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Integrating Social Media into Online Education

Many people take it on faith that online education must be run through a learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard, Angel, etc. Those systems were originally designed to allow faculty to move their courses online without having to learn HTML coding. They provided all of the tools needed to deliver an online course in one package.

As online learning grew, so too did the functionality of course management systems. As the systems grew more and more complex, they became more and more fragile, necessitating the new administrative function of instructional designer to manage the systems. Control of distance learning gradually shifted from faculty to administrator as instructional designers started dictating how online courses would look and function.

Now faculty are starting to wrestle control back from administrators through the use of social media such as blogs, wikis, and VoiceThread. These systems can be easily set up by faculty and students to foster interactivity and user generated content that is not possible in course management systems. Best of all, instead of spending hours stocking the modules of a course management system, a faculty member can create a blog in minutes and spend nearly all of his or her time communicating with students.

But few colleges have a social media strategy. The assumption is still that all content must be housed within the LMS. Systems such as Blackboard are adding social media modules like blogs and wikis, but moving them into the locked-down LMS removes the very openness which gives these media value. The better approach is to understand that the LMS is just one tool among many for delivering online learning, and just like a carpenter, use the tool that best suits the job.

Here are some ways to incorporate social media into your course:

Education is changing, and social media is presenting a world of opportunity to improve learning outcomes.

Feedback
As usual, I welcome your comments, criticisms, and cries of outrage in the comments section of this blog.

Resources
Insidious Pedagogy: How Course Management Systems Impact Teaching
http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2530/2303

Learning Management Technologies: Enterprise Systems or Consumer Goods?
http://www.educause.edu/E09+Hybrid/EDUCAUSE2009FacetoFaceConferen/LearningManagementTechnologies/175842

Envisioning the Post-LMS Era: The Open Learning Network
http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/EnvisioningthePostLMSEraTheOpe/199389

The Traditional LMS is Dead: Looking to a Modularized Future
http://ideaentity.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-traditional-lms-is-dead

Drupal: http://drupal.org/

GoingOn: http://goingon.com/

Learning Objects: http://www.learningobjects.com/

John Orlando, PhD, is the program director for the online Master of Science in Business Continuity Management and Master of Science in Information Assurance programs at Norwich University. John develops faculty training in online education and is available for consulting at jorlando@norwich.edu.