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Virginia State Taps Social Tools for Student Engagement

As part of its increasing emphasis on technology in education, Virginia State University's Reginald F. Lewis School of Business has deployed an academic social network in an effort to boost student engagement.

Specifically the school is using GoingOn Networks'  Academic Engagement Network. It utilizes smart-stream technology, which lets students share and publish content using activity streams similar to Facebook.

Features of the network include:

  • Community Builder, which creates customizable online communities with a drag-and-drop interface and a library of social tools, including study groups, program communities, social classrooms, and faculty collaboratives;
  • Virtual Commons, which provides live streams of activities, events, and other materials and lets users manage and track those elements in one location;
  • Campus Channel, which lets users publish information to specific individuals or groups in online communities and integrates with learning management and information students systems; and
  • Identity & Network, which allows users to develop custom profiles and an integrated portfolio. The feature includes comment walls, personal messaging, and custom profiles.

"It was important to us that we find a partner that could help us create a richer learning environment that would enable easier, more meaningful interaction between both students and faculty, as well as supplement and enhance the classroom experience," said Andrew Feldstein, assistant professor of marketing and director of digital programs at the Lewis School of Business.

The business school recently received the 2011 Governor's Technology Award for Innovation in Higher Education for its "Digital at the Core" initiative. The school developed a new curriculum that focuses heavily on student engagement and digital media. Starting in the fall semester of 2010, the business school delivered nine core courses by using open textbooks, with PDF files of each chapter; digital textbooks in either MOBI or ePub formats; MP3 audio chapters; and MP3 and other format study guides, quizzes, and flashcards. There is no expiration on the digital downloads, and students can keep the materials forever.

Now, the business school offers 13 courses in which digital textbooks are used and downloaded to iPads, smart phones, PCs, or laptops. The business school's goal is to be 100 percent digital by fall 2013.

Virginia State University in Petersburg, VA, has about 5,000 students

For more information, visit the GoingOn Web site.

About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @editortim.

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