Friday, August 20, 2010

Repurposing and Rethinking Social Networking in the Learning Environment (Millard/Sullivan)

Couple of librarians presenting on social media...could be interesting.

They present their Systems Analysis 101 course (H - Web Publishing, I - Using the Internet, R - Information Retrieval). This course became the background for a course in the Interactive Media Studies program. One course in 1996, 30 in 2010, so it certainly grew (due in part to $1mil seed money from Procter/Gamble). Faculty from every department and the library have a hand in this.

IMS 201 - Information Studies in the Digital Age, the core course itself, centers around how to become better information consumers and to be technologically literate.

An investigation into the course participants was conducted in 2009/10. All sections, currently, used and other social media sites to varying degrees, and were happy with some aspects, not with others. Challenge was to make a closed social network for purposes of this class, specifically. Infrastructure of the school and the online learning situation is covered (changing from Blackboard09 to Sakai).

All instructors set up a ning site (which is now a pay service). Good thing is that, for students, it aligns itself more with Facebook than any other social media. Blogs from within Ning are used heavily and in a different fashion. Some chose to use it as a way to enrich the discussion of the day, others posted selected readings in their blogs. Others still made blogging a course requirement, as well as commenting on others' blogs. Discussion boards are covered next, but we all get them.

(This is getting to be a commercial for Ning, as opposed to anything new, let alone repurposing/rethinking anything...)

The whole concept of replacing the textbook is covered. What don't people get about this? Yes, I udnerstand - Students can go out to the internet, find answers to questions, facts, figures, etc. BUT...this affords -0- consistency. You can guide them all you want, but the answers, the facts, the knowledge will be from different sources, appear differently, and thereby be inconsistent with one another. This is a HUGE issue from an assessment standpoint (how do you assess knowledge if the knowledge isn't standardized (<-- see: by a textbook)). Twitter use and misuse in the course is discussed. Always run the risk of potential anonymity, and even students creating alternate accounts for alternate purposes.

The pros of using all of this social technology includes Felxibility & Customization, Appropriate For Course Content, and Tools Available Post Graduation (Post Employment?). The Cons include Retention of Student Projects, Bueinss Model Stability (Ning is pay now), Less Control/No IT Support, Students More Familiar with Centrally Supported Platform, and Technology for Technology's sake?

Student Survey

So, what did the students think of all this? Survey submitted in addition to Course Evaluations, optional participation, and focused on the Ning backdrop. Received a 65% response rate, with varied responses across courses. Ranged from "Liked it" to "Sucked" (<-- and I quote). All in all, varied responses best describes what they got back across the board.

Conclusions arrived at:

- Students are goal oriented - need a gradebook.
- Social Media sites work better for courses covering Social Media (Think a Journalism class required to read the daily NYT)
- Social Media facilitates new models of classroom communication - Less push/more pull.
- LMS Vendors need to make their offerings more social (Discussion boards aren't enough)

All in all, a good case study for these folks. Would have liked to have seen more rethinking/repurposing with innovation, as opposed to existing/commonplace technology. Presenters carried their case well, though.

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