Ben Campbell

"We asked ourselves what the difference was between learning online and learning on campus, and for us, the answer was obvious: location, location, location." - Ben Campbell, Instructional Systems Architect

The College of Education's Community Site

: soon to be branded as "Purlieu". Visitors to the site who have a Gatorlink username and password can sign up and start utilizing the social media tools.

Online Educational Community

Online education is increasingly becoming an overwhelming force in America's higher education system. In Gainesville, The University of Florida hopes to change the landscape of online education to include a more vibrant component: community. The staff at the College of Education are doing exciting things and inspecting different ways of learning and fostering this online community.

Faculty and Social Networking Tools

Some of the faculty, like Dr. Christopher Sessums, are encouraging students to use social networking tools. Dr. Sessums had his class organize an art show where they weren't allowed to talk to each other in person. All of the work they did had to be done using social tools like Twitter and Facebook.

Purlieu and Distance Education

The distance education office is also attempting to redefine how education is delivered, and they've come up with a combination of tools they are calling Purlieu. This french word means a person's usual neighborhood, hangouts, or haunts.

The Purlieu system is a combination of the commonly used learning management system, or LMS, and social networking tools. By combining these tools, the College of Education hopes to cultivate this feeling of community for their online students. The distance education office hopes Purlieu will give students an opportunity to learn informally as they do in the hallways before and after class, at the library in study groups, or having a beer with friends while they talk about the latest events in their lives.

Social Learning and Student Discontent

These changes are being put in place for several reasons. Social learning theory lays the foundation, which says that people primarily learn by putting a social context to what they are doing. But the changes are also a result of the reaction students have to the status quo in distance education. Working fathers and doctoral students, like the ones interviewed on this site, are not connecting and feeling excited about their online course work.

The changes being attempted at the University of Florida might be beyond their grasp. See the rest of this site to learn more.