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Social Capital in Education. Is there a value? #change11

So we all know about physical capital, money, equipment, and everyone can talk with ease about human capital, education, training etc.  We all recognize that one can derive value out of both physical and human capital.  What about social capital?  Social capital is the sum of your socialness, your friends, people you interact with, you ability to influence their decisions, all put together.  Very interestingly there are several initiatives bubbling up in the market that are trying to capture the essence of social capital and to make money out of that notion. Klout and similarly misspelt, Kred are new ventures into monetization of social capital.

But what of education?  Does a student’s social capital in any way enhance his learning gains? His education? The attainment of his goals?  And if a student builds social capital, will he then derive value from it?

Hua Ai and I report on some living lab studies with OpenStudy’s 80K learners in George Siemens’ Change Mooc 11.  Interestingly, the act of building social capital alone motivated some learners to persist in the learning ecosystem.  As they solved problems, helped someone, participated in discussions and other learning related activities, they leveled up, won medals, achievements, fans, and built social capital.

I am willing to put a stake in the ground and say that the pursuit of building social capital, can lead to enhanced retention and then improved learning.  Of course the environment for building this social capital has to be about learning.  Building social capital on Facebook is a very different game!  But in a learning ecosystem like OpenStudy where the rewards, activities and conversations are about learning in Math or Biology, there is an observable correlation. And that is exciting. And it brings real value to the learner.  Whether they will recognize it or not, it brings real value to education.

This social capital can and should be valuable as badges, as documentation of skills and competencies, as an e-portfolio, all existing examples, but now ready to take on a new twist.  Whether the world of higher ed is ready or not, social capital for education is arriving and will be here to stay.

GT opens the classroom doors to the world

Under the leadership of  C21U Director Rich DeMillo, current Distinguished Professor and former dean of the Georgia Tech College of Computing, GT is offering its first MOOC class.  In addition to the GT students taking it for credit, DeMillo has invited everyone and anyone to join in this learning journey with the GT students.  The GT course follows the Change MOOC being offered by George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier.  What this means is that students of this course will read, discuss, collaborate and otherwise study the content being curated by the trio.  They will encounter not only thought leaders from around the world, but classmates from around the world.  How will they do all this?  Blogs, twitter, posts, emails, and all that and their very own truly global study group on OpenStudy to groupthink and share.

But what a amazingly good idea!  Take a few minutes to appreciate the magnitude of this step.  Allowing GT students, the traditional registered kind to mingle, partake of, study with, and otherwise co-learn with nonGT and folks from wherever.  Has this been done before?  Are we not knocking at the traditionally walled gardens of colleges and universities?  This folks is a true leadership moment, and both GT and DeMillo are to be commended.  It is dangerous territory for a traditional educational institution, untested waters for sure, and like with any disruption, could lead anywhere.  Where do you think it will lead?