In this paper, the authors describe a conceptual model for the analysis of informal learning in online social networks for workers, and in particular for health professionals. This work sector has been selected due to its particular characteristics, considering that Staying up-to-date and delivering best evidence-based care is crucial for these professionals, and that they need to be lifelong learners as medical knowledge expands and changes rapidly.
In this environment, "Online social networking (OSN) provides a new way for health professionals to communicate, collaborate and share ideas with each other for informal learning on a massive scale. It has important implications for ongoing efforts to support Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in the health professions. However, the challenge of analysing the data generated in OSNs makes it difficult to understand whether and how they are useful for CPD".
The paper explores three approaches for the analysis of OSN: Content Analysis (CA), Social Network Analysis (SNA) and the most innovative one, the Social Learning Analytics (SLA), as a sub-field of Learning Analytics.
The described conceptual model tries to merge the CA and SNA approaches, considering also a survey to evaluate the learning outcome, instead of real clinical data. This model is divided in three sections:
- Learning interactions: is focused on studying the structure of interactions and the level of and influential factors associated with engagement.
- Learning process: involves the examination of cognitive presence, social presence, facilitation presence and learning presence.
- Learning outcome: measures the social value for online community members, in terms of valued activities, gained knowledge, changed practice, improved performance and redefined success.