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How some students responded to the question of online communication stay in touch.

Earlier this week I was invited to speak to a collection of students in the residence hall regarding topics of interest in current events. The catch? It was Wednesday evening at 7:00PM in the primarily freshmen residence hall. This was the first such program completely student sponsored, so when I was asked to support it I simply couldn't say no, and am very glad I agreed.

During the conversation one of the first things I noticed was that there were almost more than 2 dozen students in attendance. The second thing I discovered was that many learned about the event via two primary modes, neither of which I had considered:
Instagram and direct text 
What does that say about how students communicate? I didn't know, so I asked the group, "what is the main way you communicate online?" The answers all took on a version or form of, "when I'm just catching up with my friends, I text or get texts, and when I'm checking to see what's going on I use Instagram." None of these students use Facebook, the university email system, or other more traditional forms of social media to communicate. With the notable exception of when they know an assignment is online in the course room.

EM Matthews
Texting, was not too surprising, but Instagram was not something I had considered. For those reading this who may not have an Instagram account, it is an online mobile platform that allows photos, images, and videos, to be shared by users and add filters to them, to be shared on various other social networking services. Revolutionary? Not really. Illuminating? Absolutely!

So what value will this have for me as an online and in-seat instructor? 

I have already began exploring Instagram to determine whether there are some ways to leverage this news and allow me to continue to host content in the course room, but rather than 'hope' the student checks his or her email, and/or possibly his or her course room - I may be able to (with their permission) zip them a reminder notice of due assignments that can be added to their calendar as an alert. Or integrate videos linked through Instagram to the course room to increase student engagement and interaction.

The jury is still out as to the viability, but the door is wide open for the possibilities. Perhaps with a little imagination, I will be able to corral even the least interested of students to spend a little more time in their online class and interact at a level that causes the student to learn.

Perhaps you have more, different, or better solutions for increasing student engagement in online courses with somewhat traditionally (dull) material...perhaps you'd share some ideas here?
Eugene Matthews

Assistant Professor

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