When you think of social media, networks like Facebook and LinkedIn most surely come to mind. But have you ever imagined these and other social applications like Twitter and Instagram as a part of your instructional design strategy? You may be wondering, “How exactly would something like Twitter fit into a learning experience?” The truth is, online educators can utilize social media in many ways. From creating peer-peer interactions and providing just-in-time assistance, to integrating course hashtags and backchannels with Twitter, there are a multitude of ways that social media can be integrated into a teaching and learning environment.
With the rapid growth of social media applications in all learner populations, it’s definitely the right time to take a closer look at how you can integrate social media into learning experiences. Within online higher education, there are many success stories. If this is news to you, take note!
Here are a few ways social media can support learning in online courses:
Engagement using social media involves the learner at both a physical and a psychological level within the learning community. Engaged learners experience a sense of connectedness, membership and motivation related to learning activities. For example, The Penn State World Campus Facebook Page keeps online students connected to campus events by offering information on video streams, important events in the academic calendar and prompting student sharing and interaction.
Instruction involving social media can improve teaching effectiveness and enhance learning outcomes. Activities designed with social media can draw on student interests and passions in the context of an authentic learning environment. Instructional use of social media can support learner diversity, improve relevance of learning materials and provide alternate pathways to demonstrate mastery of learning outcomes.
Curious about seeing instructional uses of social media in action?
Active Co Learning in Higher Education is an online open course for faculty that uses blogs for learner publishing, live Google+ Hangouts for class meetings and a Twitter hashtag for communication. This course is a collaboration between University of California Humanities Research Institute and the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media + Learning Research Hub.
#UGSTSTORY, a first year seminar class that uses blogs and Twitter for participation, is focused on exploring majors and careers and was created by Dr. Laura Pasquini at University of North Texas. You just might recognize Dr. Pasquini’s name too since she also leads our OLC Institute worskhops, Developing Your Social Media and Digital Presence and Exploring Networks for Learning.
Student support using social media can provide learners with increased or ubiquitous access to support services. Support facilitated through social media can be integrated closely with institutional or program specific resources or individuals; it can also address specific learner needs (such as content specific guidance or tutoring) or address broader learner needs in context (such as a virtual IT help desk). Support integrations of social media within colleges and universities make use of internal communication channels to improve support and make institutional pathways more explicit. Take a look at these examples: New Mexico State University Career Services on Pinterest, UW-Madison IT Services (@UWDoIT) on Twitter and the University of Notre Dame Social Media Directory.
So how can faculty get started with social media? The best way to learn to integrate social media is by using it in your own learning. In OLC’s Social Media for Online Education Mastery Series, you explore the tools in your own learning and immerse yourself in participatory culture while beginning to develop your own social media presence. Building ideas for use in your own courses flows naturally out of connecting with other faculty who are doing the same. From Pinterest to Instagram to Tumblr and so many more – the tools are ripe and the time is right!