The Virtual Community
posted October 24th, 2012 by Campbellsville Online News
Using social media to build a community of online learners
For traditional college students, a well-rounded student life experience helps cultivate a positive on-campus learning environment, which can enrich their overall college experience and encourage greater classroom success. Traditional students have access to instructors, can interact with peers and also get involved in campus and community activities.
The online learner presents a unique challenge for colleges and universities looking to engage this type of student and provide a flexible, dynamic and engaging learning environment. Many colleges and universities that offer online degree programs, including Campbellsville University, have discovered the power of social media to help connect with online learners and build a virtual community.
Where’s the Community?
Understanding the online student is critical to establishing successful online programs that engage learners and promote academic achievement. The Learning House, Inc., in partnership with Aslanian Market Research, recently conducted a study of online learners to determine user habits, motivations and beliefs as they relate to online education.
Critical findings focused on the online student’s perception of the online environment as an active community. According to the report, online students viewed the lack of direct instructor and classmate interaction as online learning’s biggest disadvantage. It may be assumed that many online degree programs fail to provide a community atmosphere that promotes student engagement through regular instructor and peer interactions.
Social media is more than a passing trend. Social media has evolved into a legitimate tool to help establish real connections. Online degree programs have begun to leverage the power of social media to engage students and promote student-to-faculty interactions on a more basic and less intimidating level.
Instructors can use a plethora of social media tools to create a more dynamic and connected learning experience for online students.
Video-sharing websites such as YouTube and Vimeo allow users to upload, share and view videos. Professors can create private channels within the sites to create and post supplemental instructional videos for students to view and discuss in an open forum. Instructors can embed videos on course pages within the course management system for a more dynamic and interactive page.
Photo-sharing websites such as Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket provide online space to store, manage and share images. Professors can build image libraries related to course materials for students to view for interactive instruction. Profiles can be made private and images can be copyright protected.
Google Docs provides a convenient alternative to current course management systems’ file sharing and storing abilities. Google Docs provides easy-to-access information for effective group brainstorming and collaboration on projects and presentations. Students can share documents, spreadsheets, drawings and forms among peers and the instructor.
Facebook is perhaps the most popular social network. Facebook can be used to build a dynamic community for online students, as it provides a convenient and free medium for group discussions, peer-to-peer and student-to-instructor engagement, along with photo, video and link sharing. Students and instructors alike should ensure all content and discussions are relevant to the course to maintain learning integrity. Instructors should also keep their private accounts separate from course accounts to maintain professionalism.
Using social media to supplement online courses can help to establish and continue to build strong communities for online students who are feeling isolated from instructors and peers.
Social media is more than a buzzword used to discuss how to improve student engagement in an online community. Social media is an accessible tool that can improve academic involvement, comprehension and achievement level.
Accessing Study Materials and Resources
Study materials and other resources are more accessible than ever before when hosted on social media sites with the advent of the smartphone and other portable devices, such as the tablet. Lecture notes, study questions and other course resources are now literally in the palm of the student’s hand.
Promoting a Collaborative Environment
Dynamic group discussions that engage students and facilitate student-to-instructor interaction enhance online courses. Social media provides students with an accessible and instantaneous way to collaborate on group projects in a comfortable setting.
Enhancing Interaction for a Better Learning Experience
Students who are actively engaged in a course have a better overall learning experience, whether in a traditional classroom setting or online course. Social media provides students with an outlet to interact with their peers and instructors. It also allows class materials to be easily shared and discussed.
Campbellsville Online Building Solid Community
Fostering a student community on a course-by-course level is only a fraction of a large equation to establish connections between an institution’s online learners.
Campbellsville University has found success building a connected community for its only learners using Facebook. Campbellsville University uses Facebook and other social media sites to connect with non-traditional students through timely posts that convey that students are part of a global community that embraces diversity and lifelong learning.
“The Campbellsville page provides a sense of belonging for online students. Facebook provides a space for online students to connect with other students and learn about new tools and resources to help them manage the multiple roles they juggle,” said Deenie Espinoza, success coach for Campbellsville’s online students.
Campbellsville University has more than 100 years of experience providing students with an exceptional education designed to get them where they want to go. Campbellsville’s online programs are ideal for adult students who want to advance their careers or make a career transition. Students can choose from a variety of accredited degrees for a convenient and flexible way to earn a quality education.