How Social Media is Impacting Online Learning

 At a recent educational conference, the team here at The Centre For Learning @ Home got a chance to interact with faculty and administrators from other online learning organizations. One of the trends and topics that came up most often was the different ways in which social media is impacting web-based learning.

Although sites like Facebook and Twitter are still relatively new – compared to remote learning and the Internet itself – it’s clear that they aren’t just affecting students, but also the way we structure Internet classes altogether. Here are a few of the most interesting ways that social media is changing online learning:

Social media is leading to more interactive online lessons. The give-and-take that’s so prevalent on social networking sites has influenced the way instructors feel about their virtual classrooms. It’s not unusual to find chat rooms, videos, and question-and-answer sessions all being hosted by online middle school and high school instructors.

More is being asked of students who learn online. As an example, one presenter pointed out that one of the top results for a search of “Martin Luther King” was by a white supremacist group. This is obviously an extreme example, but it points to the need for students to not only look for information that comes from verified, reputable sources, but also to think very critically about what they see and learn outside their virtual classrooms.

Internet classes are becoming more of a “shared” experience. In the past, remote learning has often been associated with isolation. These days, however, students can connect with their classmates, and other learners their age, in lots of places on the web. Some of these forums are sponsored by schools, whereas others are on public sites. In both cases, however, the development of online communities for students to share advice and encouragement has to be seen as a positive step.

In many ways, the development of social media within online learning closely mirrors changes that have taken place within the modern educational system as a whole. Just as we see teachers moving chairs in a circle, rather than the classic, back-to-front classroom-style that many of us grew up with, so are online courses becoming more about sharing and interactivity.

It’s a sure bet that social media will keep changing, as will online learning. Whether you are an instructor, student, or just a family member, this is an exciting time to be involved with The Centre For Learning @ Home!

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