8.3 Resourcing social learning

Facilitating this process should be considered at an early stage. There is often a requirement for social learning to be monitored and the design of your open course will be dependent on who is going to oversee it and how this will be implemented. The commitment required by the educator when running a course with a social learning element cannot be over-stated.

Considerations should be given to the ground rules associated with conduct of learners on the course - what kind of topics can be discussed, can learners expect a response from a teacher or other person associated with the course, what kind of language and behaviour is acceptable in discussion posts, how long should posts be? If general guidance is not given around these issues then then a well-meaning inclusion of a discussion forum can quickly deteriorate and remove credibility from the course. It may help to have closed discussion groups in which a facilitator suggests topics, but is this truly embracing the concept of social learning?  

Should learners decide to set up their own forum using social media but that is directly related to their experiences on the course, it may be harder for the tutor to manage this. It is up to each course manager to decide if this should be encouraged and it may be prudent to establish ground rules with learners and also consider adding a disclaimer to the course stating that the authors of the course are not responsible for content not directly managed by them.

Course leaders who are interested in becoming facilitators may benefit from some training around the topic, helping them to gain a greater understanding of facilitation of social learning. You may be interested in studying the OpenLearn badged open course How to become an online facilitator [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] which explores the principles and best practices underpinning mentorship.

8.2 Potential problems with social learning