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Social Media

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It is important to create a sense of community for students taking online classes.  Social media can help bring students together, support teaching and learning, even leverage a global community of information and idea sharing.

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A social network is a social structure consisting of individuals, communities, or organizations that are like-minded and are tied by specific types of interests, values, visions, friendships, kinships, lifestyles, etc. Online social media uses web-based and mobile-based technologies to connect people, such as texting, email, video sharing, podcasts, file sharing, blogging, discussion groups, multi-player games, virtual worlds, etc. 

Online social media can be classified into two broad categories: general social media and friend-of-a-friend (FOAF). Internet message boards, Google groups and social bookmarking tools that let users add their own keywords (or tags) to webpages, Twitter, and blogs all fall under the general category of social media.
FOAF social media sites, on the other hand, are specifically designed to directly connect individuals and groups who share common interests and goals. Some popular FOAF sites include Facebook, Linked In, Friendster, and Flickr

Check out the NIU Social Media Smashup page for more examples of social media at NIU!


Using social media in teaching and learning

There are a number of tools you can use to include social media in education and almost all of them are free. For example, you could create a Facebook group for your students to share information and ideas. The group can include the instructor, or you may want to provide a more informal group where students can talk freely about issues they are struggling with in class.

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Twitter can be used as a backchannel to connect students or large learning communities around a topic or event. For example, Twitter feeds are often used at conferences to share highlights or make statements about presentations individuals are attending. To use Twitter for your online learning just set up a Twitter account, and let your audience (your students) know the #hashtag you will be using. Give this a try. Go to http://Twitter.com  and enter into the search #elearning and browse the results.

Examples of how NIU is using Twitter:
College of Law
NIU Today
College of Education Tech Services
NIU Live


Podcast offers a way for individuals to selectively subscribe to audio content over the Internet. Once you have "subscribed" to a podcast, the content you subscribe to can be automatically downloaded for listening on a computer or mobile device. Subscribing to a podcast is usually free as the term "subscription" refers to signing up for new episodes rather than paying for the content. The audio files are received by subscribing to what's called a podcast feed. They are also referred to as an RSS feed. Notification of new content is automatic, as the subscriber need not manually revisit a specific web site to download new content.

Learn how to create your own podcasts


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YouTube is a wonderful resource for online learning. There is a wealth of free content on YouTube that can be used to support your lessons, but YouTube can also be social in that viewers can subscribe, rate the video, and comment. YouTube is also a place to post your video tutorials free of charge (as long as you don’t mind the world viewing your tutorials).


Private Social Networks
NIU eLearning Services can help you set up a private social network for your organization to connect students, staff, or association members.  Benefits include providing the ability to learn interesting facts about colleagues, share information, and network with people throughout your organization. For more information about Social Networks  email online@niu.edu