Course Management Systems And The Effects Of Social Media

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Traditional delivery of course content takes place in closed systems, but when information can be exchanged with great speed and reach as it can with social media, the notion of forcing students to sit in the classroom while an instructor distributes photocopies and reading lists of books to purchase seems overtly antiquated. Academia has been either slow to adapt to new media or has imposed the same closed system to its digital delivery. College and university instructors whose pedagogy has been shaped in traditional educational environments are facing an emerging generation of students with mobile devices in their hands and search engines at their fingertips. Today in Mauritius, youngsters are savvy of technology and increasingly younger children are owners of web-enabled wifi enabled, GSM mobile devices. More importantly, these students are less inclined to value an instructor's unique expertise if, in fact, the Internet can more readily deliver the same content (Sarachan and Reinson, 2011)

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Coupled with the reliability of search engines like Google with a powerful and authentic social network of students engaging in the same coursework, educational methodologies are changing, it is essential that Authorities and academia embrace experimenting with the technology. The most engaging conversations are taking place on the Internet because people can communicate in whatever medium fits the content most effectively, whether it is video, images, or hyperlinked text. The massive library of information available through social media and information networks are changing the rules of the learning environment - and educators who explore the possibilities may find new ways to engage students in broader, richer discussions. The growing Internet access penetration rate in the domestic households testify to this fact Course management systems are unable to fulfill the expectations of a networked society since by definition it is a closed system that tries to keep up with rather than lead innovation in educational and social media technology.

Background

In the social media arena it may be pertinent to recall that blogs are publishing tools, managed by a particular identified author, whose entries appear in reverse chronological order, which make it possible for other users to record comments. It is also usual to find links to other blogs. Blogs are becoming a common platform for citizen journalism. Popular websites where any individual can create a blog are listed by blogtopsites.com. Tagging also called social bookmarking, is the process of assigning and sharing among users freely selected terms as resources. This approach is a form of user-generated metadata (Lee et al., 2009). A good example of tagged photos is Flickr.com.

Wikis are a special kind of website, implemented to accommodate the entries of different users. An entry, in this context, is like an article in an encyclopaedia, but created by a volunteer user, and then modified, corrected and amended in a controlled fashion by other users. Wikipedia is the most well-known initiative; it is a generalist project aimed at creating accurate and up-to-date common knowledge. No previous demonstration of expertise is needed to participate; however a "bad" entry (incorrect, unsupported or irrelevant) is supposed to be reviewed and corrected in real time and on a continuous basis by the online community.

Media sharing systems should also be emphasised. These not only allow users to share videos (Youtube), photographs (Flickr), documents (GoogleDoc) and presentations (SlideShare), but also let others offer their evaluations and opinions. Flexible systems of intellectual property licenses, such as Creative Commons, have emerged to support the shared use of information.

Social networks are new platforms for exchanging personal and professional information by means of the "mashup" philosophy. By allowing users to incorporate external web applications, these websites constitute a new discussion forum, and a special marketplace. Facebook and MySpace can be mentioned as general networks, while Linkedin is a professional platform. Most of these social networks allow users to interconnect from one of these platforms to another. For example an entity can create a Youtube channel and a Facebook webpage, and then create links to or include materials from its own corporate website. Twitter, as a social network and micro-blogging tool, represents a mix of functionalities (Bonsón and Flores, 2010).

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While, now referred to Web 1.0, most of the Internet features were for information diffusion mainly, now we are in the era of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 technology is of the user, by the user, and more importantly, for the user. Terms such as dynamism, interaction, collaboration, participation and trust are essential concepts in this context (Bonsón and Flores, 2010).

In all that multitude of technological tools and social media initiatives, the majority of the educated youngsters to elderly adults have either readily embraced or reluctantly learned to accept that the digital world is ever increasingly changing at an even faster pace. Adoption thereof, is not a choice for some, rather a necessity.

An essential question to ask would be what is the implication of all this technological advancements in the learning system in general? What is The University of Mauritius's position to the current trends? Our research work has been concentrated on the educational aspects of Social Medias in Mauritius hence the entailing reviews.

An Educational perspective

Social Networks

Online social networks, lately, have increasingly been playing an important role in people's social, professional and cultural lives. The constant growth of the amount of social network sites (SNS) (Facebook, LinkedIn, Netlog,...) and their users, demonstrate how important these new phenomenon for social interaction have become. SNS provide participants with a means to transmit and share data with the people they know (and don't know) in ways that surpass traditional methods of communication. Due to their continuously growing technical capabilities and infrastructural setting (as internet applications), SNS offer individuals the chance to share information and develop large social networks with increased ease and speed than ever before. Another characteristic of most SNS is that they enable users to expand their circle of 'friends' to individuals they have never met in real life, and to interact with them in a wide variety of ways (instant messaging, picture sharing, games, group membership, online browser games…).

Research analysing these friend networking sites was rare at first but has exploded in content and scope over the past few years. Recent topics of research interest have included: relation of use to psychological well being (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006), content analysis of user profiles (Pierce, 2007; Walther, Van Der Heide, Kim, Westerman, & Tong, 2008), and information on characteristics of users and nonusers (Hargittai, 2007; Raacke & Bonds-Raacke, 2008). Amongst the first published researches on friend networking sites, assessed the impact on adolescent well being. Results indicated a significant relation between well being, frequency of visiting sites, and information received from others on sites (Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006). Further investigation into this relation has indicated that friend networking sites may provide greater benefits for users with low self-esteem and low life satisfaction (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). Debating on the general emotional well-being of adolescent would widely depart from our actual review. Though, the merits and drawbacks should be weighted in further researches, we are merely mentioning the main ones.

Networked students, use MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and text messaging among others to communicate. They also communicate through graphically rich animations and simulations from synthetic worlds such as World of Warcraft to Second Life. Even more astonishing, they almost speak an alien language and no longer conform to grammatically correct sentences or to regular spell-checkers. They have their own devised ''sign language'' that consists of short-handing words and using what is known as ''emoticons'' to express facial expressions. As many more social networking sites and opportunities emerge every day, their very social landscape is changing as well as how their brains are wired (Hotchkiss, 2009; Prensky, 2001). University professor and renowned writer Howard Rheingold pointed out the fact university students in his lectures on a frequent basis who are staring at their laptops while he or another student is talking. For him these "screen-tropics" students maybe taking notes or gathering their guild in "World of Warcraft" or updating their Facebook current status to "it's complicated" (Rheingold, 2009). Still, with any technologies or even new products, disadvantages, flaws and continuous development are a must.

Focused Distraction

A recent research interestingly discussed and concluded that social media should not be taken as the latest fad but as a potential vehicle to help achieve goals in the classroom. We are specially intrigued by the concept of "focused distraction" and negotiation of meaning in a parallel space during teaching and have come to believe that collaborative software moves educators closer to maximizing student participation and engagement in learning using the use of GoogleDoc (Rhine and Bailey, 2011).

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Yet, we wonder how many educators and students have actually heard of or attempted to use collaborative softwares at the University of Mauritius?

Question set to students and Lecturers, about their views and appreciation of attention spans of individuals.

A concept put forward in the above mentioned research article was ''focused distraction'' as an opportunity for students, who have a natural tendency to be distracted over time, to allow their minds to wander into class productive areas rather than unproductive areas. Researchers know that our brains crave stimulation and our attention spans are considerably less than the length of a typical class.

When students can participate in a parallel space, then they can be ''on task'' and learning about current class topics while having respite from the whole class focus. With students having laptops in class, they have the world's knowledge at their fingertips. Therefore, instead of seeing the Internet as a nemesis during class, Researchers encouraged students to explore the present topic on the Web while it was being discussed in class to enhance their learning and potentially enrich the learning of others. One of the nice features of class-created collaborative notes was that it was relatively easy for students who strayed from whole class discussion to explore relevant tangents and then return to the mainstream class topic in progress. However, there were drawbacks attached to this mode of teaching with collaborative softwares. The plan on the outset was to make the subset of students who did not really participate in discussion to have another dimension from where to work, yet, the dominant participants who usually omnipresent verbally in class discussion again dominated in the virtual environment as they were at ease in both environments inter alia (Rhine and Bailey, 2011).

Though, the lack of concrete evidence guarantying success, as admitted in their concluding part (Rhine and Bailey, 2011); these reasons apparently inconvenient at first glance, would well be worth exploring for an institution which has reviewed its design and openness for dissemination of knowledge. 2 purposes flowing from that would be, a global distribution of course materials that leads to an expansion of knowledge to anyone with web access and a showcase of a given University's role as a leader in technological innovation, contributing to enhanced educational practice within a Web 2.0 system and an increased understanding of how learning is likely to be affected by digital technology in the coming years (Sarachan and Reinson, 2011).

However, in the Mauritian context, we have not found any research to hint us on at least a reflective research or initiation of any such review or openness as of yet.

Has there been a dramatic change in the educational system in Mauritius?

How good or bad has the any changes been?

What do University students and teaching academics think of the future of education in the context of Web 2.0, or emerging media?

These are questions for which replies should be obtained. Nevertheless, we have to stress out the fact that of all these considerations should not be pondered upon in isolation from each other rather a holistic approach should be adopted in formulating a strategic plan for Web 2.0 implementation, hence a well conceived questionnaire and survey.

Implementation debate

While there is some evidence that students already use social networking technologies for formal education-related activities (Greenhow et al., 2009), it is not clear that bringing these technologies into the classroom or the formal learning process has yet to improve learner outcomes. Large-scale schooling structures - school districts, universities, online schools - often want answers to whether they should employ technologies at scale. Should we offer a training course on Twitter for our faculty? Rather than answer broader questions, (Halverson, 2011; Prensky, 2001) have presented the primary design trade offs that emerge when thinking about incorporating SNSs meaningfully into formal learning environments and encourage administrators to think more like designers in order to be effective policy makers. Designers should not put the cart before the horse, buying into a specific technology before they have determined what their goal is for their learners. If the goal is to present information and allow students to communicate with the instructor and each other, a course management site can likely serve that purpose. If the goal is to strengthen burgeoning social ties between classmates, then creating a Facebook group could accomplish this, despite potential privacy issues. Steps should be devised to voluntarily instigate readers to reason like designers rather than policy makers, to think in terms of trade-offs rather than finding out ''what works'' in order to make mindful decisions about the use of social networking technologies in classrooms and schools (Halverson, 2011).

Higher education institutions and academia in upper developing countries, most importantly, should start following, or at least prototyping novel ways and testing new dimensions to ensure that they are not taken aback by sudden dramatic intellectual movements when evidence of the ripples of the waves are already visible. Has it been the case in Mauritius? Social networking technologies do they or should they occupy a place in formal learning environments?

The media horizon has broadened from the one-to-many mass media model to one where every individual is not only a consumer of media, but also a producer. In the persistent effort to train students to become truly media literate, educators must become more willing to demonstrate the core values of responsible media literacy and offer students the opportunity to explore all forms of media themselves. It is only through working collaboratively with students and embracing the full spectrum of media in all its forms that both students and educators will be able to discover best practice media literacy skills (Gammon and White, 2011). It is nevertheless true that today with the overload of all kind of information; digital highway can lead to dramatic pitfalls. We have extensively researched materials, journals and we feel that there is a lack in research in comparative response of students and educators and their individual contrasting perception, knowledge and apprehension of "new" Social Medias. In Mauritius, at the University of Mauritius, for obvious, yet obscure reasons, Facebook is banned on the intranet, despite much publicised wifi accessibility, campus wide, neither lecturers nor students seem able to google nothing but thin air. Technical and technological hurdles should in our opinion, be one of the utmost priorities to tackle, or again clear investigation of inherent problems with Internet connectivity be seriously taken.

We firmly believe that genuine insight could be obtained through a thorough survey eliciting responses from a majority of academics and wide and homogeneous sample of the University students. Much light would be shed on the underlying apprehensions, optimisms and other merits or drawbacks which hamper the University of Mauritius to be the torch-bearer of the "Cyber Island".

The implications of moving toward social media are vast and rewarding in many ways. It includes the abundance of opportunities as we witness the convergence of the traditional and the modern. Resistance to change is an inacceptable and alternative and using traditional methods is unsustainable. Education methods are changing because digital natives think differently. Educators need to seize the opportunity of this milestone and utilize it in the interest of students. Together, we are all in a learning phase that will determine the future of teaching because after that the digital natives will take over and it will be they who will be the teachers of the future (Tadros, 2011).

Higher education institutions and academia in upper developing countries, mainly, should start following, or at least prototyping novel and testing new dimensions not to be blown away by sudden intellectual movements which has been gestating and emerging in developed countries. Much debates and ideas are deeply explored, meaningful ideas for reflection and possible predictions for ill-equipped institutions and academia are discussed but which are over the scope of our focus in this Review, for an informed view of the debate, see (Sarachan and Reinson, 2011).

The Openess Debate

Honestly, any university (with appropriate funding) could adapt a practice of sharing its materials. Little is just ''given away.'' Consider that tuition covers a degree and opportunities for student interaction, guidance, and instruction by professors. Course materials, while prepared through a considerable effort and time commitment by professors, are nonetheless not what they are specifically paid to do; this is only a means to an end of their professional responsibilities. Opening learning materials to a larger audience showcases the intellectual strength of a university and would even allow its current students to more knowledgably select courses. Even openly available course websites could achieve this specific objective through basic information dissemination. Although we do acknowledge that these are long terms planning considerations, and we do hope that more researches will be carried out to enhance appreciation and a very tangible path to true openness of tertiary education as envisaged by the actual Government of Mauritius.

The rising costs of American higher education are largely shouldered by students, either through tuition increases or cuts in funding that force educational programs to be viewed based on the return students will receive on their investment. If a student simply wants to learn through self-directed programs of study, it is possible that creative content gathering from online syllabi could yield a rich understanding of a subject, even without the sticker price of the degree. Through social media, learning as well, becomes a social process where common spaces must be negotiated. Closed systems are simply not part of the conversation. Knowledge increasingly exists in other spheres that are free and easily shared, with or without peer-review. The epistemology of social media may be in its infancy, but open learning environments and the potential for conversations that can build knowledge are worthy of exploration(Sarachan and Reinson, 2011). In Mauritius funds and space is lacking, yet the emergency of other tertiary education institutions tends to show that competition is omnipresent and therefore strategic vision in the direction of social media integration should be something to start debating upon and researched in our humble opinion.

A thorough comparison and broader perspective of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) deployment strategy, has recently been published, elaborating on how developed countries have started using social media for the provision of quality education and the production of valuable research and putting forward a sharp contrast with developing countries, namely Pakistan. An Information Technology Alteration - Design and Management - Framework has been proposed even. On top, a cross-cultural implementation strategy has been suggested in light of different values and perceptions in relation to particularities of culturally varied and subjectivity of different countries. Being limited in the space, and the length of the proposals and various suggestions in the research paper we would urge our esteemed colleagues furthering their research to refer to the relevant article (Ahmed, 2011) and his other very seemingly extensively researched articles.