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Some Thoughts on Rating Learning Content

July 6th, 2009 Martin Raske No comments

David Wilkins writes in his very intersting post on ASTD:

Learners have always discussed and commented on the courses and classes they are taking.  And learners are usually quick to tell other learners what they think of a given class.  If learners are attending an instructor-led event, they may try to network with other learners before, during, and after the event.  Learners also expect updates about changes to a course or training class.  Today, most of these interactions happen through ad hoc, unstructured, unsearchable exchanges between individual learners.

His suggestion for a 'Wrapped Model' means to use new technologies like social networking, rating, tagging, commenting, sharing etc. as a wrapper around traditional formal training. His ideas is that this way the interactions of learners become searchable and re-usable.

David's idea of using web 2.0 technology with traditional learning is fascinating. Especially the idea of rating learning content. We know the phenomenon from many places, one of the best known is probably a famous online bookshop: If you like a book, you can give it a few stars and write a comment on it. Everybody can read your comments and the rating adds up to some kind of a social ranking of this specific book. And of course: The better the rating, the higher the chance of the book to become a bestseller.

What happens if we transfer this idea into the world of learning?

Humans are gregarious animals. We tend to follow the flock. If more than two people are doing the same, it must be right. We trust the wisdom of the crowd - sometimes even if it leads us into desaster. This is probably one of the reasons, why public rating works so well: If I see that a few people have rated a conent as being good, chances are that I will be looking at this content as well. For learning this means: If a group of people has rated a course or a web based training as being helpful, engaging, interesting or even just fun, many others will take the same course as well. For an organization that deals with learning content this approach might help to increase the demand.

Public rating brings transparency into the world of training. These days most of the time training happens behind closed doors - making some of this transparent will definitely change some of the dynamics in this field.

However, like always there are two sides of the same coin: www.spickmich.de or www.rateyourprofessors.com are public pillories that pretend to rate the quality of teachers and professors but most of the time it is used as an outlet for frustrated students who have not yet learned that learning does not happen by consuming learning content only but by contributing to it, by working on it, by adding time and effort. If I talk about rating learning content, I don't think about these kind of tools.

Rating of learning content will surely add to more transparency for both learners and facilitators if it is done with a standardized qualitative survey. In a first step it will be useful to closely manage these ratings - in terms of deleting spam (like we have to do in our blogs), maybe getting back to users and ask for clarification etc. If we do this, I am convinced that this feature will add to the learning experience.