CTL Blog

Integrating Social Media

November 01, 2011 | 2 Minute Read

Quite a few of the courses I work with are interested in integrating social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. within their courses or program to “continue” the discussions and as a community-building strategy. But, test runs indicate that students seem reluctant to mix their personal and professional identities online. I was on the lookout for resources and tips that can make this a streamlined and fun integration, and had two interesting opportunities.
Some time back, I participated in a Facebook for Public Health training. They walked us through the basic set up options (Group vs Individual vs Page etc.) and also provided a features list – good to know... But an integration possibility I got out of it is that instead of creating a group for each course or program, students can join relevant pre-existing groups in their particular subject area that faculty or friends can recommend (and there seems to be quite a few out there.) The benefit of this option is that “active” participation becomes optional, while at the same time, students can feel part of a community. Similarly, students could follow faculty or experts in the field on Twitter or post using a common # (hash) tag. Here is an example of one in health/medicine - http://twitter.com/#!/tedmed
Another interesting webinar I attended was about an academic social networking platform developed by GoingOn (http://www.goingon.com/) that has been implemented by UPenn, Arizona State, and ~25  other colleges/universities.
A brief review of the features indicate that the system is akin to a high-end portal that integrates with various existing systems such as CMS, SIS, IT etc., and has Facebook-like social media features built into it.
UPenn shared its experience in utilizing social media via the GoingOn platform to enable new models of informal learning, collaboration, and student engagement within the campus community. The platform has community building and networking features that enable students, faculty and administration to share information outside the confines of a “classroom,” continuing the link between a course and the larger academic community. This provides what they call a “holistic academic experience.” GoingOn CEO summarizes the platform as:  “To engage today’s students and faculty, schools need to provide more effective tools for them to connect and share resources outside the confines of their courses—share ideas, ask questions, create study groups and discover all the resources that their school has to offer. It is clear that legacy portals and course-centric LMSs alone are not sufficient to meet this goal. After years of focusing on bringing courses online, colleges and universities need to invest an equal amount of energy in understanding how to bring the broader academic life experience online.”
This platform seems to build an academic network while keeping it separate from their personal social network. Moreover, this platform can be integrated with academic IT systems and the community. I was particularly intrigued by the Communities of Practice feature that can build groups with common interests including not only students and faculty, but also external scholars, alumni, & practitioners. Is this approach the best of both worlds??