The Future of LMS – Learning from Facebook

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?

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2 Gedanken zu „The Future of LMS – Learning from Facebook

  1. Thank You for this contribution and the suggestions. I’m convinced that many professors are already on Facebook but wouldn’t dream of using it in class probably mainly because they hadn’t thought of it. There is still (especially in Germany) a peculiar though perhaps understandable segregation between professional and private networks. In other countries (this is my impression) they are much more enmeshed with one another.

    I appreciate your more detailed suggestion how Facebook and class work could be connected without losing your private chat and friend space. Indeed, I am a member of various Facebook groups whose members in turn are not my Facebook “friends”. So I think this might work and I will try to implement it next term in a second semester course on business information systems. I have used (misused?) this course repeatedly for e-learning experiments already, like blogs, Wiki and now Moodle.

    I’m not sure at present if I won’t use Google+ instead of Facebook though. I’m not quite sure how long Facebook will last (at least in its present form). These networks have a tendency to disappear and decay almost as fast as they emerged. Which is an additional reason for teachers to proceed in an agile manner, i.e. making small changes and investments of time and experimenting rather than change everything at one go.

    Thanks again for sharing your ideas— great food for thought!

  2. I’m sorry I missed this discussion, but I’m grateful for Marcus bringing it to my attention, I find the Facebook question completely fascinating, and this post I find completely stimulating.

    I’m pretty sure that all of my students have formed Facebook groups for my classes, but I’ve not thought of joining them, because I think it is important that they learn how to work in various teams, groups, and combinations, see them as maybe complementary, but most importantly, in my view, to distinguish between friends, classmates, co-workers, and so on out to the career professionals that they hope to join: I don’t want to confuse realms, languages, and purposes. Plus, they need to have their own space just like I need to have my own space.

    I have them learn how to use ASANA to organize their blogging groups not because the feature list is better or because it will necessarily achieve greater efficiencies, but because I want them learn how to learn and manage multiple systems so that the next one they have to learn in the work place is no big deal, as in, “here, let me show you,” and “we can count on her to train the new staff,” and so, “let’s make her the group leader, she’s not afraid of anything.”

    In practice, it takes about 4-6 hours over a month for my students to move from “kvetching” about too much work, too many applications, too many things to do, now, etc., to discovering their inner geek and techno-learner-manager potential, the fun of “getting things done,” discovering new worlds, etc., and especially, “say bye-bye to my fear of technology” (see the links on my write-up of Sophie’s work now on the bottom of first page of: http://brucespear.info/mooc/, where they write about just that).

    All of my students have formed their own groups on Facebook, even though I make them sign up for Google Groups, ASANA, etc., for the reasons you describe: they get the fastest answers to their questions about the homework assignments, missing texts, and so forth.

    I’ve not thought of joining them, or setting them up myself, because I think it is important that they have and “own” their own place — particularly when they have questions like “what the hell was he talking about in class?” which is something I simply cannot answer (short of repeating myself or offering yet another answer from another planet): they have to answer this stuff for themselves, because they will always be working with answers, and people, from another planet.

    So, though I do answer questions in class, I spend lots of energy setting up groups, directing students to help each other, explaining how the routine problems of learning and communications here are likely the routine problems of learning and communications in modern workplaces, and that here is a great place to start.

    That is, I offer structure, methods, rhetoric, and support so that they can use Facebook maybe even better.

    And there’s something else that happens when they use Facebook for class groups, in addition to their personal “friends” — they learn how to use Facebook to expand beyond their “friends”: welcoming larger circles of classmates to help each other. There is a LOT of excellent research on this, so I am discovering.

    My favorite these days is the “diversity trumps ability” theory, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/science/08conv.html, whereby not only “two heads are better than one”, but “the larger and more divers the team the better,” when people with different talents and interests work together: they often come up with surprising answers and lead each other out of their bubbles, if they are in bubbles, and opening up larger worlds.

    Somewhere on Facebook’s blog or website, I don’t have the citation handy, there’s some excellent discussion of their evidence that people on Facebook are not, as some thing, inward-looking, but are in fact constantly making reference to things outside of their personal circles and so bringing the larger world in.

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