Social media and online learning are two online features that are continuing to grow. West Chester’s distance education courses have grown from just over 100 courses in 2012 to almost 500 course offerings today. Most student’s use social media every day, multiple times a day and even businesses use it for marketing and engaging with their customers. Incorporating social media into online learning would help students engage with other students and the school since they don’t come to campus for class.
When taking classes face-to-face, students get to interact with people in their classes who are also probably in their major or program of study. It is beneficial to students, to meet people who have similar goals as they do and are interested in the same areas or subjects. They can turn to each other for help and their work load is similar, so they can easily relate to each other about school. Sometimes these types of friends or companions are what helps people get through the tough times at school because they realize they’re not alone. Students who are in fully online programs don’t get to interact everyday with other students. By incorporating social media, students can create an online community similar to the interactions they would be having in a face-to-face class.
Facebook groups for a class is one way to help create an online community. By having a Facebook group for one class, the students in the class can post questions for other people in the class to help them out with. If the professor is included in the group, the professor could share related material and encourage informal discussion for the class.
Becoming “friends” with students in their online class on Facebook, is also kind of like befriending them in class. It’s as if they are getting to know them a little better. If students found each other on Facebook, they’ll feel more comfortable talking with them via discussion in the online course and then asking them questions if they have any because it will give them a sense of knowing each other on a more personal level.
While Facebook is a great way to use social media in online courses, so is Twitter. Twitter allows students to share and tweet relative information. Creating a course hashtag allows students to share information and then click on the hashtag and see basically a discussion or information related to only that course. Students can follow the professor and see what they share, but even if they didn’t want to do that, professors could use the hashtag and share information that way. This is another informal way to create class discussion, but keeping it organized on the internet for just the class.
Learning management systems allow for class discussions and for students to interact with each other, but sometimes just being “inside” the course is a little intimidating. Student’s might find it a little weird to talk informally in a non-graded discussion. Bringing student’s “outside” the classroom and onto social media can help students interact on a more personal level with each other and create connections with people in their classes.