Recently I read an inspiring article on Social Learning Analytics (SLA) written by Simon Buckingham Shum and Rebecca Ferguson (2012). Social Learning Analytics deal with elements of learning that are relevant when the overall learning process takes place in a participatory online culture. The focus is on processes, in which learners are not solitary, but engaged either in direct interaction with others or in using forums where other users will be experiencing their online activity and presence.
The authors address the fact that there is a profound transition towards a new learning paradigm and that this shift calls for finding totally new ways to define how we as a society think about learning. Thus, more attention will have to be drawn to understanding learning and knowledge construction as a dynamic group process. Social Learning Analytics stress that new skills and ideas are generated and passed on in collective interaction and collaboration. Rarely idea generation or skills development can be regarded as an individual achievement only in the context of SLA.
There is already enough evidence that traditional barriers between formal and informal learning as well as between face-to-face and virtual learning have been broken down. The education system is moving from delivering learning to helping people to help each other to learn. All this creates tremendous challenges, but opportunities as well, to educational institutions. Due to the SLA evolution, their societal role will undergo changes in terms of how much power and control they have over individual learning and the way learning is organised in an online environment.
High-quality interpersonal relationships, tacit knowledge, dialogue and passion are key ingredients for the way humans catalyse learning and innovation in future. The aim of education is to ensure that students upon their graduation are equipped with detailed knowledge of their study field, and with key competences and learning dispositions (such as creativity, curiosity, resilience) required to go on learning on a lifelong basis.
Core skills in high demand among graduates are, for example, an ability to assess new information and changing situations, reflective capacity to support professional judgement for improving their activity, and networking skills to act and cooperate effectively as team members. Learning analytics should enable all learners to acquire these critical skills as they are highly needed in the knowledge- and competence-driven economy.
Buckingham Shum, S. & Ferguson, R. (2012). Social Learning Analytics. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15 (3), 3-26. Available on the Internet at www.ifets.info/journals/15_3/ets_15_3.pdf