Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Using Social Software to Stimulate Content Engagement with Students in Distance Education Classes

Distance education does not have to be a lonely way to learn. Online social software has revolutionized how a generation of students fraternizes and finds information, and it has the potential to do the same for distance education.

Social software is any kind of computer-mediated communication that, according to a Wikipedia article, “… enables people to rendezvous, connect, or collaborate and to form online communities.” Online social communities, like MySpace, wikis, such as Wikipedia, and blogs are examples of popular forms of social software.

A well-managed blog or wiki can dramatically diminish the time and space barriers inherent in traditional distance education by stimulating student interaction, encouraging scholarly discourse, and establishing class communities. Additionally, 2003 research reported by J.C. Richardson and K. Swain in the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, reveals that social presence in distance education courses correlates with student satisfaction and higher scores on learning outcomes.

Faculty who are ready to try social software in their distance education course need look no further for examples than at their college or university library. This is because academic libraries have a well-established success record for being campus community builders and learning laboratories.

At Ball State’s University Libraries, we use RSS news feeds, www.bsu.edu/library/rss, and MySpace, http://myspace.com/brackenlibrary, and blogs to create online community among our distance education students who are both on and off-campus.

Distance and campus learners also enjoy remote access to a variety of powerful online academic databases, reference service via chat and e-mail, electronic reserves, and online web tutorials, among others.

I invite readers to view my blog post, http://distancelibrarian.blogspot.com/2006/06/online-learning-in-news-social.html or email me at KKeclik@bsu.edu to share ideas about how to incorporate social software in distance education courses.


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