The Magic Number: Successfully Scaling Social Learning

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Online Forums 2011 - October 6, 2011
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Ben Betts


People fuss about class size in schools, but we often seem to overlook these issues when we put 10,000+ people together in an online learning environment. High volumes might be acceptable in isolating online environments with no interaction among learners, but what if you are trying to foster social learning? If social learning is to be an integral part of your organization’s workplace learning, you somehow need to get vast numbers of learners to interact effectively online. How can you scale the benefits of social learning for thousands of learners?

Participants in this session will learn several theories of social network size, including Dunbar’s Number, and consider selected studies and measures such as Facebook and LinkedIn network sizes. You’ll examine research that explores how social-learning implementations have scaled successfully and why unsuccessful implementations might have failed to scale. You’ll investigate massively scalable social solutions, learning from Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft, and see how MMORPGs handle millions of users socially interacting daily. Finally, you’ll learn five lessons for successfully scaling social-learning initiatives, and see how to share best practices within your social network, curating the best content from smaller groups of learners to the entire network.

In this session, you will learn:


  • About Social Network Theory
  • About Dunbar's Number (and its flaws)
  • At what scale social networks work best   
  • How MMORPGs successfully scale to millions of users
  • How simple rules breed complexity
  • How to curate the best content back to the crowd
  • Five lessons to take home


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