As per the Global Web Index in association with WeAreSocial Singapore, the internet has 3.17 billion users with 2.3 billion active social media users as of July 2015. Approximately 1 million new active mobile social users are added every day, or 12 new users per second. These statistics show how extraordinarily important social media has become among all age groups. Social media is no longer just a way to connect and stay in touch with friends and family. With a large section of the world’s workforce hooked on social media, why not use it for eLearning? After all, learning should be in the medium of the learner’s choice.
For students and instructors alike, educational institutions and organizations can use the benefits of social media to help learners learn and retain knowledge. Organizations can use social media to promote educational content, highlight course information, and engage students with questions, quizzes, and infographics. Learners, in turn, can participate and share feedback about the training programs and courses. Here are some social networks that can be made a part of eLearning courses with relative ease.
With 1.65 billion monthly active users, Facebook can be used to engage students by sharing information on important topics, opening a discussion of new ideas, performing quizzes, posting product-related pictures, or hosting a survey to get opinions. Students can talk freely about various course-related issues or questions they might have, and post interesting information they want to share. Harvard University has started using the newly launched Facebook Live to stream live videos right from their classrooms.
Twitter has 320 million monthly active users and 6,000 tweets are sent every second. Private Twitter accounts can be created for specific eLearning courses, where students can engage with the instructor by asking questions and getting answers instantaneously. Learners can also follow the experts and discover trending content. Hashtags can be created for a specific topic or event to communicate with the interested audience. Twitter is best suited for real-time feedback and discussions.
This is a purely professional social network with 400 million users. LinkedIn is brimming with professionals actively initiating conversations on thousands of groups, about different topics. For a foundry worker, there are groups to discuss the fundamentals and discover new developments in technology that affect foundry processes. Similarly, there are groups for manufacturing, health care, marketing, and aeronautics. You name it and there is a group. With this platform, learners can check the professional profile and accomplishments of other participants and the instructors, adding more value to their content. Another platform, Bebee, allows people to network based on their personal interests. An emerging platform, Bebee already has over 10 million users, becoming LinkedIn’s first competitor.
An excellent resource for both eLearning and microlearning, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and third most visited site after Google and Facebook. It is free and can be used to support eLearning courses by creating a channel with short videos on different topics, while viewers can also rate the video’s content and quality, and leave comments. These videos can be part of a course, but instructors can also use it to broadcast entire tutorials or just teasers to attract the audience they want.
While it never really caught on, several eLearning professionals believe that Google Plus will be the most popular social media platform for eLearning. The primary reason for this belief is the fact that Google Plus communities offer less distractions in comparison to other social platforms. In addition, Google Hangouts can be used to host live learning sessions.
In addition to these popular social media platforms, there are other tools like podcasts, webinars, communities, and blogs which can be used to reinforce learning. Social media is poised to revolutionize the way organizations and educational institutes communicate with their audience. Hence, the use of social media tools in eLearning cannot be underestimated. Instructional designers should start incorporating some of these social media tools while designing the eLearning courses, keeping in mind that each social media platform has its own strengths and weaknesses.