Online classrooms mimic social networking sites
Although Facebook may distract some students from completing their coursework on time, there’s a new type of profile that can actually help students graduate earlier. The online courses provided through the Penn Liberal and Professional Studies Commons website are designed as a type of social media that connects teachers and students in the way that other social media sites connect friends.
LPS’s Director of Academic Summer Sessions Eli Lesser described the Commons website as a type of “social media” that can “promote participation and discussion between faculty and students.” The platform that hosts Commons resembles other websites like MySpace or Facebook in its layout. Lesser explained that Penn harnessed the concepts developed by social media sites to achieve its own educational goals.
The site is designed to allow students to craft profiles, discuss course material with other students and teachers and take part in “microblogging,” character-limited posting that Lesser said is like Twitter. Instead of posting on friends’ walls, students in online courses through LPS Commons can post on discussion boards and blogs.
The average student profile displays the individual’s picture, name, e-portfolio and a list of posts that mimics a newsfeed. By visiting a student’s profile, a teacher or another student can track that user’s recent comments, discussion posts and online activity, all of which are visible on the profile page.
This format, according to Lesser, “facilitates conversations between students” and “allows instructors to see” how students have progressed over the course. In this way, online courses through LPS Commons mimic the live classroom by maintaining the educational and social aspects that a physical class would have.”
The collaborative tools of the posting system allow students to “cooperate with each other” and better understand the course material, College sophomore Dasha Donado said. Donado also found that her online English course allowed her to connect with her teacher more easily.
For teachers, LPS Commons offers a “new way of getting to know” students, and the unique style of communication has become “the ultimate democratic tool” according to literature professor Myra Lotto. Commons allowed Lotto to do what she couldn’t do in a real-life classroom: hear from all her students during class.
For those concerned about privacy, Commons is only available to Penn students, and the privacy levels for all profile features can be controlled by the user.