One of my favorite sessions at the Sloan Conference this year was presented by Shannon Ritter of Penn State World Campus. Shannon has a very unique job - she is in charge of researching and implementing social networking tools to develop and encourage community building among learners at Penn State. Lucky girl! She has been involved with these kinds of tools since 1994 and now uses her knowledge and skills to enhance the online learning environment and student experience at Penn State's World Campus. She primarily focuses on the use of Facebook Groups, Twitter, Flickr and Second Life. She feels that using these tools can assist in replicating a missing component for many online students - a full academic experience that includes a social presence.
After hearing her describe what features she utilizes, I can envision three of them at NLU - Facebook Groups, Twitter and Flickr (including their additional option for including short video clips). She sees their use growing steadily and fulfilling a student need that is difficult to address. I must admit that when she reviewed the use of Second Life, it seemed to require very intensive effort - and in fact she has been a member of Second Life since 2004 and spent many hours 'building' the island for Penn. Additionally, World Campus has a budget for this intiative which is free to students. For these reasons, I believe the other three tools are more viable at NLU. Michelle and I will be exploring their use and will happily provide more details and support as requested. Additionally, today I came across this article regarding the use of Twitter - I believe it really helps to envision the many facets of this tool and how it can be used as a technology to enhance teaching and learning. http://www.campustechnology.com/articles/69158_1/