Thursday, June 05, 2008

LearnHub: Web 2.0 Social Learning Network with Courses, Tutoring, Content Sharing

LearnHub is a fresh approach to online learning that combines social networks and content management to allow users to create, use, and manage online learning (training, tutoring, mini-courses, reviews), all in an easy-to-use platform that encourages multimedia, graphics, and interactivity. What makes Learnhub unique is the fact that it contains an easy-to-use content management system that allows the user to create courses. Despite still being in its rollout phase, individuals and groups are using LearnHub, including such colleges as Athabasca University and several other Canadian, U.S., and global associations and learning organizations.

The flexibility of LearnHub allows an individual to take courses, host content, offer synchronous courses, and to provide synchronous tutoring services. The resources include a whiteboard, chat with threaded discussions, quizzes, downloadable pdfs, audio, and video. Courses can be free, or can have a fee associated with them. They can have fixed start and end dates, rolling start dates, or be completely open.

Tutor offerings are synchronous, live sessions between instructors and students including a whiteboard, video, audio, and document sharing. They can be free or have a fee associated with them. To participate, one should request a session, and the instructor sets up a time.

Upon first glance, the interface does not seem to be too far unremoved from social networking sites such as Bebo ( that offer the opportunity to develop different channels for networks, and which encourage you to create your own content and share it in innovative ways using integrated web applications and other mashups.

The features of LearnHub differentiate it from other portals, start pages, or web application integrators. The focus on learning, the ability to take rate, and comment on content, providers, and learning experiences make it a unique service. Further, with the ability to charge (and collect) fees, the incentives for individuals to put their best possible content, and to take instruction to a level not found in free offerings.

It is important to keep in mind that at this point, LearnHub does not offer a full-fledged learning management solution. It does not have a gradebook, and some of the other features that one might expect with an LMS.

LearnHub allows one to record and archive synchronous sessions (as do web-conferencing programs such as Elluminate or Adobe Connect). This expands the scope of instructional materials. Those who have used archived webinars as building blocks for the instructional content in a course will appreciate this option.

LearnHub's communities and open structure encourage individuals to be creative about the type of ways to use the training and collaboration potential.

The flexibility, social networking, and overall ease of use make LearnHub a compelling option. Not only is it effective for individuals who may wish to offer training, it also encourages colleges and universities to supplement their face-to-face courses with the rich Web 2.0 environment offered by LearnHub. As in the case of the best Web 2.0 applications, LearnHub promotes interaction, collaboration, sharing, peer networking, as well as innovation in multimedia self-expression.

Here is an example of the content that has been placed in a video lesson module in LearnHub (beyondutopia):

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