A social network is a social structure made of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes,” which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, financial exchange, dislike, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige. In the world of e-learning, the closest thing to a social network is a community of practice, which is characterized by “a shared domain of interest” where “members interact and learn together” and “develop a shared repertoire of resources.” Knowledge networking is an effective way of combining individuals’ knowledge and skills in the pursuit of personal and organizational objectives. Knowledge networking is a rich and dynamic phenomenon in which knowledge is shared, developed and evolved. It is more than access to information, because it also delves into the unknown. It is more than using the rules and inferences of expert systems, because it is about knowledge that is evolving. Although it verges on simplification it is the computer augmentation (typically through groupware) of person-to-person communications resulting in the development of new knowledge.
By relaxing our grip on the technology of learning we can utilize the power of “Web 2.0″, a blanket term which refers to a second generation of web-based communities and online services, such as social-networking sites, wikis, and social bookmarking and indexing sites, which enable creativity, collaboration and sharing between users. This approach changes e-learning resources from isolated information silos to interlinked platforms. Most importantly, Web 2.0 also includes a social element where the users generate and distribute content, often with freedom to share and re-use, and allows the user to do more than just download information. Users “own” and exercise control over the data on a Web 2.0 site. Web 2.0 sites have architecture of participation that encourages users to add value to the site as they use it, and usually feature a rich, user-friendly interface and may also have social-networking features.
As an academician, I have closely examined this transition from social networking to knowledge networking. Knowledge networking has given birth to the concept of lifelong learning where learning is not limited to four or six year degree courses but extends throughout the lifetime of an individual. A method that is increasingly used to promote both lifelong learning and professional knowledge is learning networks. In these communities learners participate, actively creating and sharing activities, learning plans resources and experiences with peers and institutions. One of the key requirements (and strengths) of a learning network is a wide cross-section of participants which gives the network a healthy diversity of opinion. The participants can be learners, instructors, industry affiliates, tutors, managers or anyone seeking to benefit from the activities, resources and experience made available by the learning network. An important point to note is that different on-line places have different characteristics – each forum, discussion list or departmental network has a different often uncodified way of working and interacting with each other. Therefore its newcomers must take time to understand the specific protocols and culture of the network they are joining.
Mrs. Deepshikha Aggarwal