At the recent e-learning conference at the Berlin School of Economics and Law we discussed new ways of e-Learning and how future LMS have to be designed to involve students to ensure effective e-learning. It soon became clear that popular social networks accomplish a degree of participation that any LMS can only dream of. “Yeah, well because it is not a learning platform.” True, however these networks are often used by students to coordinate group work, share files and solve problems that evolve in daily university life.
We agreed in our workshop that a social network used for e-learning is first of all an information and communication center that allows effective discussion and work coordination because we all know how to use it. From there it is easy to add other tools to your group work or update others on new content on other platforms. From my perspective as a student who actively uses social networks such as Facebook to communicate with classmates, share information and coordinate schoolwork I think it would be great if some of the Facebook features would be included in LMS. Future LMS have to be designed so I feel as if it makes sense to check my account on a regular basis. What makes Facebook so great is that you almost always get a fast response because someone is always there, you can participate and see what other people do. In the future it would be desirable to include for example timeline features in LMS. I think it makes sometimes sense to talk about what possibilities we already have today.
In our case we are using Moodle at our school so there have to be ways to effectively work with what we have today. Since it is not possible or there are plenty of reasons why not to connect Facebook and Moodle, there are still ways how teachers can use these networks to get students involved in e-learning. For example if all students are on Facebook teachers in my opinion have to go there too. This does not mean forget Moodle but use it as an additional platform to do everything that Moodle at this time cannot. “But I do not want to be friends with my professor!” To use all the advantages of facebook you do not have to be directly connected. There are ways around this dilemma. Only one person of a class has to add a professor or the professor can create a group and add one student form the class that is friends with other classmates. Everyone can than invite other classmates without giving the teacher access to their personal profile. Also, the professor does not have to open their profile to any student. The teacher can control the settings of the group and if necessary give certain students access to manage the group. So there it is, you have your students right there and they get updates directly to their page without leaving their network. I believe it would be a great way to prevent receiving countless e-mails all asking the same questions and also to share content. It can also be used to update students about new Moodle content without sending group emails. If this does not work than I do not think any updated future LMS would get students to participate if they simply do not want to get involved in a course.
Of course there is the issue of data protection but I believe that we in a way decided how much we share and all sensitive content can remain in Moodle. I would be interested in having a professor in one of my Facebook groups to see if both sides can profit from that adventure.
Why did I choose to talk about Facebook? Because that is where the students are today. I did not say that all e-learning can happen on Facebook but for my studies simple things make my class experience easier. As simple as it sounds but I need easy access to updates on dates, time and theme of the next class. I want the required reading online so I can access it at any time and I do not have to print it. Furthermore, I do not want to wait three days to get a response to a simple question on the course and have ways to discuss and share content with my classmates. I know many of theses things are possible in Moodle but either they are often not used by the teacher or teachers complain that students do not appreciate or use online content that took hours to create. So I would suggest for now to try and use Facebook to get students involved to make sure that whatever you created in Moodle gets their attention. What do you think?