By Amy Erickson
Social Bots and Trolls
Have you ever heard of social bots or Internet trolls? Social bots are often created by public relations firms. They have an agenda and fill the Internet with verbiage that supports their idea, product, or stance. Internet trolls, on the other hand, are like bullies with too much free time.
Even though both can be vicious, Dr. Orlando (2016) reminds us that the Internet is more often a place of kindness and collaboration. In his article, “Making Use of the Internet of Benevolence,” Dr. Orlando shares opportunities that make the Internet a great place to find meaningful opportunities for both instructors and students.
For years, educators have discussed breaking down classroom walls and making material relevant for students. This can be done in many ways, such as connecting current students with alumni or using social media technology in the classroom. Dr. Orlando (2016) takes this a step further and shares incredible resources to connect your course content to the world in significant ways.
The United Nations is one such example, as it coordinates volunteers from around the world who can make contributions from the comfort of their own homes. Check out www.onlinevolunteering.org/en and see if anything there can augment your class and captivate your students. I like how Orlando (2016) describes how volunteering “opens up opportunities for instructors to provide students with both real-world experience, applying principles they learn in class, and the motivation of knowing that they are doing it for some reason other than just to get a grade” (para. 5).
I was so intrigued after reading Dr. Orlando’s article, I continued to search for online volunteer opportunities for college students. It turns out, there are several other organizations dedicated to providing volunteer opportunities for online academics:
Although courses are developed for instructors at Excelsior, these organizations can provide topics for students to research or resources for students to consult throughout their academic career. These sites are not limited to use by college students, so they may also provide meaningful opportunities for students after they graduate.
Engaging content in the classroom is important to all of us. Volunteer opportunities can help captivate students, as well as give them a chance to strengthen their résumés. Real-world experience with the UN or other organizations can help set Excelsior graduates apart. In a competitive market, this could be an incredible gift to your students.
While looking over these volunteer opportunities, I was reminded of Paul Loeb’s book Soul of a Citizen and Clayton Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life? I frequently recommend these books as they offer students a chance to consider their own legacies and question what they want to accomplish in their lives. Volunteering can provide students with a similar experience.
If you’ve ever used online volunteering in your classroom, please comment below.
Orlando, J. (2016, October). Making use of the Internet of benevolence. Online Classroom. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://www.magnapubs.com/newsletter/online-classroom/152/Making-Use-of-the-Internet-of-Benevolence-14223-1.html