Social media, in most business discussions, tends to mean social media marketing. However, one of the greatest long-term legacies of the social media revolution is likely to be in education. Online learning has been around for a while now. Particularly when applied to distance learning programs, this used to mean logging on and learning in isolation. But learning happens with and through other people - by participating in a community rather than simply by consuming information. In the last few years the availability of social media tools and technologies - plus their wide take-up and mainstream use - has enabled the essential social elements of learning to occur online. Social learning has come of age.
The great advantage is that today's students are already familiar with social media. Facebook and Twitter are second nature to them. This makes it easier to engage with students on these platforms where they already spend their time. Ways in which social media tools can be used in education include:
However, student familiarity with these tools also makes it possible to integrate social learning tools into a LMS, with many of the features students find on Facebook or Twitter - such as social profiles, avatars, chat, groups and activity feeds. For example, Pearson LearningStudio partnered with Columbia University to create a social learning interface that students felt comfortable using - and it kept all conversations in one place instead of six possible locations. These tools facilitate collaborative learning through real-time discussion - and also result in a high level of engagement and discussion among students. They become more informed, gain a wider perspective, and are able to make better decisions by engaging with each other. Student participation via social learning tools also provides valuable feedback to help shape the course.
Like social media marketing, social learning relies on engaging people with quality, relevant content aimed at a specific niche audience. In the case of a student audience focused on a specific academic niche, that content is disseminated, discussed and shared online - but this may be on a LMS rather than a public social network; and marketing 'calls to action' are replaced by educational 'learning outcomes'.
If you previously thought of social media simply as a medium for individuals to keep in touch with friends or for businesses to market themselves - or even as an unwelcome classroom distraction - think again, and think about how you can use it in your classroom. The challenge for lecturers is to make the content ever-more compelling - but also to make the learning process more relevant to their students' learning needs.Comments