The Use of Alternative Social Networking Sites in Higher Educational Settings: A Case Study of the E-Learning Benefits of Ning in Education.
Kevin P. Brady, Lori B. Holcomb and Bethany V. Smith
Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Vol 9(2)
Similar to the last article that I reviewed, this case study used university students who took part in an online class using the educational social networking site Ning. From 2006-2007 there was a 9.7% increase in the number of college students enrolled in at least one online class, (page 151) and with the steadily increasing use of social networking, it makes sense to merge these two aspects together. “Research has shown that distance education courses are often more successful when they develop communities of practice” (page 151). This sense of community is important because often, learning takes place most effectively when one engages in social interaction. Social networking sites, or educational sites with a social networking type layout, better account for creating this sense of community between a group of students.
Course Management Systems such as Blackboard and Moodle are common sites that Universities use for their online courses, but these lack many aspects that social networking sites have such as media sharing, wiki, tagging, groups, friends, and profile pages which ultimately connect people together on a deeper level. “Social networking sites created specifically for an educational audience provide a unique opportunity for educators to facilitate a strong sense of community among students and encourage personal interactions…” (page 153).
After a term of using Ning for their online courses, college students at College of Education at North Carolina State were surveyed about their experience. About 70% of those who participated felt that Ning allowed for more frequent collaboration with peers and colleagues compared to face-to-face interaction. Along with this, 82% agreed that it aided in communication outside the classroom.
With a majority of students who have used social networking sites as part of their classes, it is interesting to me that so many universities are still so hesitant to adopt this type of technology. Implementing social networking into college classrooms would be an example of multiple NETS standards. It would facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity by giving them the push to collaborate and learn from one another with the ability to share videos, websites, etc, the professor would be a role model digital age work and learning by being on track with new learning forums and it could be the start of engaging in professional growth and leadership for both the student and professor.