Many people take it on faith that online education must be run through a
learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard, Angel, etc. Those
systems were originally designed to allow faculty to move their courses
online without having to learn HTML coding. They provided all of the
tools needed to deliver an online course in one package.
As online learning grew, so too did the functionality of course
management systems. As the systems grew more and more complex, they
became more and more fragile, necessitating the new administrative
function of instructional designer to manage the systems. Control of
distance learning gradually shifted from faculty to administrator as
instructional designers started dictating how online courses would look
Now faculty are starting to wrestle control back from administrators
through the use of social media such as blogs, wikis, and VoiceThread.
These systems can be easily set up by faculty and students to foster
interactivity and user generated content that is not possible in course
management systems. Best of all, instead of spending hours stocking the
modules of a course management system, a faculty member can create a blog
in minutes and spend nearly all of his or her time communicating with
But few colleges have a social media strategy. The assumption is still
that all content must be housed within the LMS. Systems such as
Blackboard are adding social media modules like blogs and wikis, but
moving them into the locked-down LMS removes the very openness which
gives these media value. The better approach is to understand that the
LMS is just one tool among many for delivering online learning, and just
like a carpenter, use the tool that best suits the job.
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Here are some ways to incorporate social media into your course:
Education is changing, and social media is presenting a world of
opportunity to improve learning outcomes.
As usual, I welcome your comments, criticisms, and cries of outrage
in the comments section of this blog.
John Orlando, PhD, is the program director for the online Master of
Science in Business Continuity Management and Master of Science in
Information Assurance programs at Norwich University. John develops
faculty training in online education and is available for consulting at
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Professor Conference invites you to submit a proposal for the 2011
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