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Does Social Media Enhance Learning?

Over the past two decades, teaching and learning theories have shifted toward emphasizing the application of student-centered pedagogy. “Student-centered” refers to considering students’ interests before teachers’ interests; it puts students’ interests, learning styles, and abilities first. Today, learning is dependent on the use of portable technology, mobile devices, and social media. The idea of student-centered pedagogy is to provide an environment students are familiar with and thrive in. Online learning is proving to be a valuable way to educate and train individuals. A recent study conducted by SRI International, for the Department of Education, determined that students who partake in online learning environments tend to outperform students who receive face-to-face instruction.

Academic learning and corporate training have two commonalities: First, they both include students who make up a multi-generational and multi-cultural learning environment. Because of corporate globalization, corporations are now expanding internationally. Therefore, instructors and trainers are required to consider age group and cultural diversity as factors in their teaching equation. Today’s workforce is comprised of multi-generational personnel: Members of the Baby Boomer generation, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z. Different generations have different belief systems, preferences about their workplace environments, learning styles, and technical knowledge. Moreover, they are used to different communication styles. However, studies indicate that all age groups are steadily increasing their use of social media.

The second commonality is the steady growth in social media popularity in the past decade and an increase in the popularity of social media in the past few years—not only in the United States, but internationally as well. Social media tools have proven to be more beneficial than originally anticipated and are no longer considered just to be fads. These tools (e.g., Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Wikis, Bloggers, Flickr, Skype, LinkedIn, and YouTube) are all becoming more popular—not only in educational institutions but in corporate environments as well. Some uses of social media include: global collaboration, student lecturing, customer or consumer feedback, knowledge sharing, one-on-one instruction, group communication, job recruitment, advertising, and learning. In fact, many schools now distribute tablets and e-readers instead of books, consumers tend to prefer e-books to paperback books, and e-books tend to outsell paperbacks during the holiday season. Heavy social media users are constantly receiving news briefs from online newspapers or magazines and advertisements of products and services—all with available links directing the reader to their website.

Social media has changed the way we communicate with one another on many levels. Could the popularity of social media factor into online students’ learning success? With diversity expanding in the classroom and social media use rising, it makes sense to assume today’s students will bring with them some experience with using social media. Social media is simply a recognizable opportunity for communication from which students and instructors can ultimately benefit.

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+Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger

Distance Learning Site @ BellaOnline
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