Using Social Networking to Enhance Sense of Community in E-Learning Courses

Using Social Networking to Enhance Sense of Community in E-Learning Courses

Steve Chi-Yin Yuen (The University of Southern Mississippi, USA) and Harrison Hao Yang (State University of New York at Oswego, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-729-4.ch016
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This chapter provides an overview and development of sense of community and social networking; discusses the potential uses of social networking in education; and presents a case study that integrates social networking into two graduate courses for the purpose of building a sense of community, improving communications and interactions, and promoting student-centered collaboration. The construction of class social networking sites, the implementation of these networks, and their effects on the students’ learning experience are examined. In addition, an analysis of feedback from students on the value of social networking in learning is included.
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The rapid technological change and proliferation of information resources are lineaments of our contemporary society. Online information and communication are changing the way instructors and learners interact within the teaching/learning process. Online teaching and learning represents a new educational paradigm. The “anytime, anywhere” accessibility of e-learning courses provide students and teachers the opportunities to work at their own pace and at locations they are able to control (Berge, 1995; Edelson, 1998; Spiceland & Hawkins, 2002). Furthermore, as Richardson and Swan (2003) indicated, “[e-learning] allows students to reflect upon the materials and their responses before responding, unlike traditional classrooms” (p. 69). Currently, there are two main types of e-learning applications within higher education courses: (a) fully online applications in which teaching and learning activities take place entirely at an online computer-mediated communication (CMC) setting; (b) hybrid applications in which both traditional classroom instruction and online CMC are blended (Yang & Liu, 2008). In either online or hybrid applications, online learning content is typically provided by courseware authors/instructors, structured into courses by a learning management system (LMS), and consumed by students. This approach is often driven by the needs of the institution/corporation rather than the individual learner.

While online and hybrid courses are expanding and the numbers of participants are increasing, questions are being raised on conventional LMS based e-learning. For example, researchers are asking how best to foster community among learners and their instructors who are physically separated from each other, as well as separated in time (Palloff & Pratt, 1999; Rovai, 2002a, 2002b). Such separation may increase social insecurities, communication anxieties, and feelings of disconnectedness (Jonassen, 2000; Kerka, 1996). As a result of such separations, Sherry (1996) stated that “the student becomes autonomous and isolated, procrastinates, and eventually drops out” (¶ 27). Previous studies suggest that a sense of community, which is related to connectedness and learning, is essential for an e-learning course to occur (Yang & Liu, 2008).

With the emerging Web 2.0 technologies, more opportunities and possibilities to enhance existing e-learning courses are provided. For instance, social networks are collections of Web 2.0 technologies combined in a way that help build online communities. Social networking sites are on the rise globally and are developing rapidly as technology changes with new mobile dimensions and features. These sites are changing the ways people use and engage each other utilizing the Internet (Childnet International, 2008). Today’s technology enhanced students have shown growing interest in social networking sites because of the community, the content, and the activities in which they can engage in the sites. Students can share their profile information, find out what their peers think about topics of interest, share music and playlists, and exchange messages with friends. Students use social networking sites to connect daily or even hourly for social as well as educational activities. They get to know their classmates through Facebook and share their lives with others on MySpace. Students use other social networking sites like RateMyProfessors and PickAProfessor to learn about their professors and choose their classes. In addition, they share their photos on Flickr and their videos on YouTube (The New Media Consortium, 2008).

Social networking sites are changing the social fabric of colleges and universities. In its fifth study of undergraduate students and information technology, the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) investigated the use of technology by undergraduate students in American colleges and universities. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008 analyzed the Web-based survey responses of over 27,000 freshmen and seniors at 90 four-year institutions and eight two-year institutions, as well as findings from focus group discussions. The key findings of the Social Networking Sites section of the study included:

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
George Siemens
Harrison Hao Yang, Steve Chi-Yin Yuen
Chapter 1
Stephen Downes
The purpose of this chapter is to outline some of the thinking behind new e-learning technology, including e-portfolios and personal learning... Sample PDF
Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge
Chapter 2
Ann Dutton Ewbank, Adam G. Kay, Teresa S. Foulger, Heather L. Carter
This chapter reviews the capabilities of social networking tools and links those capabilities to recent legal and ethical controversies involving... Sample PDF
Conceptualizing Codes of Conduct in Social Networking Communities
Chapter 3
Judi Repman, Cordelia Zinskie, Elizabeth Downs
As online learning continues to expand and evolve, new challenges emerge regarding the implementation of Web 2.0 tools and technologies in online... Sample PDF
Fulfilling the Promise: Addressing Institutional Factors that Impede the Implementation of E-Learning 2.0
Chapter 4
Robert Z. Zheng
The growth of online resources and the advancement of Web 2.0 technology are changing the instructional landscape and have significantly impacted... Sample PDF
Designing Dynamic Learning Environment for Web 2.0 Application
Chapter 5
Marshall G. Jones, Stephen W. Harmon
This chapter deals centrally with one emerging aspect of Web 2.0 for education, that of the increasing demand for real time and near real-time... Sample PDF
Instructional Strategies for Teaching in Synchronous Online Learning Environments (SOLE)
Chapter 6
Daniel W. Surry, David C. Ensminger
Higher education is changing in important and profound ways. New technologies are enabling universities to reach new students and create innovative... Sample PDF
University 2.0: Human, Social, and Societal Issues
Chapter 7
Jay Alden
The emergence of Web 2.0 technologies with its emphasis on social networking has presented an opportunity for academic institutions to take... Sample PDF
Use of Wikis to Support Collaboration among Online Students
Chapter 8
Curtis J. Bonk, Mimi Miyoung Lee, Nari Kim, Meng-Fen Grace Lin
A Wikibook is a transformative and disruptive technology that is finding increasing use in schools and higher education institutions. This new form... Sample PDF
Wikibook Transformations and Disruptions: Looking Back Twenty Years to Today
Chapter 9
Chareen Snelson
The recent explosive growth of Web-based video has expanded the repository of free content that can be tapped into for e-learning. Millions of video... Sample PDF
Web-Based Video for e-Learning: Tapping into the YouTubeTM Phenomenon
Chapter 10
Deborah Everhart, Kaye Shelton
Collaborative research teaches students critical knowledge management skills, whether they are undergraduates learning the basics of Web research or... Sample PDF
From Information Literacy to Scholarly Identity: Effective Pedagogical Strategies for Social Bookmarking
Chapter 11
Morris S.Y. Jong, Junjie Shang, Fong-Lok Lee, Jimmy H.M. Lee
VISOLE (Virtual Interactive Student-Oriented Learning Environment) is a constructivist pedagogical approach to empower computer game-based learning.... Sample PDF
VISOLE: A Constructivist Pedagogical Approach to Game-Based Learning
Chapter 12
Patricia Edwards, Mercedes Rico, Eva Dominguez, J. Enrique Agudo
Web 2.0 technologies are described as new and emerging for all fields of knowledge, including academia. Innovative e-learning formats like on-demand... Sample PDF
Second Language E-Learning and Professional Training with Second Life®
Chapter 13
Hyung Sung Park, Young Kyun Baek
The purpose of this chapter is to offer practical ideas and cases for educational use of the Second Life® virtual world with Web 2.0 based... Sample PDF
Empirical Evidence and Practical Cases for Using Virtual Worlds in Educational Contexts
Chapter 14
Sharon Stoerger
Schools based in the United States are trapped in a Henry Ford factory model of education that is focused on high-stakes testing. This model was... Sample PDF
A Pedagogical Odyssey in Three-Dimensional Virtual Worlds: The SECOND LIFE® Model
Chapter 15
Youmei Liu, Shawn McCombs
E-Learning has undergone an amazing metamorphosis: it has changed from the delivery of individualized, static curricular information to the... Sample PDF
Podcasting: A Flexible E-Learning Tool
Chapter 16
Steve Chi-Yin Yuen, Harrison Hao Yang
This chapter provides an overview and development of sense of community and social networking; discusses the potential uses of social networking in... Sample PDF
Using Social Networking to Enhance Sense of Community in E-Learning Courses
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