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Shirley Williams and E.J. Highwood

Abstract

Essentially social learning is a system where the learning occurs with and from others. Internet-based technologies have provided environments within which social learning can take place among very large groups covering various topics, ranging from academic to leisure.

In general MOOCs are academic-related courses offered by educational institutions, following a model of formal education, however they also take advantage of the concept of social learning, encouraging participants to learn together and from each other.

Crochet Alongs (CALs) are non-formal courses offered outside educational institutions. CALs give crocheters the opportunity to learn more about their craft within an Internet-based social learning system, while working independently on their own instantiation of a pattern released at intervals. Participants offer support to each other via social media, sometimes seeking help in overcoming problems and other times just to share success.

There is a considerable body of research into the MOOC phenomena, there is no such body of research into CALs, or other Internet-based craft courses. There are a number of similarities between MOOCs and CALs with some CALs attracting thousands of participants to freely available online courses. Contrasting MOOCs and CALs offers educationalists to explore alternatives approaches to social learning.