Social media is a powerful platform in many ways. But just as it can be used for positive gain, it can also quickly turn into an uncontrollable monster.
For students and tutors alike, harnessing the power of the digital world as part of a course is now part and parcel of delivering vibrant learning experiences.
However, social media should not be included in course material and student’s learning solely because it is the ‘modern thing to do.’ It needs to enhance a student’s learning and contribute to improving their learning outcomes. If these conditions are met, it can be a welcome and useful part of a teaching practice.
So, how can tutors and learners grasp the sometimes-thorny issue of social media in learning?
#1 Include it in course details, syllabus and description
Some students and tutors are ‘frightened’ or wary of social media. It can be an unruly beast, and for some worry that their profiles could be vulnerable to attack or hijacking.
This is why online learning providers who do use social media include this detail in course descriptions and their syllabus, offering additional support to students who need to create online profiles.
Social media is not just about updating your Facebook status or tweeting as a contribution to a discussion. Some course providers are also harnessing the power of open blogging sites (such as Blogger) to publish work and facilitate discussion over certain texts.
There also need to be options for students who are not willing or able to share in the social media aspects of the course.
#2 Contracts and permissions
Social media (including blogging sites) are public mediums, and this means that students need to be prepared to use them correctly. Signing a contract between student and tutor on how these platforms will be used is essential.
Encourage students to use aliases if this makes them feel more comfortable. You should also create guidelines that help them stay safe when online, and add to these guidelines as and when experience dictates. Ask students to contribute to these guidelines.
#3 Link to institutional policies
Learning providers will often have policies relating to the use of social media sites in terms of what can and cannot be used and/or shared. These are important policies that are put in place to protect the institution, its reputation, staff and students.
Both students and tutors need to be aware of the disciplinary process, as online abuses can have far reaching consequences.
Mentioned in a previous point, you can encourage students and tutors to use an alias to protect their identity and the integrity of their work. These aliases need to be appropriate, but also communicate throughout the group so that students and tutors can identify each other online.
There are also some social media sites that allow ‘member only’ access, and this is a useful additional security filter.
#5 Teach responsible social media use
On a personal level, we all think we know how to deal with social media, but the ways in which people interact differs from person to person.
In ‘real life’, people argue, and social media is no different. Interactions can be tense and exchanges short and terse. Posts and words can be published ‘without a filter,’ with no regard to whether the content could offend, or whether it is appropriate or not.
As well as appropriate and responsible use, there is also the consideration needed of whether sharing some works online is legal. Students and tutors need to understand the Creative Commons licence and how it applies to other people’s work and their own.
#6 Not to be used for feedback
Student feedback (and vice versa) should be given via the learning management portal, and not via open or closed-group social media sites.
#7 Create learning accounts
Students and tutors may have a whole plethora of personal social media accounts. Most learning providers suggest that staff and students create accounts that are specifically for professional use, so that personal accounts are not compromised.
#8 Consider whether it is the best platform
Social media platforms and channels will all have differing Terms of Service. Consider these carefully, because if service is discontinued, your students work will be lost. As with all technology, always have a Plan B.
Online Courses, Learning and Teaching
Online courses and distance learning have gained momentum in recent years. There is now a wide-range of courses available to the home learning student, from online marketing courses to beautician courses, psychology courses and more.
How do you think social media can be used to enhance your learning?