APU Careers & Learning Online Learning

Mind-Mapping to Social Media: Enhancing Higher Learning for Students and Professors

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By Catherine White
Faculty Member, Information Technology Department at American Public University

Students new to online education quickly learn the value of time management in order to adapt and be successful. While most students are accustomed to attending instructor-led classes or lectures, innovative learning tools are consistently being released that help students transition to online education based on a variety of learning preferences. For example, I learn best using a hybrid of visual and auditory styles. Today, there are countless options available that help instructors make online learning feel just as comfortable for students as in a live classroom. Here are a few to consider.

Are you a visual learner–do you prefer to see the material being taught versus reading about it? Many instructors are utilizing tools like Jing and Camtasia to create enriching instructional videos that can be reviewed at a moment’s notice. Best of all, these tools are also available to you the student. You can utilize them to liven-up your own presentations for class assignments!

If you’re someone who benefits from pure audio lessons, tools such as Audacity and PodBean can be used by instructors to publish supplemental podcasts. Since many online students are always on the go, listening to podcasts is a great way to keep pace with the material being presented.

What if you’re someone who absorbs knowledge more effectively through static materials like texts and pictures? Many learners prefer this method because it provides them with a preface of what they’re about to learn and serves as a helpful reference. A more advanced method is mind-mapping, an effective educational technique, which is a process for diagramming relationships between ideas and concepts. Many instructors are using mind-mapping software like MindMeister and XMind to chart and help students better understand concepts. Word cloud tools like Wordle also provide alternative diagrams for memorization, and when researching, students can use social bookmarking tools such as Diigo to collect, organize and highlight information.

Social media outlets are also quickly becoming a staple in online learning as a supplement to school forums. For example, Twitter is a favorite. With a strict limit on words per tweet, 140 characters or less, it’s an ideal way to get right to the point. Twitter also provides the instructor with a quick way to reach students. Additionally, Facebook and Google+ Hangouts are providing virtual space for learners to casually interact with each other and even meet with their instructors. No longer are students and instructors bound by formal, in-person office hours.

Advancements in technology and in education go hand in hand. As instructors or as lifelong learners, it’s important that we all continue to explore and make the most of the technology available. Don’t be afraid to open up a dialogue with your instructor and make suggestions regarding media if it helps you learn. Ultimately, online education is an opportunity for you. Why not make it suit your learning style?

[see also: Gaming in the Online Education]

About the Author

Catherine White has served as a faculty member with the Information Technology Department at American Public University since 2008. White holds dual master degrees in information technology and business administration. Currently, she is researching and incorporating innovative forms of technology to enhance communication with students and to provide them with additional learning assistance in the online classroom.  

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