E-learning has come a long way since alternative means to move away from traditional learning were much sought after. Today, a majority of the youth population lives in the virtual world and are busy managing wikis, blogs, social networking presence in sites like Facebook, Digg, MySpace, Twitter, etc. Virtual life has indeed taken an imperative position – thanks to iPhones, iPADs, 4Gs and what not! There cannot be a better opportunity than now for universities, K-12s, organizations and multinationals to implement best e-learning practices that integrate social networking and learning. Although the phenomenon is already felt, much progress is yet to be seen in this area of learning, now commonly called Long Tail Learning.
Don’t worry about Long Tail. It is statistics and we all know, statistics is more than measures of central tendency! Don’t even take the risk of studying probability distributions. Simply understand that Long Tail Learning is to take your world of learning from traditional classroom environs to a Web 2.0 or a Semantic Web, also aliased as Web 3.0 collaborative environment where you not just learn, but engage in a host of other collaborative tools to augment your learning effectively. Indeed Long Tail Learning is a great boost to Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL).
Personally, I believe Long Tail Learning is the future of e-learning because learners will have the opportunity to learn, share and teach at the same time and justify the basis of collaborative learning. Learning will become many-sided unlike the one-sided approach you find in classrooms and other static e-learning engines. However, the inherent challenge of designing such a complex collaborative platform is far from easy, although a few learning dotcoms have already implemented it. Employing best learning practices and standards will not suffice. It is important to constantly review and test collaborative learning where you have restricted control on the participants about the information they share with others in the learning environment. This kind of learning is only beginning to take shape, but will take a while before it turns out to be a successful phenomenon.
MIT iCampus Video on Relearning Learning-Applying the Long Tail to Learning