Unit One: Making the Choice: Using a Professional Network in Higher Education

Making the choice

Target Objective

Learner will appreciate the issues for consideration when choosing to use a social network tool in higher education.

Unit Learning Objectives

  1. Assess the risk-vs-benefit of choosing to employ web tools when constructing a learning activity.
  2. Understand how transactional distance is reduced using a social network tool.
  3. Identify the cultural impact of learning community.

Choosing to use a social network

With the increase in easy-to-use web tools and ready accessibility of these tools by instructors and learners, an overarching tension has emerged among online educators. Educators who are open to web tool use in the online classroom struggle with an internal conflict between wanting to exploit highly flexible and valuable educational experiences supported by web tools and not wanting to experiment at the learner’s expense. When considering web tools as educational tools for constructing and/or supporting learning activities, a balanced approach is needed. Consider the use of web tools as an evolutionary development and not as a paradigm shift in practice.

Assets for Learning Activities:

Because of the highly interactive nature of web tools it opens up more promise for learner-to-learner interactions, learner-to-content interaction and learner-to-instructor content. It also facilitates and encourages the generation of user content, resulting in a highly collaborative and interdependent learning environment for the learners. It closes the transactional distance between instructor, learner, and content (Moore, 2007).

Deficits for Learning Activities:

There is typically no institutional control over web tools, which are prone to regular upgrades and changes in presentation. This leaves the instructor to ensure that course materials are cohesive with the current tool features. Also, technical support will be shifted away from the institution. Either the instructor will directly support students or the technical support will come from the external support team for the web tool.


Ajjan, H, & Hartshorne, R. (2008). Investigating faculty decisions to adopt Web 2.0 technologies: Theory and empirical tests. Internet and Higher Education, 11, 71 - 80. Downloaded at:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10967516


When reading the article, where do you think you fit in level of comfort with using a social networking tool? Where do you fit with the adopters of new technology? How do you balance your level of comfort with change and the needs of your students for a social constructivist learning environment?


Rapple References and Resources


Go to Unit Two: Designing Learning Activities in a Professional Network

Course home page

Implement a Professional Network to Advance Active Learning