Often though we get focussed on the tools and can miss some important reasons why these tools are so powerful, an example being the fact that they tend to grow in value as more people use them.
One online course that opened it's doors to allow people who weren't registered students to participate was Stephen Downes and George Siemens' Connectivism course which we've mentioned before. The recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education talks about their experiences in more detail as does this research paper from 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010.
This course is interesting as we see some of the effects of running their course this way, with issues arising such as privacy, behaviour (one person joined to criticise the course) and inflexible licences for platforms like Blackboard (a problem we've struggled with in the past).
So clearly, seeking to using social web tools to their full potential is not without potential problems, but reading the research paper we can see courses and modules delivered this way can offer a different learning experience which might be beneficial. As George Siemens himself said "The question for me is ... ‘what are the implications of people being connected in a certain way?'". The Web gives us different ways of connecting as well as new tools, and it is worth thinking about situations where these new ways of connecting could enhance learning.
[image by umkcofficial]
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