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C2C Lantern (Fall 2014/ Winter 2015)

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CourseNetworking and the Share-It Culture

By Dan Kulmala, Chair, Department of Modern Languages, Associate Professor of Global English, Fort Hays State University

For the past seven years, I have been a tinkerer of technology for teaching and learning purposes. Yet over a decade ago—in the year 2001—I needed instruction on how to attach a file to an e-mail message. Today, I share multiple documents and messages every day at fifteen-minute or less intervals. And this sharing happens at work and at home. In fact, my android buzzes throughout the night with alerts from someone sharing something with me. My school-age children are the most apt at sharing information, pictures, video to the point that sharing is a natural function—all part of a constant-texting-photo-sending process in a Share-It Culture.

A Share-It Culture

All this sharing might bother some people—especially those from older generations. Frankly, I like it. And I see how this Share-It Culture has benefited education and improved learning for students. Back in my day, as an undergraduate student during the late 1980’s and graduate student in the 1990’s, students shared coursework in rather limited ways and under specific circumstances. Academic value was placed on finding an isolated spot and studying on one’s own to survive an exam. I never really shared coursework until I attended seminars in Graduate School. And, then, the sharing involved receiving critiques from fellow graduate students and the seminar professor. So sharing equaled grilling. Under those circumstances “sharing” was more like an opportunity for sanctioned, academic “hazing” rather than an attempt to learn from others.

Social media changed so much in so little time. Today, I communicate with students in China, Malaysia, and Thailand on a daily basis. I do so as a Professor of Global English and with a new learning system called CourseNetworking: 


CourseNetworking is a new learning management system that utilizes a social media platform for course delivery and student engagement in learning. The CN’s primary designer is Dr. Ali Jafari, Professor of Computer and Information Technology at IUPUI’s CyberLab. Dr. Jafari designed a few other systems with which some people in C2C might be familiar: Oncourse (now Sakai), ANGEL Learning, and Epsilen. 

Teaching Global English using CN

All that practice in designing learning management systems has taken Ali Jafari to this new superbly functioning one—a system that works so very well for the global Share-It Culture. Over this past year, I have designed seven courses in CN for the Global English Program at FHSU. Two of the courses have been for face-to-face delivery, three have been for on-line delivery, and two are being delivered internationally in China for a blended learning model.

The tools that I have enjoyed the most in the CN include the Task, Poll and Post operations. These tools make it possible for me to create integrative learning modules that allow for the integrative sharing of information. When my fellow colleagues ask me about CourseNetworking, I tell them that it’s a global, social learning platform. Of particular interest for FHSU is CN’s Open Education Resource (OER) capabilities. And I am delighted to report that five of the seven courses I have created in CN rely on OER. So students do not need to purchase textbooks for these courses. Two of the courses that use a textbook are delivered in China, where students expect to have a textbook. But if I did not need to include a textbook for those courses, I would have used OER. In CN, the Task, Poll and Post operations make it particularly easy to integrate OER into the course site.

Global Social 

As a social media platform, this system enables students to share their work with each other and comment on each other’s work. The CN functionality is smooth, simple, fun and intuitive for anyone familiar with social media operations. So students can customize their posts with pictures, video and links that help to support their responses to coursework. Also built into the CN platform is an Anar Seed reward system that is customizable for Class Participation points. Just this week, I had a student remark that she nearly shouted out in glee during another class when she finally moved her Anar Seed amount from red—indicating that she is behind in points—to green—indicating that she is on track to meet the Class Participation requirements. I also have students who are in competition with me in the Anar Seed race for points; and I am delighted to report that many of them beat me each semester. For a look at CourseNetworking’s features, please go to this site.   

And since CourseNetworking functions as a social media site, students in America connect with students in China, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan, where other universities are now using this system. 

Giving CourseNetworking (CN) a Try 

I encourage members of C2C to play around with CourseNetworking. Like some LMSes, you can create a course using a free version of CN. For full use of its functionality, an institution would need to purchase a CN Channel. Currently, I am encouraging FHSU to purchase a CN Channel. I truly believe that CN can help to make FHSU a mobile and global campus with the use of CN. And I also believe that in the future, universities will be multi-LMS campuses. A one-system model does not encourage innovation and change. 

For any institution interested in going beyond static, isolated and “box-like” learning platforms toward flexible, socially dynamic and globally capable platforms, I urge using CourseNetworking.

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