A Plethora of Websites

Last week in EDU6323, we explored formal and informal learning management systems, using our Facebook closed group to discuss the efficacy of areas like Facebook for learning rather than the time tested Blackboard.  A good discussion…but after I suggested that maybe the answer was not “LMS or Facebook” so much as “LMS and Facebook”, one student pushed back with:

Question from Facebook
Her comment deserves a fuller response, hence this post.

For the past decade, I have mixed and matched websites to fill certain pedagogical or administrative needs in my classes, both online and face-to-face.  I always have had some foundational website (either Blackboard, Canvas, or WordPress), but have tended to supplemented them with Twitter, Facebook, VoiceThread, YouTube, Diigo, Netvibes, Google Docs, and others.

So having multiple accounts seems normal to me.  The reaction of my student is a great reason to reflect on “why?”.

My initial “why” is that I have yet to have found any one website that met all my needs…or the needs of my students (…Wikipedia not withstanding).  Twitter adds a level of engagement I have never found in Blackboard or Canvas.  I like using a closed Facebook group on occasion because student discussions tend to be deeper and more engaged, given the notification features Facebook provides (which Blackboard does not).  For the same reason, I like using blogs in my doctoral classes (aggregated with Netvibes) – posts that have the potential to be widely read on the web tend to be more thoughtful…and students take full advantage of the visual aspects of both Facebook and blogs to add images, videos, and audio.  Emoticons convey ideas sometimes better than text.

There was in interesting post in Inside Higher Ed today regarding ClassPulse.  ClassPulse gives students the ability to offer anonymous, instantaneous feedback on instruction…with other students adding supporting votes.  There have been question apps before (I still like the backchannel use of Twitter such as the famous UT Twitter Experiment), but this new app looks to add value to the class by making feedback easier, anonymous, and routine.  I use an anonymous discussion forum in my LMS for students to raise questions, but this new app adds ranking and perhaps – as an app – a coolness factor Blackboard lacks.

Another Inside Higher Ed post discussed a lecture-capture platform developed by a professor that included a “confusion alert” button.

My point with both of these examples is that some found a need and developed an app or website for it – precisely my reason for adding on other accounts to the single course LMS provided by the university.

Of course, to blow some minds, I also this week saw a Pinterest post for “50 Insanely Useful Websites College Students Need to Know.”  Talk about a “click-bait” title…but there do appear to be some useful sites here.  As someone who tries to stay up to date, I found it interesting that I only knew about 20% of these sites.  Yet, under the categories of Academics, Productivity, Budgeting, Health, and Other, this Society19 site provides a plethora of websites to fill needs most students have.

How about you?  Do you stick with the stand-alone LMS…or do you augment it with other websites…especially websites that require additional accounts by students.  What is your take?

50 websites


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