Online people tagging: SNS and work-based learning

Online people tagging: SNS and work-based learning

Cook, John, and Norbert Pachler. “Online people tagging: Social (mobile) network (ing) services and work‐based learning.” British Journal of Educational Technology 43.5 (2012): 711-725.

After a break for a holiday, I am down to the last few articles I want to review before I submit my assignment. I am not going to get through them all but wanted to review this one first. This is another review article which looks at SNS in the context of informal learning in work place based assessment.

Again this starts with a critical overview of the literature. The first part is spent linking workplace based assessment with informal learning. Often a GP registrar will learn a considerable amount from working in teams, from other healthcare professionals, being supervised, from significant events and complaints. The author cites another author, Michael Eraut, who has done quite a lot of research on workplace based learning. A synopsis of one of his studies is available here which is easy reading and from which I have taken the following table from.

A typology of Early Career Learning (Source: Eraut, 2008)

The table is also present in the article. The point being made is that a lot of learning at work is one to one, but this can be from peers, from the teacher, from colleagues and from patients.

The article then discusses Social Network(ing). Eraut identifies the key enablers for confidence, learning and retention of information in workplace learning were support and feedback. This in turn leads to self-efficacy, the adult learner/reflective thinker. Whilst there is a dearth of research on SNS and how they can facilitate this, the author cites several papers which explore self-efficacy and the use of scaffolding to achieve this. Scaffolding is what we do as educators in GP training, by providing face to face feedback (e.g. Problem Case Analysis) and the ePortfolio as a SpR builds up a portfolio of experience. I do not foresee a major role for SNS in this but GP training is a one to one learning environment. Computer supported scaffolding is then explored briefly. The author mentioned some papers demonstrating promise in this area. I suppose with the ePortfolio we are already doing this.

People Tagging

The author describes people tagging next, using examples of social sites such as Linkedin. Two types of tagging are described – ontology’s and folksonomies. I had never heard of these terms. The former is a system classification (no examples are given but I would imagine rather like rank in the military), the latter is a user driven collective system. I would imagine this would be like Facebook likes, interests and hobbies. The two are linked but a folksonomy is disordered requiring ontological clarity. In a nutshell, sites such as Linkedin try to provide this. My own experience of Linkedin is that I keep on getting recommended for various skills by colleagues. If I agree, I get tagged for that skill eg medical education. The relevance of this is not clear. The author goes into some detail presents a typology of factors in social networking and work-based learning (it is probably worthwhile looking at this) and then describes a case study of a project called the MATURE project. This used a tagging system done by employees and/or superiors referring to expertise or interests. This can then complement self-assessment as well as competency assessment. The article is quite technical but in summary it is suggesting that this type of tagging (either ontological or folksonomy) can assist in work-place assessment.


I found this article quite hard going as it is very technical but there were some useful features. This review is my interpretation. I am not convinced of the value of SNS in work-place assessment. People tagging may be useful for networking and, in the case of Linkedin, potential employment, but not assessment. The work-place assessment we do for the MRCGP has prefined competencies as per the curriculum. It already has the ePortfolio which provides the ontological rigidity required for assuring competence. The authors conclude there is potential for social media in informal, professional, work-placed learning. I would argue whilst there is a role in informal learning, it is not thorough or discriminative enough for a formal work-place assessment delivered against set criteria.

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