technologies, but the social aspect of technologies is often based on the combination of different technologies. Examples of social e-learning software technologies covered in this article are blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, and social bookmarking. However, it is important to remember that social e-learning software is by no means limited to these specific technologies.
A Weblog Log File
Basically, a weblog is a log file with chronological entries listed on a web page in chronological order. Running a blog means constantly writing new entries that can be classified under different titles. A blog in itself is not a social or collaborative tool, but individual and often personal. Often it is maintained by a single person and does not allow discussion. However, blog readers can post comments on entries. This means that weblogs are mainly compatible with the individual and independent presentation.
If you subscribe to weblogs, write comments, and have potential subscribers, it means you are actively participating in web-based networks. This is because of the combination of personal weblogs and RSS feeds. Weblogs often refer to other weblogs and create communities. Social bookmarking tools can also support relationships between people. The principle behind social bookmarking is that you mark your web pages on the web and not in your browser. Del.icio.us and Furl are examples of different types of social bookmarking tools. You can also see who else bookmarked the same pages and which other people have marked as favorites. In addition, some social bookmarking tools can provide recommendations for new web pages based on your bookmarks. If you use RSS, you can also subscribe to bookmarks for people. This means that you will receive notification when some people have tagged a new page.
Finally, wikis can be classified as Social E-learning software. A wiki is a web page that can be dynamically edited directly from the web page. In principle, anyone who has access to a wiki can make changes to it. It is possible to change a current page or create new pages with new hypertext links. Wikis support collaborative building, development, and production.
This article discusses Social E-learning software tools, LMS, and the problem of integration versus separation from an approach to social constructivism. Although Social E-learning software isn’t created for learning purposes, I will disagree that they can be used to support learning. The use of social e-learning software can provide an e-learning approach that differs from the use of learning management systems and also promotes self-directed, problem-based learning activities. However, some software organization is required for eLearning.
Learning Management Systems Vs. Personal Tools And Social Networks
Using personal tools and social networking is a different approach to organizing e-learning than using a learning management system. When using an LMS, an online learning course is taught and executed in an integrated system. On the contrary, supporting students with tools that they can use for different purposes and use independently supports self-directed and problem-based activities. An extreme alternative to using an LMS would be to put students in front of a web search engine. However, it would be very difficult for students to navigate the enormous amount of resources. All students have the same access to resources on the Internet.
Use of Personal Tools
The use of personal tools connected to social networks is the basis for the customization or personalization of the web. Based on a personal page, a student can use Social E-learning software to surf the Internet and find resources and people who can help solve the problem. Participation in social networks, such as access to teachers and researchers blogs and bookmarks, also means access to a wide range of resources in the form of links to web pages, articles, book references, etc. These networks are always references to students deliver in this area. This is an alternative to finding resources for online search on the Internet or in digital libraries. Anyone using the same search engine will have the same input for materials. For example, all students looking for material in a digital library will use the same search engine and find the same material if they write the same keywords.
When using Social E-learning software, different people no longer have the same contribution to web resources. On the contrary, a person will contribute to an individual network of natives and resources. This is a key characteristic of social e-learning software. For example, by connecting to different networks and using social bookmarking, people build their own “profiles” on the web. Such profile can be used to limit the relevant resources. Unlike using a search engine, you not only look for materials but also stumbles with materials in your network. Unlike systems, Social E-learning software tools enable active use and participation in the Web.
The online learning approach presented above does not just suggest letting students loose on the internet. However, the approach does not suggest restricting students’ activities to one system. Instead, it is important to support students’ self-employment and actively promote relationships between student staff and teachers involved in the same course.
Towards a Student-Centered Approach To E-Learning
Unlike using an integrated LMS, it is an approach that separates the tools and does not integrate them into a system. It would be possible to integrate different types of Social E-learning software tools into an LMS system. However, the strengths of social e-learning software over self-directed activities relate to the active use and participation of students on the Internet. In addition, self-directed activities are supported by providing students with a variety of tools for self-employment. Students can use different tools, depending on which tools serve their individual goals. A student-centered approach to e-learning is addressed by:
- Use an administration system for administrative matters.
- Provide students with personal tools for design, presentation, reflection, collaboration, and more.
- Facilitate the networking of students within the same study program.
- Facilitate networking between students and others working in this field.
Personal tools and social networks support self-directed, problem-based and collaborative learning processes. This way of using eLearning software also provides students with valuable tools to use the Internet as a resource to develop their understanding and solve problems, whether at school, at work or in their private lives.