Online Degree Programs Take Page Out of Social Media Handbook

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Colleges and Universities that offer online degree programs are enhancing the delivery of their educational experiences by utilizing social media and other technologies.

As Internet users become more savvy and social media sites dominate, colleges are taking a second look at the structure of online courses.

Just two years ago the typical online degree course involved mostly reading assignments. Students were able to interact with each other through discussion posts and chat rooms, but now that is all changing.

Several colleges offering online coursework are now incorporating the assets of social media into their platforms. Widgets, interactive programs, and digital media are helping engage students with different learning styles and allowing them to network with other students and instructors.

Rasmussen College, a private, regionally accredited college with campuses across the Midwest and Southeast and online college, is one of these schools.

"Students have different learning styles," Rasmussen College Director for Online Course Development Steve Wettergren said. "By providing these cool new tools, students can learn by interacting with the media, by watching videos and listening to audio samples, by observing digital lectures, and much more. We are making the courses a more engaging experience."

For the past twelve months, Rasmussen College has increased its focus on delivering these new tools for online classes. Some of the additions have come from working with the publishers who provide supplemental media. Rasmussen College also has an instructional design team and a development team that has been able to build its own custom media pieces based on the needs of faculty and students.

"To provide a more realistic approach to learning, the development team has built widgets, which enable students to take practice quizzes and perform exercises to help them learn," Wettergren said.

"One of the coolest things we have done for our online Medical Administration students recently is that we built a virtual hospital. They can do through the hospital and look through patient files, meet financial personnel, and get a realistic view of what working in a health care facility is like."

So far student feedback about the new interactive elements has been positive. Faculty has appreciated the new addition as it gives them a new way to present material and a better method for networking with students.

Many online colleges are now moving away from curriculum that is too text heavy. Utilizing the new technologies allows them to engage students in a dynamic manner.

"Online coursework is evolving rapidly," Wettergren said. "More colleges are offering online programs, and to stay ahead of the game we have to continue to invest focused attention on providing the latest developments in online learning to our students. We are just getting started."

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Kristy Croom
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