Social Interaction

stuff.jpgThe Moodle space is an extension of the classroom and I've tried to replicate the sort of positive activities that go on within the physical environment of college. At first, I aimed to keep it formal, so when a student posted a photo of another student at a party, I deleted it. But if the Moodle space is to be welcoming, the social aspects of a learning environment have to be part of the profile. So I created a forum in the 1st topic area called 'stuff' where anything that didn't fit elsewhere could be posted (although I did agree a 'rules of our house' with the students to try to head off trouble).
We have used this for photos and fun stuff, like (real!) socialising during the holidays, planning and promoting events, looking for collaborations (bands) and sharing info such as links and news. The content in here is very informal.

ashmessages.jpg Another aspect of social interaction is the messaging system that allows me to keep in touch with students 7 days a week. For a reason I don't yet understand, students don't like to email me, but will use Moodle messaging, and this provides an extension to tutorials. By setting up my contacts list (all my students) I can also keep a record (history) of our messages, as you would keep a record of tutorials.
Here's an extract of one message history.

To emphasise that the Moodle space is an extension of the college environment, look at a usage log - from 27th December 2006!
I feel this demonstrates that students like the social and group vibe of a college course, as well as exploding any myth that they can't wait to get out of 'class' - though 'class' here is a virtual one. It also shows that students want to be in touch with the learning environment 7 days a week, and that group contact (including the tutor) is vital to keep a positive focus in the group.