Complimentary Journal Article Offers Insight for Online Learning

Trading Textbooks for Facebook? Social Media and Distance Education

By IGI Global on Feb 27, 2013
Distance learning is progressively becoming a conventional method of education. With more universities partnering with massive open online course programs, distance education is the future. The challenge lies in making distance learning a worthwhile personal experience while maintaining the convenience and instantaneous connectivity of the Web.

In the article, "Why Online Education Needs to Get Social", Marco Masoni writes: “Education is the second largest industry in America behind health care, and it too is experiencing a similar shift as it struggles to adapt traditional design and delivery models to the demands of modern audiences who are accustomed to digital interactivity. The challenge to transition successfully is especially pressing for online higher education.”

One probable solution for enforcing a seamless transition into online learning environments is through the use of social media and technologies. Social media creates a platform for collaboration and sharing, replicating classroom interaction and discussion.

Trading Textbooks for Facebook? Social Media and Distance Education

IGI Global contributing author, Edward Dixon, is a German language lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. His article, “Building a Model for Online Distance Courses Through Social Media and Networks”, highlights the utilization of social media and networks for The University of Pennsylvania’s online Elementary German courses. Since 2012, these courses have provided students with the opportunity to earn their language requirement for college credit during the summer months. In a subject where verbal interaction seems necessary, the challenge Dixon faces as a language teacher in an online classroom seems daunting. But he seems to have a concrete plan for classes.

“Like their face-to-face counterparts, online courses are grounded on the principles of communicative language teaching and learning, but must clearly reveal the potential of these principles to maximize participation, promote learner autonomy, and influence student outcomes when applied to collaborative online learning spaces,” explains Dixon.

Dixon’s article gives examples of digital resources that he has found useful to interact with students. Online tools such as Wimba Voiceboard are used to provide assignments, oral language practices, and essays. Using Blackboard, students can post assignments and start discussions with their classmates. Daily assignments are emailed to each student which provide an easy way for students to remember due dates, encouraging ‘active learning’. Facebook groups are also used as a resource throughout the course for writing posts, making comments, and allowing the opportunity to learn about each other in a more casual environment; one in which most students already feel comfortable.

“The goal is not to replace the traditional face-to-face classroom with what many construe to be the impersonal atmosphere of the online course, but rather to foster an online learning atmosphere that is at the very least equal to the experience of language learning in the face-to-face classroom,” Dixon says.

In support of this research, IGI Global is offering free access to the article “Building a Model for Online Distance Courses Through Social Media and Networks” by Edward Dixon, published in the journal International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments (IJVPLE). To download this article, please click here: Individual journal articles are also available for purchase through IGI Global's InfoSci®-OnDemand, which allows full-text searching through our entire collection of research articles, book chapters, and teaching cases.

Edited by Krista Terry and Amelia Cheney of Appalachian State University, USA, the International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments (IJVPLE) offers comprehensive coverage of developments in learning technologies for an audience of educators, technologists, and trainers. A primary source for academics, professionals, and policy makers of information and communication technologies, this journal has been noted in a number of prestigious indices; most recently in the Scopus citation database.
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