Promoting Learner Interaction and Personalized Learning Experiences with a Google+ Social Media Model: How to Replace the Traditional Discussion Forum

Promoting Learner Interaction and Personalized Learning Experiences with a Google+ Social Media Model: How to Replace the Traditional Discussion Forum

JoAnne Dalton Scott (Instructional Design Practitioner/Researcher, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1851-8.ch003
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This chapter presents the Directed Google+ Community model (DG+) as an alternative to the traditional discussion board forum. Social media platforms exhibit characteristics that can be leveraged in course design to promote positive learner experiences. Specifically, the chapter will define the DG+ model; examine how it promotes learner interaction, discussion, collaboration and peer review; discuss how it supports course topics, course assignments and creates a searchable knowledge management system; and explain how it complements the use of a learning management system for grade reporting purposes. Both the instructor and the students experience benefits from this design tool. The chapter will also discuss ways to overcome potential obstacles to implementing the model.
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Quality communications between students and the instructor is a significant dynamic affecting course outcomes. Any instructor who has taught the same course more than one time knows each course group has a different disposition even though the content and activities of the course remain relatively static. There is a kaleidoscope of reasons for this, the discussion of which is outside the purview of this chapter, but what is relevant is the way in which certain aspects of learner behavior can be leveraged to promote desired learning outcomes.

Class discussions contribute to peer collaboration, sense of community and learner perceptions whether they occur in face-to-face classroom settings, online via a threaded discussion board or asynchronously using some other bulletin board type tool. The use of threaded discussion boards in higher education courses is common, but the design of this tool does not adequately support students’ needs with respect to constructive communication scenarios. The purpose of this chapter is to provide instructional designers and instructors with a practical tool that maximizes the potential of asynchronous communications. More than that, the chapter is intended to be a workshop experience guiding the reader through the process of applying the Directed Google+ Community model (DG+) to instructional practice.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Directed Google+ Community Model (DG+): The model that guides instructors and instructional designers in incorporating a Directed Google+ Community into either a new or an established course. It is a social media alternative to the discussion board tool included in many learning management systems.

Google+: The social media platform established and maintained by Google. Users gain access via their Google account credentials.

Threaded Discussion Board: A form of discussion board that utilizes threads to organize information.

1+: Google+ users can show their approval for a post by clicking the 1+ button. Other social media platforms utilize the ‘like’ feature as a way of showing approval. When users 1+ a post their profile picture will be included in that post’s 1+ section.

Social media: Digital systems that provide users the opportunity to collaborate, share information and generate virtual communities. Examples include online networking sites, blogs, virtual worlds and wikis.

Learning Management System (LMS) Shell: The online portion of a course housed within the institution’s learning management system. Instructors populate the course shell with content and resources specific to the course.

Google+ Community: A group of Google+ users with similar interests. Communities can be public, allowing anyone to join, view or participate at will; or private, with viewing and participation restricted to members who have either been invited to join or requested membership.

Directed Google+ Community: A private social media group specific to the students enrolled in a particular course.

Thread: A group of discussion posts relating to a single topic. Threads simulate a back and forth conversation between people. A discussion board houses many threads.

Discussion Board: An online forum that allows individuals to post information and receive replies. Learning management systems include discussion boards for use within courses.

Post: A single contribution to an online discussion that can include text, links to websites, audio recordings, video recordings, photos and other files.

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