Learnfizz: Find, share and organise the best free learning on the web

Julie Wedgwood used Learnfizz to bring together her favourite online curation links, for easy distribution to her audience at Online Educa Berlin. Rudy Bagot used it to store his favourite Guyanese recipes. Marion Janner, who is writing a guide to 77 innovative solutions for mental health wards, uses Learnfizz to organise her links into easily accessible subject areas (for example). Sarah Ruzgar created mixes of the best guides she could find to using social media for business. I’ve found them invaluable and far more useful than searching randomly around the web.

Last night Learnfizz won Gold for Social Media Learning Product of the Year at the 2012 Learning Awards, competing against BT and the Open University. This is very exciting for a product that is still very much in beta, but shows the potential people see in it. We hope it will become an essential tool for anybody wanting to learn useful stuff for free.

What is Learnfizz?

Charles Jennings described Learnfizz as ‘Delicious for Learning’. Bill Thompson preferred “Trip Adviser for Education”. Both are fair descriptions. Like Delicious, Learnfizz is based on social bookmarking, but gets its real value from the potential for  curation. There is a hell of a lot of information out there on the web and we need tools to keep track of what we find useful and easily curate it. The idea of Learnfizz is to use crowdsourcing to find the best free learning, to rate it and then make it easy to create combinations (or ‘mixes’) to use and share with others.

Some stuff is easy to find on Google. If you want to find historical facts, Google will normally take you to a pretty reliable page on Wikipedia. But try to learn how to do appraisals or write a business plan or give a great presentation and Google normally takes you to lots of sites trying to sell you stuff – courses, or reports or products. Yet on all these subjects there is lots of great free stuff available on the web. Its just hard to find. What we need is a site to make it easy to find and organise the best free learning on the web. That is what Learnfizz aims to do.

So whats the business model, people ask? What we are trying to do is create a business that has real positive social benefit, in helping people to learn, but also works financially. The idea is that anybody will be able to use the site for free. Thats vital to ensure we get enough links added. But large organisations tell us they will pay for a subscription version, branded for them, tracking how their people use it, linking to their resources as well as web-based ones and where they can decide what is included and what is prominent.

Where it all started

Last May a client asked for links to free online learning for Learning at Work day. Despite having seen lots of great stuff, I had no easy way to share it. Eventually I spent an hour going through my twitter feed and managed to send around a dozen links. If she asks me this year, I will be able to quickly send over hundreds of great links, organised conveniently into mixes. I don’t think I’m alone in this. At the Learning & Performance Conference in September I asked learning professionals if they had somewhere they stored their favourite learning links. About half said Yes. I asked those if they could easily share them. None of them could.

With Learnfizz you can, at little more than the click of a button (once you’ve added the Fizzit button to your toolbar), store any piece of learning or information that you come across. You can share it as an individual link or you can add it to a mix and share that. Over time we hope to build up a range of great combinations of learning, all of it freely available – whether you  are a learning professional in a big organisation, a teacher in the inner city or a child in Africa.

Create learning resources quickly, really quickly

Last week I heard Ray Kurzweil talk about the Singularity, the point at which machines will allegedly become more intelligent than humans. It was quite a talk, both inspiring and terrifying and there were dozens of information-packed slides. The slides were not available and the talk left many questions unanswered. So I did some research and quickly collected together a mix on the topic. It included a similar slide talk, a 7 minute talk by Kurzweil, more detailed explanations and also his critics. So the next morning I was able to tweet round this learning guide, and hundreds clicked through to learn more about a topic that had sparked their interest.

That is the potential of Learnfizz. Anybody in an organisation will be able to quickly create a curated learning resource by simply linking together different pieces of information. And in much less time than it takes to create traditional e-learning. Indeed, as I did with Kurzweil, you can create a resource that is very useful in under an hour.

We are still in our early days at the start of what we hope will be an exciting journey. Its still too clunky to create a mix but please do try. Please add the Fizzit button, bookmark some pages and create a mix. And then let me know how you found it. We are keen to find out how people will use Learnfizz and what to develop next.

Please do try it out, let us know what you like and what would make it even better for you. We want to create a resource that reflects what people like you need.


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