Sophia is built on the premise that everyone can be both a teacher and a learner. You may have certain subjects that you've mastered in your life, and those are areas where the makers of Sophia invite you to offer your expertise. At the same time, you can sift through the educational network to find other people who offer "packets" of knowledge that you may be interested in learning.
The allure of Sophia is that it offers the same sense of community as the massive social networks like Facebook or Twitter, but the community also has a common purpose - and that is to share and acquire knowledge from each other.
When you first sign up for a free Sophia account, and then log in for the first time, the social network presents you with a pop-up screen where you can see all of the features available in one place.
As you can see, Sophia lets you choose any subject to start learning from other users immediately, or you can create your own informational packets for other people to learn from and rate. You can also use Sophia as a place to hold group conversations about a certain subject - like a study group or a class project. Finally, as with any social network, you have the option to invite all of your friends from other social networks and contact lists.
Finding Learning Packets
Educational lessons are arranged in what is classified in Sophia as a "packet." Each packet contains a particular lesson or lessons on a specific subject. Users can create packets that are either very short and simple, or quite involved and complex. You may learn a lot from them, or very little. However, you can see how users have rated the packets, which should provide a good clue whether or not it will be valuable to you.
Science Learning Packet
Each packet has a logo image a summary and an objective. You can see how many other users have already viewed the packet, followed the packet (to be notified about updates), and also how they've rated the packet and the author as well. Sophia has a tagging system, which you can see on the right side of every packet. This lets you click on the tag that interest you and see additional learning packets on the same topic.
Lessons come in many shapes and formats, but by far the most common format that you'll find at Sophia is the video lesson. Videos are very easy for users to create on other sites like YouTube, and then embed into Sophia. They are also useful to present a lot of information in a very small physical web page space. All you have to do is press play and sit back to enjoy the lesson.
Text and Photo Lessons
Sophia offers the ability for teachers to present in other media formats as well. You'll find plenty of lessons in the traditional textbook style format. Read through each lesson to learn something new about the topic. In some cases the lesson is barely a couple of paragraphs and in other cases you'll find lessons that are a couple of pages. You really never know what you'll find when you're browsing through Sophia packages.
If you come across an especially good teacher, you'll want to remember to come back to view their other offerings. From the package page, you can click on the "Follow" button underneath the user's profile picture. You can also see the number of followers the user already has in pink, and the different badges the person has earned through offering useful lessons on the site. Obviously, a user with many followers and lots of badges will most likely have a great deal to offer - these are great people to learn from!
If you're visiting Sophia more for the social aspect than the educational one, you'll probably be spending a lot of time browsing through user bio pages. When you click on a user name, you'll see the default "Information" view, which shows you all of the bio information that the user typed in about themselves.
Additionally, on the other tabs, you can see the number of packets they've created as well as the number of people they follow and the number of followers they have (just like on Twitter). Under their profile, you can see links to their profiles on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter, or their email contact if they've included it.
Your Social Profile
Your own Dashboard is the place where you'll get an overview of everything at Sophia that matters to you. On the top tabs, you can see information about the packets you've created, groups you're a part of and the users that you follow. You can also update information in your profile.
Along the right side of your dashboard, you'll find updates about the newest Sophia content. Along the left, you'll see a list of people that Sophia has identified as sharing common interests with you. You'll also see a brief history of the most recent learning packets you've viewed.
Creating Learning Packets
When you're ready to start creating your own learning packets with knowledge that you'd like to share with others, just click on the "Create New Packet" button on your Dashboard. On the first page, you'll need to create a descriptive title, choose a subject area, and of course write an objective for the lesson that you'd like to create.
Add Information to your Learning Packet
You have lots of options when you create a learning packet in terms of content type. You can do like many others and just create a video that you can embed as a lesson. However, if you want to be a little more creative, create a text lesson as an introduction, and then embed a slideshow or a video clip at the end to finish it off. Or, if you are teaching a language, you could embed audio clip samples as part of the lesson.
There are many educational sites available today where you can create and offer online classes for groups of people, but Sophia is unique in that the lessons are very simple and much easier to create. Most of all, the social network aspect of the site is far more integrated with Sophia than with most other online learning sites. This means that if you decide to use Sophia as your teaching and learning platform, you're sure to meet a lot of friends and colleagues in the same fields that you have an interest in.
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