WhatsLearn vs. WhatsApp

$19bn for a smile

$19 bn for a smile (credit – WhatsApp)


Is learning worth $19 billion?

Facebook just bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. Insane, isn’t it? Is chatting worth $19 billion? Is the possibility of sending a two word message (often badly spelled) worth $19 billion? Is a collection of emoticons really worth $19 billion?

WhatsApp converted a very simple idea – of sending and receiving messages – into a huge social and financial success. 500 million individuals depend on WhatsApp to remain connected to their beloved, their friends and their colleagues. Why? Because being in touch is essential to our lives.

And what about learning? Isn’t it that essential to our lives?

Imagine that instead of spending hours on instant messaging, we were desperate to learn. The WhatsApp community of 500 million users and the Facebook community of over 1 billion people would seem small by comparison. We could be talking of the population of the whole world. This should be a new era for social networking, the era of WhatsLearn.

Instant messaging will give way to instant learning. Our hundreds of contacts will be distributed by areas of knowledge and fields of interest. Our user profile will include more than just a name and a picture. Our contacts will also be known for their skills, their subjects of interest and so on… We will organise them into learning groups. Creating a curriculum will be part of shared learning process involving all the contacts an individual has with relevant experience. Healthy habits will be a topic shared by another group of contacts, and instant messaging will be used to share tips and thoughts on how to live healthier. A teacher in class will use WhatsLearn to help his or her students prepare for a maths exam.

Instant learning means the opportunity to grasp any opportunity to learn within our own circle of contacts. It means that learning objects are everywhere around us, and that we have something to learn from all our surrounding “contacts”. WhatsLearn is not so different from what MOOCs propose, but instead of carefully planning a massive learning process, it is based on instantaneous learning that is shared with peers and friends.

Learning is the biggest challenge of all. Learners are the biggest target of all. The essence of innovation is therefore to invent the tools that will make their learning process easy, continuous and fruitful.

This is what the Open Education Challenge is about. WhatsLearn has not been invented yet, but maybe it is worth much more than $19 billion.

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