Socialize Your E-learning Content – Janet Fouts

Socialize Your E-learning Content

DevLearn 2009 - HomeI’m presenting on a panel with Dave Peck and Adam Helweh today at Dev-Learn 09, one of the many excellent conferences put on by the E-Learning Guild. As you may know my history in e-learning goes back quite a way, and for me the most exciting thing about my job is that it’s one long learning process. Needless to say I’m happy to present to this group and get an opportunity to find out what their questions and concerns are as well as get my own 2 cents in about how important it is not to limit the learning experience by keeping it all neatly boxed up in a classroom, virtual or otherwise. Social interaction can make the experience so much richer for all involved!

When you share the core principles you learn in a classroom situation with a community interested in the same thing you have an amazing opportunity to see differing viewpoints and learn from un-expected places. In addition adults tend to absorb more when they can see real use-cases to sink their teeth into. They want to discuss and explore alternatives, not just watch a slide show or wade through a series of demonstrations and “interactive” tests. What better way to get that than open the discussion to their peers?

Today a good Instructional designer can take the elements of the material and create a rich virtual classroom experience adding blogging, forums, Twitter chats and videos. The instructor need not create all the content anymore. Actually having students create relative content makes the experience richer for all involved and the content can be built on for generations of classes to come. This sort of crowd-sourced learning is coming to the fore.

OK, enough babble. Let’s get to the good stuff.

Using the Twitter back channel

While some organizations may try to block Twitter through their networks it can easily be accessed from a phone, so instead of trying to restrict Twitter usage in the classroom why not harness it?

At UT Dallas, Dr Monica Rankin used Twitter in her classroom as a way to stimulate discussion. She found that some of the students who didn’t engage directly in the classroom were more vocal in group Twitter sessions, and the discussions are archived so they can go back through the threads and reference information, direct links to additional information and add their perspective.

There have been several instances where teachers have used Twitter for contests. The students use Twitter to find information on a particular subject which can then be discussed on Twitter. The first one to find the correct solution to a problem wins bragging rights!

Facebook showcase

Students at Stanford University are showcasing their work on the University’s Facebook page as a way to show people outside the school what they might be missing and for other students to use as a springboard for their own projects. Professor Margot Gerritsen posts videos called “Stanford Open Office Hours” in which the computational mathematician shares her views on energy resources and encourages students and non-students to add their thoughts to the discussion.


Instead of having everybody turning in papers, why not have them blog? Create a blogging circle around the content and encourage students to comment, re-blog and respond on their own blogs to what others have written and what they have learned in session.

RSS readers

Compile the class RSS feeds into an aggregator for an easy way to quickly scan where their research is taking them. Encourage commenting and discussion and feed the comment streams into the aggregator as well for a very rich extension of the course. Encourage students to curate their own feed collection and bring breaking industry news to class or post on their blog for discussion with the group.


Creating a repository of information for current and future students helps streamline the registration and other processes that are important in an e-learning situation. Allowing students to add their own information to these Wikis makes them richer and more valuable to the next generation of students as well as attracting new students drawn to the information through searches on the subject matter.

Video and Podcasting

Supplementing the information you’re teaching with easily shareable bytes of information makes it a whole lot easier for students to absorb material. MP3 files can be listened to on portable devices and videos can be viewed on a phone and commented on for discussion. Students can make videos representing their own viewpoints or even do a point/counterpoint with instructors.

Marketing your courses

Lest we all forget that social media is also a marketing tool think about how you can set up social media listening tools to watch for people who could benefit from the classes you have to offer. Find people talking about the area of expertise in the courseware and start some conversations. Don’t sell. Learn. Take a look at how Queen’s School of Business uses their Twitter stream to engage potential students in their MBA program, promote the school and alumni as well.


There are a lot of resources out there for e-learning and social media. Here’s a short list of my favorites


Elearning Tech

Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies

Social Media in Learning

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments

Janet, I did not expect you on the panel since you did not make it on the program, but I am very happy I came to the panel. I learned a lot from you. Thank you very much for all of the collaborative learning information you shared. I hope you will add some more links here.


Thanks for post.beautiful write 😉


Leave a Reply: