A Social Network for Elearning Developers and Professionals
For any Social Elearning course, you first of all need a home. This is your space on the web where you will link to the other tools you are using.
Drupal is a very good general purpose Content Management System (CMS). It is pretty straight forward to install, although you will normally need to set up a hosting account first. Once installed you can customise it to your heart’s content or get started straight away with the standard feature set.
Wordpress is the blogging tool of choice as far as I’m concerned. You can either buy a hosted account at Wordpress.com or download the software for free from Wordpress.org and install on your own server. Wordpress is less flexible than Drupal but you probably don’t need much more than a blog as the “home” for your course.
If you want more features than Wordpress but don’t want the hassle of setting up a server, Ning is a really good option. It allows you to create a fully featured social networking site with blogs, video uploads, discussion forums and lots of other useful features. If you want to do everything in one place, Ning is the platform to do it.
If you are working with other people to create your course, you’ll need a few tools to share files and information and discuss the tasks that need to be completed.
I highly recommend using Basecamp. It’s a fantastic web-based collaboration tool that allows you to assign tasks, track milestones and record time. If you are hiring freelances to create content or do graphic design, it is a must.
If you don’t want to pay the monthly subscription cost, then Google Docs is my second favourite collaboration tool. It’s really easy to set up (especially if you have a Gmail account already).
There are many critics of PowerPoint, but it really is a simple tool for creating content that can be delivered in an elearning environment. There are some folks out there who are real experts with creating fantastic powerpoint presentations (check out Nancy Duarte - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AszTfTbJFiM - for a great example).
Prezi is a new presentation tool that uses a Flash, web-based presentation engine. You really have to see a Prezi for youself to understand how it works so check out www.prezi.com. In a Prezi, you fly around a presentation, zooming in and out.
My favourite image editing and creation tool is Fireworks. It’s very good for creating designs, web layouts and manipulating photos. If you are interested in more advanced photo manipulation, then Photoshop or GIMP are the tools to use.
If you are recording videos for your elearning course, you can make use of MovieMaker (which is built into older versions of Windows) or iMovie on the Mac. If you want to get into video editing more seriously, then you might want to try a tool like Adobe Premier.
Creating a YouTubchannel is a great way to share videos that you’ve produced. You can embed the videos in your “home” drupal or wordpress site.
Vimeo offers pretty much the same service as YouTube but has a bit more flexibility if you pay for a pro account. You can restrict access to your videos if you need to for your course.
Slideshare is a great place to share PowerPoints. Now that you can also add audio voice-overs the slideshare system is a great way of delivering e-learning. You can also embed the slideshows in your “home”.
You home system (Drupal, Wordpress, etc) will allow for comments and discussion but there are some other great systems you can plug in to in order to foster discussion.
Creating a facebook page for your course is a great way of taking the learning to where the students hang out. If you know what you are doing, you can also add Facebook comments to you Home so that instead of drupal or wordpress comments, you use Facebook as the comment system. (You can see this in effect on Techcrunch at the moment.)
Creating a linked in group for you course is a great way for engaging a more “professional” audience. If you don’t think your students will want to use Facebook, LinkedIn Groups is a great alternative.
You can use Twitter to promote your course, hold discussions with students (although this isn’t one of Twitter’s best uses) or simply make announcements and updates. You can use an automated RSS to Twitter tool so that whenever you update your “home”, a message is posted on Twitter.
So, that's my core Social Elearning Toolkit. What's in your toolkit?
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