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Indiana University To Test Drive Academic Social Network

Indiana University will begin a two-year pilot program this fall with academic social networking site CourseNetworking and open source learning management system provider Instructure. The trials are part of an ongoing assessment project to evaluate the "currently available tools and systems that support teaching and learning," according to a statement released this week by the university.

"IU is in a good position to offer trials of new technologies while we continue to support our heavily used Oncourse system," said Brad Wheeler, vice president of IT and CIO at Indiana University, in a prepared statement. "Assessment of these technologies and others will enable our students and faculty to evaluate what combinations of institutional, cloud, open source and commercial tools can best serve IU’s future."

CourseNetworking (or 'theCN') was designed by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) professor Ali Jafari. Jafari created the social networking site to provide educators and learners around the world, with shared interests in courses or subjects, to connect with one another. The free, cloud-based platform was designed to complement learning management systems including Oncourse, Blackboard, Sakai, and Moodle, to name a few.

Canvas by Instructure aims to foster collaboration through the use of "Google Docs, Google Calendar, SMS, social media, and RSS." Based in the cloud, the platform features a number of functions—including grading rubrics, learning analytics, and groups among others—designed to support teaching and create dialogue between learners and educators.

The pilots are an opportunity to explore the technologies that can drive learning and engagement, according to Stacy Morrone, associate vice president for learning technologies at the university.

"Now, more than ever before, the ability to engage students in their learning is critical to their success. Evolving learning technologies afford new opportunities for deeper student engagement," said Morrone. "The pilot program allows us to put our finger on the pulse of what's next in learning technologies, and assess the range of new tools, systems, and approaches that could benefit students for years to come."

IU plans to launch the pilot this fall with a limited number of trials then expand the program next spring. Participation in the trials is optional. Software choices will change each semester, depending on feedback from faculty and students at all IU campuses. IU will continue to support its current learning management system and tools, for those who choose not to participate in the pilot.

Additional information including pilot registration, FAQs, and news can be found online.

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at knamahoe@1105media.com.

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