When I heard about the Community 2.0 project I was not very interested in learning about some new type of networking / technology on the computer. My colleague suggested that I expand my knowledge in a form of communication that students use. I took her suggestion to see if I would be able to somehow incorporate networking through the use of the computer into a Group Dynamic course (SSY 260). Since Group Dynamics is a face to face experience, I would have to be very creative using a social type computer network to enhance student learning in a group setting. I did some research and found out that this field has yet to be explored and this non-traditional group experience needs to be studied.
Since the only section of Group Dynamics that I taught had most students averaging 40 or more credits, I decided to network with a course (New Student Seminar - FSM) that was comprised of only new college students. The idea was to have students with college experience guide new students on how to be successful during their college career via blogging. The Group Dynamic students would be able to provide useful suggestions as well as guide the new students in hopes that they would be able to avoid unpleasant barriers. The plan was to have one of the established groups in my course take on this as their research project. They would learn the group process, experience the dynamics that take place in a group setting and be able to inspire new students starting their college careers.
The overall group encounter was positive. We had 51 posts from the SSY 260 students and 11 responses from the FSM students. There are many questions in regards to the group process that this pilot presents. Since the students never met each other and the NSS students were not in a formal group setting, this hyper space group experience ended up being very unique. This opens doors for more research to examine the dynamics that takes place in hyper space. There is no eye contact, students may not be as influenced by the group think process, no one can observe body language, and student perceptions are only reinforced by what they read on a monitor.
This pilot was a stepping stone for me to now think of other ways to use Community 2.0. I was inspired by the idea of having new students communicating with continuing students. I wanted to utilize my connections in the college to expand on this idea. It was easier for me to take the Community out of the classroom since most of my experiences were as a counselor, advisor or administrator. I felt the classroom was limited to the number of students I was able to reach.
So I set my sites on a larger venue. This created bigger challenges but I felt the outcomes would pay off. I wanted to connect 1st year new students to peer advisers through the use of a BLOG. There were 12 peer advisers who would develop and manage the BLOG and provide useful information to students concerning the advisement and registration process. The BLOG was developed and received positive feedback from several of the students. At the same time I was working to set up a BLOG with one of the Academic Departments in collaboration with one of the Academy Coordinators. We were going to link up to the already established Facebook network. This would expand their resources and provide us with another way to stay connected to the students.
We were to launch the BLOGS at the end of the semester but ran into several barriers. I was reassigned to another area and several of the creators left the college. We had almost all the components in place but administratively we were unable to execute. The Peer BLOG has been put on hold and might be looked at in the upcoming semester. The BLOG for the Academic Department Facebook link never was created. The Department was being restructured and this was not one of their priorities at that time.
Not to give up on the idea of Community 2.0 out of the classroom, I took the concept to my new location. Fortunately, there were several other colleagues who were motivated and understood the advantages of social networking. I introduced the Community 2.0 concept and we took off with establishing a TUMBLR BLOG for over 200 students in the ASAP program. We now have weekly posts on Career Exploration, Success Stories and Academic Support. Students have reported back to us with positive comments. In addition, the student government is sharing what is written on our BLOG with its members. This now has been incorporated into the Program as one of the options to stay connected to our students.
Listed below are just some of the lessons I learned over this past year:
- This is not just for a classroom to classroom connection.
- This can be another option to stay connected to students but not a replacement.
- It takes a lot of effort to establish the connection, manage the process and oversee the BLOG
-The smaller the group the more it is manageable but the larger the group the more outreach you can achieve and there will be a greater diversity of the issues to address.
-Motivation is key but thinking of the possibilities can inspire.
SUGGESTIONS:1) I think that others in our college should take advantage of this training. Try not to limit this to teaching faculty. There are many administrators and staff that are able to reach many students on different levels. The classroom model works but other models could also benefit.
2) In a classroom setting, I would not consider this mentoring support which was mentioned a few times over the past year. I would label this more academic support or tutoring.
3) This model is not for all students. There are students who do not want this as a requirement in their course and may feel uncomfortable sharing information online. Maybe the course should be labeled as a Community 2.0 course. This will provide students with an option.
4) I would recommend training more of a variety of faculty who teach an array of courses.
5) I would spend more time during training on how to engage students in the classes.
6) I would want to know ways to measure the impact this intervention has on students and on faculty. Do students become better learners and do faculty become better instructors?
My next project, New Student Orientation BLOG