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Free mobile tools for online students

Educators are looking for ways to effectively integrate social media into their online courses, and a number of free, mobile-friendly resources make it easy for students to use blogs, polls, and other tools.

Integrating social media into an online course has a number of benefits, said EdTech Leaders Online’s Lesley Reily during an edWeb.net webinar. Reily said she frequently uses Twitter in her online courses and counts mobile access as one of her most important requirements.

Social media can help connect course participants to more people, invites input from experts, helps to increase and facilitate collaboration, facilitates sharing among participants across distance and time, and is more accessible on mobile devices than online courses, Reily said.

“By integrating social media, you can connect those students to even more people in the whole world, who might share those same interests,” she said.

Using Twitter in online courses or communities provides for backchannel conversations and is great for synchronous presentations or large meetings, Reily said. Creating a hashtag makes it easy for students to participate on mobile devices, and others can join in discussions and locate those discussions using the hashtags. Hashtag blocks (when new tweets that include a certain hashtag are populated and refreshed constantly) posted on course pages pull in tweets about that hashtag so that students can see what others are tweeting about and connect with them if desired.

Combining Twitter and social bookmarking—a web-based service that helps users store, organize, find, and share sites—can help students easily trade useful sites back and forth. Diigo and delicious are two such examples, Reily said.

Blogs and wikis are embedded in most course management systems and are useful for sharing products and feedback. Students can record podcasts or create photo and audio slideshows and share a link on a blog or wiki. But sometimes, educators want additional functionality, easier access to those resources, and something a bit more public that requires a simple copy-and-paste of a link when it comes time to share.

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