Taking an online college class might sound like an easy “A” that gives lazier students a chance to sleep in and spend class time in their pajamas and robe instead of dressing and showering the way we used to before the Internet changed everything. However, thanks to the advent of new technologies, increased Internet speeds and a constant stream of information and communication, college campuses are learning new ways to adapt social media into their online curriculum as well as their traditional classrooms outside of the Internet. Here’s why…
Instantaneous communication with rapid access to study materials
The explosion of social networking giants like Facebook and Twitter, coupled with the portability of these services that allow almost instantaneous communication on the go has also ushered in a new line of education between the teacher, the student and the student’s fellow classmates.
Students no longer have to wait to meet with their teacher outside of the classroom or even wait for a response from an email. Assuming the teacher has the time and connection to these or similar communication sites through mobile Internet devices such as the iPad and the iPhone, students can instantly connect with their instructors to ask questions about upcoming assignments or ongoing projects or difficult source material. The portability and accessibility of the Internet also makes it easier for the teacher and student to access the source material needed to clear up any questions or concerns about any issues they are having with the course.
Improving group discussions
When students are required to work together on projects or in study groups, cliques tend to form within the classroom. Naturally, classmates who are close friends will gravitate towards each other, presumably because they already know how to work together and don’t have to break through any social barriers to achieve their common goal. Of course, hanging out with friends, whether it’s to study for an exam or work on a project, can present an easy avenue for distraction and if the students in the group don’t know each other, social anxiety can create a wedge between the students in the group and their understanding of the material.
Social media is often criticized for eliminating face-to-face communication altogether by reducing the social skills needed to make a connection. Collaborative group efforts in the setting an online course, however, can actually use this presumed negative and turn it into a positive. Group collaboration is not only enhanced with the introduction of social media through instantaneous communication but also helps to remove social and emotional barriers that might otherwise influence a real world classroom or group setting. This elimination can foster a great spirit of communication between participants and focus those efforts on completing necessary tasks and understanding difficult concepts.
Increases class engagement
One of the biggest challenges of any educational sector or field of study is increasing and maintain a student’s attention. Social media might seem like an easy distraction for students, especially when they are required to do all of their course and lecture work from the comfort of their own home but implementing the use of social media into the course can not only increase their attention, but also their academic retention and implementation.
Lock Haven University recently conducted a study that surveyed students who used Twitter as part of their coursework in a pre-health professional program. The study found that students who were required to use Twitter as part of the class scored a slightly higher grade point average at the end of the semester and showed twice the improvement in engagement over those who didn’t use any social media in their classwork.
Better preparation for using technology in your career
Technology and online communication is in a constant state of readiness and renewal. New methods of communicating and improved technologies are constantly changing the landscape of digital communication in all sectors of the world such as government, business, entertainment, finance, etc. These days, college students who are about to enter the work force don’t just need to learn a trade or a skill that they can apply to a career. They also need to learn how to learn and adapt to these new technologies to keep up with their own field, whether it’s in the public or private sector.
Online college classes are an effective means of helping students learn how to adapt and apply themselves to changing technologies as part of their education, but using social media to apply those techniques and trends can also help them keep up with the times. The University of Minnesota found that high school students who used social networking sites were applying those necessary methods of communication and digital access that they would need when they enter the job market later in life. Their constant use of social media, both in and out of their education, helped make them more comfortable to the changing digital landscape and gave them a “positive attitude” towards careers that required adaptability and proficiency in technology systems, editing and online designing.
More interactivity makes for a better education
The best methods of learning don’t come straight from textbooks or reading an endless series of blog postings or facts from online databases. Information sticks best when students, whether it’s in a classroom or on the Internet, are interacting with the material, the teacher and each other.
The Journal of Education Technology Systems holds this same belief that “optimum cognitive development is contingent on the full social interaction of the learner” and “instruction is more efficient when students engage in activities within a supportive (social) learning environment.” Simply put, the more engaged students are in their materials and the classroom, the more likely they are to learn applied methods from the source material and retain necessary information [PDF]. Social networking sites and applications have a natural method of zeroing in the user’s attention. Social networking has taken interactivity to new heights whether it’s sharing information with friends on Facebook or having a face-to-face conversation with someone on Skype. If social networking can be effectively implemented into an online college class, it can not only improve a student’s success in the class but it can also help them complete projects and goals long after they have received their diploma in their relevant career of choice.