Plug your Moodle course into social media

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Go to your audience

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Moodle database, forum, and glossary activity entries can be exported to an RSS feed which Twitterfeed can use to to push content to social media services.

Schools often have difficulty with the notion of changing traditional practices. For example, extraordinary outreach might not be a top priority when your audience is required to report to you on a regular basis. With the advent of online learning, many teachers may never see their students in a physical environment. Such interaction can be rare even in a blended learning model, and some may question the overall quality of physical interaction in a traditional classroom given the impact of rising poverty, such as decreased student attendance and disengagement. [1]

Mobile smart phones with Internet access are increasingly available to many students and their families. In poor communities, studies indicate that a smart phone may be the main point of online access for families. [2] “Overall, young adults are leading the growth in smartphone ownership in the U.S., with 74 percent of 25-34 year olds now owning smartphones, up from 59 percent in July 2011. Interestingly, teenagers between 13 and 17 years old demonstrated the most dramatic increases in smartphone adoption, with the majority of American teens (58%) owning a smartphone, compared to roughly a third (36%) of teens saying they owned a smartphone just a year ago.” [3]

As consumers increasingly rely on smartphones as a major source of Internet access, studies shows that social media represents the largest share of time spent with these devices. “Social sites and activities account for almost one-third (31%) of smartphone online usage – double the proportion for email at just 16%.” [3] Thus, a teacher who pushes content automatically from their Moodle course databases, forums, and glossaries to a social media service,  may have a positive impact on course participation and activity.

Prerequisites: RSS in Moodle and Twitterfeed account

Any database, forum, or glossary in a Moodle course can automatically generate an RSS feed. To activate RSS feeds in Moodle, there are a few settings that must be enabled by the site administrator. Once RSS feeds are made available by the site administrator, the teacher of any Moodle course may activate RSS feeds for use in any database,  forum, or glossary activity. The RSS feed will update every time an entry, post, or reply is added by anyone enrolled in the Moodle course. Upon activation, each activity will generate its own URL for the RSS feed which can be used to configure Twitterfeed to automatically post the contents of the RSS feed to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or App.net.

If you already have a personal or professional social media account, consider creating a new one for exclusive use with your Moodle course(s). As of this writing, many social media services require a unique email address for each account. If needed, simply use a free web-based email service such as Gmail to create the required email address, and use it to confirm your new social media account.

Twitterfeed is a powerful aggregator service that allows an RSS feed to be published to any supported social media service. As of this writing, Twitterfeed supports Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and App.net. Create a Twitterfeed account to aggregate your RSS feeds and automatically post their contents to any supported social media services.

Making the connection

With RSS feeds enabled in any database, forum, or glossary in your Moodle course(s), select and copy any RSS feed URL. Login to your Twitterfeed account and click on the Create New Feed button. Create a Feed Name and then paste the RSS Feed URL generated by Moodle. The Advanced Setting features allow you to determine how often the RSS feed is checked, the number of articles to post, as well as the format of the post. Please note that if student anonymity is a concern, you can configure the Post Setting to include title only so that student names are not published to social media.Click the Continue to Step 2 button to select the social media service where you want to publish your content. If you have created a specific account for use with your course, provide the required credentials. Once you are done, click the Create Service button to finish.

Twitter widget formatted inside a table located in the Moodle course summary.

Twitter widget formatted inside a table located in the Moodle course summary.

Leeds City College has published a short tutorial as a Moodle course by Sukhwant Singh Lota that provides step-by-step directions and screen shots for anyone interested in ‘Pushing Moodle Content to Twitter.’

To promote your social media account so students may easily follow, consider using a widget to display updates from your social media account and placing it prominently inside your Moodle course. For example, a Twitter widget can be customized to match your course theme. The customized Twitter widget can then be placed in an HTML block or the General section summary in your Moodle course.

Sources 

[1] Marcus, Jon. “The Poverty Gap: Schools Grapple with a Growing Population of Poor Children.” Harvard Education Letter. Harvard University Graduate School of Education, July-Aug. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. <http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/539>.

[2] Brenner, Joanna. “Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.” Pew Internet: Mobile. Pew Research Center, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. <http://pewinternet.org/Commentary/2012/February/Pew-Internet-Mobile.aspx>.

[3] “Young Adults and Teens Lead Growth Among Smartphone Owners.” NielsenWire. The Nielsen Company, 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. <http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/young-adults-and-teens-lead-growth-among-smartphone-owners/>.

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