by David dos Santos

The current challenges make replacing the interpersonal connections that were fostered through casual pre-class conversations, post class questions and other in-person interaction quite difficult.  The CUNY-provided and CUNY-supported LMS, Blackboard, (insert a comma between these two words) provides a host of tools for Discussion Boards, Blogs, sharing videos, and the like. Sometimes the tools provided by the LMS may not be enough or create too serious of a tone for certain interactions.  Strategies to maintain a faculty-student connection should be a top priority and begins with faculty in their individual classes.  There are many social media tools that can develop these connections while expanding on the online learning experience for both faculty and students.

Meet your students where they already are:
Choosing a social media platform is the initial step.  Often faculty and students find the multiple usernames and passwords already as a hassle. It is best to choose a platform that you and the majority of your students already visit on an almost daily basis. For example, if you find that the majority of your students are active on Facebook, a Facebook page may be the perfect complement to your online course.
Social Media as a compliment to your LMS:
Formal assignments and course specific assessments should still mainly remain in your current LMS.  Focus on capitalizing on the social part of Social Media.  Perhaps the discussion of less formal articles or the sharing of student experiences should be focused on here.  For example, this may be a place for students to express their personal, academic, and professional goals and how they intend your course to help them accomplish that.

Engage Students Fully:
During pre-class chats or informal office hours, student career goals are often discussed.  Keep in mind that students have goals and aspirations beyond the course and beyond college.  Use social media as a space to share your own academic and professional accomplishments.  For example, share your LinkedIn profile and encourage students to do the same.  Better yet, use this as an opportunity for students to develop on online professional social media presence with the Career Services office.

Celebrate Student Academic Success:
Our goal in having a social media presence is still student-centered.  Use this as an opportunity (think about using a related expression) to share student success with, of course, their permission.  This will celebrate the student as well as encourage other students by showing what they can accomplish.  This can also serve as an opportunity to gamify your course through social media.

Collaborate with other faculty, departments, and even other colleges:
One of the original goals of the internet was for academic collaboration across colleges in different countries.  Social media expands your audience outside of your course and your LMS. Social media can be a great opportunity to collaborate and create a co-learning space across departments and even other colleges.

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