Social Media and Online Learning

In “Three Social Trends That Will Influence Education in 2014“, Morrison (2013) states that the “behaviour patterns of students, educators, employees and professionals are moving towards the use of social tools for learning, working and teaching. Collaborating seamlessly face-to-face and at a distance, bringing the human element to virtual interactions, and personalized learning will prevail in 2014; each facilitated by technology”.

My teaching career began nearly twenty years ago in a classroom as a guest lecturer in a well-known university, for an internet marketing diploma program. Since then my teaching experiences have continued to be classroom-based until a few years ago, when some of my course materials were moved to a digital delivery platform for distance learners who were unable to attend my classes. Sadly, although the online courses offer the same readings and materials as the courses offered in the classroom, interpersonal interaction is missing. Morrison (2013) notes that this has long been a criticism of online learning.

Lately, my department has been reviewing all digital delivery courses offered in our program. Faculty members have been tasked with updating some of our courses with instructor-led online classes, and I am part of this pilot. The format is interesting and promising: students access the course materials on the learning platform as before, but will communicate with me using video conference programs. This enables a more personal, almost face-to-face, interaction. Our conversations will be synchronous during those predetermined times – which will be scheduled as a quick lecture followed by structured discussions. The course materials will be augmented by threaded discussions online, assignments dropped into Dropbox and presentations on video will be uploaded to a private YouTube channel.

My students have already been using social media extensively in my more traditional classroom-based courses. Many of my students travel for work, at times with little notice. Teams collaborate on assignments using Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype or Webex. Teams store documents in the cloud, using tools such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

Some time ago, a student team delivered a final presentation to class, with three students present and one student speaking over Skype. Another team delivered a case study with a video segment that a traveling student recorded before leaving on a business trip. These are practical uses of social media to enable collaboration and learning, no matter where the student is living – or traveling.

I am looking forward to teaching a new instructor-led class in global sales and channel marketing, beginning in April. It will be very exciting to meet my students over a virtual conference line, no matter where they are, and read in-depth discussions on marketing topics online. This will be an adjustment, for me and for my students, but we will welcome the added flexibility of asynchronous discussions and the comfort of a regular meeting time when I can see their smiling faces reflecting back at me on my large display screen.

Videoconferencing Setup
Videoconferencing Setup (Courtesy Teliris) CC BY-SA 3.0

References:

Morrison, D. (2013). “Three Social Trends That Will Influence Education in 2014”. Online Learning Insights. Retrieved from https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/three-social-trends-that-will-influence-education-in-2014/

 

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