The Role of Social Media in eLearning

The Role of Social Media in eLearning
Summary: This article reflects the use of social media in eLearning plus some tips on how social media can be used as learning platforms.

No one can deny the frenziness that has taken over the entire world with social media, in the last 10 years. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Plus and a bunch of others have become almost everyone’s second nature. Many think that social media is just another way to minimize personal communication and contact, for others an effective way to legitimately peek through people’s lives, and for others a pure waste of time with no value. Personal opinions are of course respected, yet we got to take a look at the other side. This article reflects the use of social media in eLearning.

Teachers, instructional designers, educational institutions, companies, and even organizations have started to heavily rely on the use of social media in formal learning, to share practices, promote information and educational material, share opinions, views and comments, embodying them in training programs and individual courses.

One of the best outcomes is that learning has become learner-centric and not teacher-centric, which is the way it should have been all along.

How Social Media Can Been Used As Learning Platforms?  

Social media is basically a structure that consists of individuals, communities, companies or organizations with similar interests, attitudes, values, lifestyles, visions and friendships and in the field of eLearning this structure can be used in various ways and through a number of tools.

Let’s see the most popular ones:

  • Facebook
    The instructor can effortlessly create a closed or an open group, to share information, ideas, quizzes, questionnaires, materials, pictures, or even an entire page on a specific course or module. Students can freely talk about various course-related issues, questions they might have, post mutually interesting information and generally things they want to share. For more info please see the use of Facebook for social learning.
  • Twitter
    In eLearning it can be used as a backchannel to connect learning communities or smaller classrooms over a specific topic or event, to share highlights, make statements, upload pictures, etc. All instructors have to do is create an account and communicate its #hashtag to their students/followers. Twitter is heavily used for social learning.
  • LinkedIn
    This is a purely professional, yet still social network, which has proven to be extremely useful in eLearning. Currently there are thousands of discussions and groups in various languages, where instructors, educators and influencers share views, problems, developments and how-to tips. It has an even higher value compared to the previous social platforms, since students/participants can actually see everyone’s professional profile and accomplishments, something that usually determines the status of the discussion leader, organizer, or expert. If you are interested in eLearning and Instructional Design I highly encourage you to join the Instructional Design & E-Learning Professionals' LinkedIn Group.
  • Google Plus
    Google plus is an upraising star for social learning. Several eLearning professionals including me believe that Google Plus is going to be the most popular social media that is used as a learning platform. But why?  Google plus communities have been used heavily as learning platforms and one of the major reasons is that both learners and facilitators are getting less distracted versus Facebook and Twitter.  In addition, Ronald L raised an interesting issue “Students don’t like to use their social networks for their studies. They want to keep their private life and faculty life separated”. Last but not least, I very much agree with Steve Rayson who said: “The ability of G+ to host communities with video embeds, comments plus Google hangouts surely makes it the strongest social media platform for social learning”. For more valuable comments concerning eLearning and Instructional Design like the comment above I highly encourage you to join Instructional Design & e-Learning Professionals Google Plus community!
  • YouTube
    An excellent resource for eLearning. It’s free and can be used to support a class, while viewers can also rate the video’s content and quality, as well as comment. These videos can be part of a course, but instructors can also use it to broadcast entire tutorials or just teasers to attract the audience they want.

Bottom line: Don’t dismiss the value and potential of social media in eLearning. You ’d surprised by the endless possibilities they offer.