The case for social spaces in VLEs and outside VLEs

At my work we are planning our summer upgrade of our VLE, this year Blackboard have included social networking in the VLE.  Our team is currently debating if we should switch the social tools on, I am very much pro switching on and below is a copy of my initial thoughts which I shared with the team.  I thought it might be of some use to others of you thinking about these things 🙂

You will find these 2 recent blog posts helpful in setting the background to why social is a key part of the (modern?) learning experience

VLE as preparation for web

Beyond Digital Literacy to Digital Leadership

Potential issues (like all institutions we have a duty of care to our users so this has to be taken seriously – however it should not be used as an excuse to do nothing)

All users have their details stored in the cloud (Blackboard have the normal safeguards – datahaven rules?)

Until they click on “Edit my Profile” students can not be found on the system by anyone.  Once they click edit they will be created default as private

  • students can only be found by others enrolled on the same course or organisation – they will see name, placeholder photo and can send a message to them.

There are other options from hidden (no one can find or do anything) to visible to all blackboard cloud users – this includes Blackboard users at other institutions.

A simple awareness/training handout/video should be sufficient to make students aware of the issues.


Everything in one place (Red Number!)- All course (blackboard tool) posts go to the feed in “My Blackboard” dropdown.  If social is on then any post from spaces or students you are following end up here as well.

We should encourage students to use the spaces function – its like having a coffee after a lecture, create a space, invite a couple of people and post your thoughts & links.  No need to become facebook friends.  You can close a space if you are finished with it or keep it in case you wish to talk more.

If there are particular students you want to work closely with you can follow them (with their permission) and so will get all their profile posts.

When you go to Blackboard to do academic work then your academic conversations will be waiting for you.

Comparison of purpose of different social networks

  • Facebook is for friends
  • Linked-in is for getting Jobs
  • Blackboard social is for learning
  • Google+ is for connecting to people around particular interests.

It is highly likely that what you are studying is an interest and as such you may wish to use google+ instead of/as well as Blackboard social.  You will be kept up to date on your google+ posts in exactly the same way as for Blackboard social – its just the red number will be on your Gmail page instead of your Blackboard page.

Similarly posts by people you follow will show up in your G+ feed just like they do in your Blackboard feeds

You can also create Google+ communities that work in much the same way as Blackboard spaces, and again post in your communities will turn up in your feed.

While we are looking at social we should consider student blogs

Inside Blackboard they can use the learning object blogs (I bet there will be Blackboard Blog in cloud function at some point in the next year…)

Outside they could use something like wordpress

Here are reasons our students should blog

Again like social they would start within Blackboard and move out as they become more confident.

Wild Waves Water Park poolThink of paddling pool and ocean – our students learn to blog and socialise and make initial mistakes in the safe environs of the VLE before moving out into the wider web as their studies progress and their confidence and understanding of their subject and digital literacy increase.  By the time they leave they are confident representing themselves online and if “googled” will show positive reflections on their expert subject instead of (as well as?) drunken pictures on facebook.


One thought on “The case for social spaces in VLEs and outside VLEs

  1. Pingback: Why do people think Blogs will transform education? | More than just Content

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