The following is a guest post written by Emily Johnson, freelance blogger and content writer. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us.
Let’s be honest: online teaching and learning is not easy. Both instructors as well as students need to deal with a number of problems that arise from the limitations of virtual education. Thus, online instruction requires novel, creative methods, which would help students acquire new knowledge and make them feel less isolated.
Does social media have the power to improve virtual education? Can it solve most of the problems both online educators as well as online students strive to overcome each and every day? Would incorporating it into virtual teaching and learning make a difference? Keep on reading to find out.
The Challenges of Online Education and How Social Media Can Help To Overcome Them
Whether you’re a teacher who considers conducting online courses or a student who got enchanted by an idea of getting a degree online and wants to try, chances are that you think there’s nothing complicated about it:
- As an online tutor, all you’ll have to do is to prepare materials, upload them on a site, and then, check the progress of your students and provide them with feedback.
- As an online student, all you’ll have to do is download materials from a website, study them at home, and then, do the homework and upload it on a site.
That’s it, right? Unfortunately, in practice, it’s more complicated than that. Each step of the way only seems to be easy. In reality, problems arise. Problems, which can be hard to deal with and solve.
#1 Computer literacy.
Attending and creating an online course requires a person to develop new computer skills, and while professors may already have the knowledge on how to navigate the necessary systems and programs, many students don’t. Research shows that computer literacy of university graduates is low. Thus, we can assume that computer literacy of students who just begin their studies or are in the middle of them isn’t any better.
Now, to be able to fully participate in an online course, students need to learn to use LMS (i.e. Learning Management System), be able to operate such programs as MS Word or PowerPoint, and fix computer problems if they occur. Without any technological knowledge and skills, it can be a challenge too hard to deal with.
Also, although “Help Pages” and detailed FAQ sections may be of some help, finding the necessary information and following instruction can be time-consuming, problematic, and frustrating. Thus, here’s another idea:
To allow students to contact and chat with a computer expert via a social media platform. It’s fast and easy. Moreover, this way, students can quickly improve their computer skills and feel more supported in their studies.
#2 Communication problems and the lack of human contact.
Conducting as well as participating in an online course often results in communication problems and limits for both professors as well as students. Thus, exchanging thoughts, sharing ideas, asking questions, clarifying various issues, explaining the course material, or simply talking, may take some time and be difficult (especially if it can only happen in the LMS or via email). What’s more, distance learning means learning away from a campus and student dormitories, which can affect a person’s sense of belonging to a community of students and so, make them feel isolated.
Can we improve communication between online tutors and students, and help students make friendships, share their thoughts, and interact with their peers? Yes, we can. Social media is the answer.
By promoting the use of social media and creating special groups for students on such platforms as Facebook, we can help teachers contact their students (and vice versa) quickly from any device, and we provide students with a perfect place to talk to their peers, discuss problems, share various ideas or reviews, and form a community. In fact, in a recent study, 75% of students say they feel comfortable using social networking to discuss course work with other students and 58% use it to communicate with their classmates.
Now, since students find social media platforms useful for educational purposes as well as forming friendships, incorporating social media into online education can both improve communication between students and teachers, and make students feel less lonely.
#3 Boredom, self-motivation and time-management.
Although online courses work for a number of students, many fail an online class, especially at community colleges. Why? Well, in a study conducted in 2011, students provided a number of reasons why you may fail an online course, and so, drop out of college. Here are the causes:
- Motivation (35%).
- Study habits (17%).
- Academic preparedness (12%).
- External factors (11%).
- Attitudes (11%).
- Instruction (10%).
- Relevancy issues (4%).
What also has a negative impact on online students is the fact that e-learning may sometimes feel like e-reading. Thus, online courses lack variety and can be simply boring. After all, not everyone find reading textbooks and other materials as the best way to learn. Some students acquire new knowledge by listening to lectures. Others prefer doing things in practice. There are also those who learn best by watching videos. So, variety in virtual education is a must to keep students engaged.
Now, since online students are not self-motivated to learn, find it hard to create and stick to their own learning schedules, and often get bored, is there anything we can do to help them? As a matter of fact, yes, there is. Social media gives us a possibility to solve a number of problems that online students face.
Here are several creative ideas on how educators can use social media platforms to support their students:
- Create and post inspirational and motivational quotes on Facebook, and thus, help your students achieve their goals.
- Send reminders about assignments and upcoming deadlines via online platforms.
- Make competitions and contests (thus, you can encourage creative writing, help students improve their skills in a number of areas, and entertain them).
- Instead of uploading another longish lecture on a website for your students to read, make a video lesson on YouTube.
- Ask intriguing questions in posts and so, start an online discussion (let your students engage in a conversation with you as well as their peers).
- Encourage your students to make posts or tweets on a given topic for extra credit.
As you can see, social media gives a number of possibilities to help students succeed in an online class.
There are many reasons why we should incorporate social media into online education. First of all, students are familiar with it, so they will have no problems with accessing materials on social media platforms or contacting their teachers. Also, social media platforms can help students to form and maintain interactions with others. Moreover, it allows online students to ask more questions and get answers fast.
For online teachers, social media gives a lot of new opportunities as well. Teachers can easily contact their students, have more possibilities to help them acquire new knowledge as well as engage them. Also, it’s much faster, easier, and convenient to give students feedback via a social media platform than an online system.
Thus, by incorporating social media into virtual education we’ve nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.
Author’s Bio: Emily Johnson is a college graduate who spends her free time writing thought-provoking blog posts about education, college life, blogging, and writing. Her articles that give career advice help and inspire people all over the Web. To find out more about Emily, check her website, OmniPapers, and her Twitter.
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