Social media is often criticised as being a source of distraction in an educational environment. Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter keep students from paying attention in lectures or engaging in productive seminar activities. These sites are often used to communicate with friends and are rarely associated with learning. Innovative educational institutions however, have begun to appreciate the value that social media can bring to education. These sites, after all, are the best channels to reach out to students and grab their immediate attention. Realistically, a Facebook post would have a bigger chance of being read, compared to words written on internal intranets; students respond better to methodologies that are more relevant to modern life.
Here are some ways through which social media can be used by universities:
Social Media as a Tool for Lectures
Believe it or not, social media is a great way for lectures to improve on their discipline. It is an excellent way to research trends and topics that can be used for lecture plans and seminar activities. Social media sites are overflowing with fresh ideas and trends that can easily be used and applied to lectures and discussions, for example in a marketing lecture it would be appropriate to have the latest marketing practice to back-up theory. The Internet also has a wealth of information in the form of educational blogs and websites. Teachers can also use these sites to connect with colleagues from other locations.
Social media is incredibly effective, in terms of reaching out to students. Teachers can use sites like Twitter to send out blasts about topics and activities that will be discussed in future sessions. Course assignments, unit outlines and assessments can also be made available online. Lecturers can even post information, trivia, or snippets that are related to the courses they are teaching. All it takes is the creation of an account that students can follow or subscribe to.
Some universities have already gone as far as creating their own social media platforms. These platforms allow teachers to upload assignments, lecture materials, and learning paraphernalia with ease and sophistication. They can also freely communicate with their students to update them on topics that have not been covered during class. Customised learning sites are also highly preferable because of the level of security that they offer the students. Filters for unacceptable words and language can be set up, and access to mature sites may be blocked. These sites can even be set up in such a way that teachers and students can access their files anywhere online connectivity is available.
Social Media Benefits for Parents
Social media can be an effective tool to reach out and communicate with parents. Universities in the United States often sponsor extra-curricular events and activities that promote student development. Posting these events online is a great way of informing and inviting parents to provide support and encouragement. Sites like Twitter and Facebook may be used as “broadcast accounts” to disseminate information. These sites are easy to maintain, easy to use, and free of charge.
Parent feedback is also a critical aspect of education. Parents need an avenue wherein they can express their opinions regarding certain policies or decisions. It can also be great to hear constructive criticism or recognition for outstanding activities and events. Not all parents may have the time to write formally and it is often more convenient for them to express their sentiments via transparent, online posts.
Student Participation via Social Media
Students are more receptive with teaching approaches that involve technology or mobile devices. They are more interested in using learning tools that come in the form of mobile phone applications or games. Universities can capitalise on this type of technology by using social media tools.
The Facebook Groups service is an example of an online tool that can be used for education. Professors can serve as administrators for the page and require their students to join as members. Here they can communicate and assign tasks, exchange files, participate in polls, or watch educational videos. Notification settings can be made in such a way that members are made aware every time a new post is made. An added incentive for the students would be the fact that they will have access to their colleagues’ Facebook accounts, obviously if their privacy settings allow and once they are approved as friends. Pinterest is also gaining ground in terms of popularity. With this service, students get to share web links or photos that are relevant to certain topics and subjects.
Social media can aid long distance learning. With simple uploads and profile modifications, learners from across the globe will have access to reading materials and videos without being physically present in school. This is perfect for students who are revising at home, or for external individuals to the universities looking for high quality learning materials. The iTunes University application, for example, provides a wide range of lectures and online courses from some of the best universities in the world. Communication between schools located in different parts of the world is also made easier through social media, for instance Universities that have a main campus and a location in London. International students also have an easier time keeping in touch with friends and family, while still gaining the full learning experience from their University.
Social media tools are easy to incorporate into existing curricula because most of the students already have existing online accounts. It does not take long for students and faculty members to learn how to use services and requires few resources and little training time when compared to other communication media. Some educational institutions may continue to resist this kind of development because of the possibility of abuse. However, this concern can easily be addressed by providing students and faculty members a strict list of guidelines that they need to follow at all times.