Purdue University Builds Young Professionals with the Help of Course Networking

Purdue University has a few things to brag about.
                Tied with the University of Michigan Ann-Arbor for the 8th best graduate program and 10th best undergraduate program of engineering in the nation, as well as being the first university in the United States to establish a computer science department, it’s obvious Purdue has built an empire within the study of the sciences. This reputation has attracted some of the most skilled professors in such fields. One of them, Dr. Mihaela Vorvoreanu of Computer Graphics Technology and Technology Leadership and Innovation, has found success in teaching the students of her Introduction to User Experience Design course through Course Networking.
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (Google Images)
                Vorvoreanu needed a tool that could do more than just connect. “I needed a platform that would enable this sharing and lightweight interaction among course participants,” Vorvoreanu commented. Certain tools on the network gave her advantages for the course that she couldn’t find in other traditional teaching methods. “While we used the CN for assignments, day-by-day tasks, and gradebook, the primary motivation was this ability to share links.” CN was a way for Dr. Vorvoreanu and her students to engage in an inviting, academic setting. “I found the private social networking* aspect of the site to be quite enjoyable.”
UX Diagram (Google Images)
Course Networking for Dr. Vorvoreanu gave her unlimited access to sharing information and resources, and as a result, student feedback was generally positive. Despite some intimidation of the Anar seed requirement, they found their participation in the course to be more fun and interactive. “As the course progressed, they began to appreciate the interaction among class members and the broken down, day-by-day plan that spelled out specific tasks they had
to accomplish before each class meeting,” Vorvoreanu stated. For her course, it was not just the encouragement to join the site and the reward students saw accumulate as a result, it was activity for the sake of learning, a goal that CN continues to strive for.
The future for social learning environments like CN isn’t just an outlet for socially engaging online. While this is important, Dr. Vorvoreanu commented that it’s more than just a relationship you build with someone online or part of a grade in a course. A professional platform for a global audience is a real-world concept that is being introduced through CN for reasons that go far beyond its social capabilities. “I think it is important for students to learn how to use social networking for professional growth,” she claimed. “The CN gives them a glimpse of how they can interact professionally, not just socially, online.”
Two of her students, Osmar Lopez and Wade Roth, would agree, commenting on specific tools and functions they found extremely useful. “By getting points for my comments, links, and polls through the Anar Seed point system, it motivated me more,” Lopez stated. “I felt like I was getting rewarded for my contributions to the class.”
Founder/Creator of CN Ali Jafari interacting with Purdue students on user feedback using CN
Roth found the posting tool and interaction with his classmates to be reasons he appreciated CN. “One of my favorite features is the variety of posting capabilities that the CN offers,” Roth claimed. “It is very useful for student/teamwork interaction. It's also useful that instructor posts stay towards the top of the feed.”
Vorvoreanu’s students strongly valued the connections they’ve made with other learners that weren’t necessarily in their User Experience Design course, breaking down the barriers that coincide with international learning. “I’ve made professional relationships with people Dr. V has Skyped with during class,” Roth commented. “This opportunity has allowed students to ask questions to professionals in our field, which also was just a great learning experience.” 
Lopez discovered learning opportunities as a student that he didn’t think were possible without being introduced to the CN Network more enjoyable. “The CN really pushes student interactivity,” Lopez began. “It was really easy to ask my fellow students questions, and I felt like I could talk to anyone if I wanted to. Had there been no CN for my class, I probably would have never interacted with some of the students in my own classroom, and especially not those global students that I met on the CN. It was easy to communicate with my instructor and because of that, I feel that I have a much closer relation to my instructor than I do with other instructors.”
As for her future, Dr. Vorvoreanu seemed pleased with the functions of CN and concluded she would use the site later on in courses specific to her area of expertise. “I will use it in courses where this type of lightweight interaction and information sharing is important and directly related to the course’s learning objectives,” she said in her closing remarks.
Building a professional world, one university, professor, and student at a time: Those are just some of the goals of CN…

What are you doing to go pro?

The Story of the CN at Purdue:
Professor Ali Jafari, inventor of CourseNetworking, visited Dr. Vorvoreanu’s Introduction to User Experience Design class on April 8th, 2014 in West Lafayette. He shared his experience of designing and developing a series of successful learning systems. Students also received the opportunity to provide improvement interface design suggestions to CN as both end-users as well as future experts in Human Computer Interaction. CN took some of these constructive suggestions and made the changes in the next week’s release. Now, the suggested changes are benefiting thousands of CN users across the world.

*CN provides different course access settings that allow courses to be open to the public or restricted to a selected group of members. Dr. Vorvoreanu made her course available only to her students and expert guests in the course field.

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