Create an Online Social Learning Community

Students learn socially so give them their own private learning community online.

Online learning communities are emerging as an innovative way of promoting student learning and enabling both collaborative and independent learning. Often, discussion boards within learning management systems are basic and unlike the typical social networks students are using daily.

Social Learning Communities can be used for any purpose where students need to collaborate or interact with each other and with online learning resources. They differ from LMS/VLE “learning environments” and ordinary web sites, which typically offer one-way information or one-at-a-time responses. It’s best to create a collaborative community and let your students “own” it. Of course, you’ll need to moderate it and provide support when needed.

We use WordPress to create social learning community websites. WordPress has a great free plugin called BuddyPress that allows you to turn your WordPress site into a social network like Facebook. When you turn BuddyPress on, students and staff can interact online with each other publicly or privately.

BuddyPress helps students learn more about each other and gives them the ability to interact with someone by tapping on their photo or their name anywhere on the site. Similar to Facebook, BuddyPress has features like adding friends, public and private messaging, and activity feeds.

So you can see that by connecting students to each other and to us, truly online collaboration can be facilitated. Now you just need to think of what types of learning communities you’d like to create!

Here are some examples of ways to use Online Social Learning Communities:

Class Companion: Add an online social community to your class or lecture and see how your students collaborate. They’ll learn from each other and it will save you time. For example you can post a message on the site once, instead of emailing students individually. And if students post questions, other students could potentially answer them. You can also add online resources, like the ones found on Blending Education, to your hosted WordPress site.

Recruitment Tool: You can better prepare students for their arrival at your school or university. You can also create a private social learning network just for international students. Invite offer holders to join the site to learn more about the University, your program, living in your city/country, and give them an opportunity to meet fellow students and your faculty.

Year in Industry/ Study Abroad: Create a space for students to apply for jobs or allow those who may be located globally to connect to others and stay connected to their home school.

Writing Practice: Give students a safe space to write and receive feedback from peers and instructors.

Organization or Club: Provide a space for up-to-date news, information, calendars and events that can be commented on. Allow members to connect to each other and get to know one another better.

There are endless uses for online social communities. Have you used one? We’d love to hear about it. Share your experiences with us below.

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