We know that social media platforms have become the most engaging environment across different age groups, professional areas, and interest categories. We can criticize the quality of communication and inefficient time spending, but we can’t ignore the fact of global engagement, and educators’ task is to find ways how to utilize different social media tools to personalize and enhance online learning experiences.
The use of social media in online courses is still open topic because educators did not explore all the opportunities the platforms hold to support online learning. Many of them admit that with the help of social media learners can effectively communicate with virtual classmates, ask and answer questions, collaborate and discuss. Using social media, prospective students can receive information about online courses and programs, clear the details about the content, communicate with people who attended different online courses and get their feedback.
In this post, we discuss some aspects of incorporation of social media into online course delivery.
Enhancing learning experiences
Alternative virtual classrooms
Online course delivery platforms support virtual class environment which allows students to communicate, cooperate, and provide help and support. In practice, quite often, online learners take an initiative and create an alternative virtual classroom using one of the social media platforms to facilitate informal interaction among classmates. I have noticed also that in the traditional classroom environment, students also create learning groups to communicate with the classmates on different issues. This way, students feel more comfortable when communicating, helping, and supporting each other. Using alternative virtual classrooms, students can discuss academic issues and maintain casual conversations. It helps to build healthy and friendly relationships since learners can know each other personally. I think it is kind of compensation for not having face-to-face communication.
Scheduling academic activities on social media platforms
During course delivery, instructors schedule group projects or assignments on social media. It allows students to know each other better and collaborate more effectively. Working in small groups, students don’t feel shy to ask questions, discuss academic issues, and look for advice.
Communication with industry experts
Learners can use a variety of social media platforms to communicate with industry experts; they can ask questions to get more insight into relevant disciplines, look for a professional advice, or learn more about the specific topic. Usually, experts are very supportive and willing to participate in the conversations with students.
Showcasing students’ work
Students may use different social media platforms to showcase their work: projects, case studies, and assignments. Building learners’ virtual professional profile is a valuable experience since they may get important feedback from industry professionals, or even job offers from the companies which may find students’ work interesting and relevant. The most popular platforms used for professional communication are LinkedIn and Pinterest. These are powerful tools which can be used to demonstrate learners’ interests, abilities, and experience.
Factors to consider when using social media in online courses
Social media offers variety of platforms which can help to implement creative learning solutions and improve student engagement and learning experiences. When the faculty is planning to use social media services in online course delivery, some factors need to be considered:
- Before the beginning of the course, faculty must ensure in writing that students agree to create posts on the social media sites. If faculty does not get permissions from students, some of them might refuse to do posting when it will be needed. The special permission from students is not needed when faculty asks them to read or listen to posts from different social media sites.
- Faculty must describe in details how social media will be used in the course syllabus. It is needed to inform students before they register for the course that they will be accessing social media sites. The alternative solutions must be offered for those students who are not willing for whatever reason to use social media platforms.
- Faculty’s responsibility is to teach students and remind them regularly how to use social media for academic purposes. A new generation of learners has sufficient skills to use social media for personal communication. But they might not be aware how the content can be legally used in their projects and assignments. Students need also to learn how to protect their intellectual property on the Web.
- If the use of social media is considered for the online course delivery, faculty should encourage students not to use real names to protect their identity .
- Faculty should not use personal emails or personal accounts for teaching purposes. It is also important to provide the feedback to students through the learning management systems to avoid revealing of personal information to social media.
- Security and privacy of information is an important aspect of social media platforms, and it usually causes many concerns. It would be practical to have always an alternative solution if things go wrong with the chosen platform.
Benefits of using social media in online courses
- Social media allows learners to collaborate and communicate, to share their knowledge, experience, and expertise. Students can support and help each other by posting valuable links, share important tips, discuss issues, provide feedback, and work in teams.
- Social media can provide learners with the latest information and developments in the chosen area by providing access to companies’ sites, professional profiles of lead specialists, and research groups and centers. Some social sites contain valuable tutorials which can be used to expand knowledge and understanding of the certain topics.
- Course sites created on the social media platforms should allow learners to post their feedback, ideas, and suggestions. It will enhance creativity and learning experience, and it will also provide support to classmates through reviews, tips, and collaborative work.
- Since modern learners are accustomed to social media, it is natural for them to use different media platforms for learning purposes, for communication and collaboration with classmates and instructors. Most likely, learners will enjoy academic activities and will stay engaged with learning topics and tasks.
Disadvantages of using social media in online course delivery
There are different reasons why faculty are hesitant to start using social media in the online course delivery. The most common reason is that social media can become a distraction for learners. Obviously, it can happen that a learner starts with an academic task on the social media site and ends up chatting with friends without finishing the assigned work. The best approach to avoid such cases is to create a very specific task with strictly defined deadlines. And it is a good practice to introduce an assessment immediately after the social media task. It will keep learners focused and engaged with the learning assignments.
Developing online course activities on social media platforms requires additional resources both human and financial. The use of social platforms must be closely monitored and supported which requires additional time and leads to extra pay. Some platforms provide specialized tools which might reduce faculty workload.
Another drawback of using social media platforms is exposure to practically unlimited information which may cause confusion among learners, and as result, they might lose focus, interest, and encouragement to study. Faculty can support learners by providing the list of the most important resources.
Social media is a powerful online learning support. It can be used to enhance the learning experience by offering:
- access to additional and actual resources of information,
- access to companies and professionals in the industry,
- collaboration and communication tools to share knowledge and expertise, discuss important issues and provide feedback and reviews.
To make a success from the use of social media tools, all the activities should be thoroughly planned and documented.