Public Affairs

Enhancing Learning with Online Tools

October 18, 2012
By Stephanie Thara

Approximately 80 percent of Americans use the internet, which means about 240 million people across the United States go online on a regular basis. With increased awareness and access to online communities, CSU faculty are going beyond the four walls of the classroom and integrating online and social media tools into their curriculum.

Professors are expanding boundaries and utilizing internet resources to provide a more interactive learning environment that gives students additional opportunities to grasp the topics discussed.

Becky Damazo, a nursing professor at Chico State, has developed an in-world simulation through Second Life—a completely online virtual world—that allows her students to fulfill some of their Second Life can recreate any number of phenomena to illustrate processes students are not able to experience in real life, such as this asteroid impact on Mars.community service experiences, as well as interact in medical emergency scenarios. Through Second Life, students can create avatars and play the role of both doctors and patients to learn more about ailments and techniques to cure those ailments.

“In virtual life, you can do things that aren’t practical or probable in real life,” said Ann Steckel, an instructional technology consultant at Chico State.

Professors are also starting to tap social media to encourage educational progress. Michael Stephens, an assistant professor at San José State’s School of Library and Information Science, uses hashtags on Twitter (a micro-blogging site) to share class content with his students and promote conversation.

Similarly, CSU San Marcos sociology professor Matthew Atherton challenges students to break down complex theories into a 140-character statement and tweet it. Asking students to synthesize numerous aspects of the theory into a succinct statement helps them interpret the core ideas of the theory.

Along with integrating online tools into their curriculum, professors are starting to encourage students to complete assignments using emerging technology. Several professors at SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science assign class projects that may involve developing a web page, an online tutorial or an application for a mobile device. Incorporating emerging technologies into programs give students the exposure that leads to quickly learning new technologies and thriving in a society that is actively engaging online communities.

“We are extending learning beyond the physical classroom,” said Sandra Hirsh, director of the School of Library and Information Science. “By integrating the latest technology, instructors can plan and carry out the best curriculum possible.”

To encourage online collaboration in the classroom, CSU San Bernardino has launched the Digital Literacy series. The series features lectures and workshops where students and faculty can learn techniques in helming the electronic frontier to enhance educational experiences. Howard Rheingold, one of the most forward-thinking experts in the communication and digital communities, will kick off the series today by detailing the fundamentals of digital literacy.