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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.