The Virtual Training Room of the 21st Century
By Nick Stanley, Managing Director, Tribal Group APAC
Whilst a challenge facing many schools and universities, the impact of Facebook on the corporate learning space is equally as profound and perplexing! And in some cases, more so…
Debates and usage bans on social media aside; research has found that people are already turning to networks as an extension to structured learning. In fact, figures from the education sector indicate that 59percent of students already use social media to discuss education topics online, while 50 percent of those who talk about education topics online talk specifically about school work. No doubt, the same applies for corporate learning.
Despite reports that younger users are drifting away towards mobile messaging apps, the popularity and reach of Facebook remains staggering, with over 15 million users in Australia alone.
The advent of social learning is unsurprising, considering the concept and deployment of VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) started decades ago. VLE is an online system that allows teachers to manage and share educational materials with their students. While VLE has become analogous with distance learning and home work, the benefits of online learning has transcended to effectively allow a more immersive and direct, 1:1 learning experience.
Weighing in on Facebook as a Learning Tool
Educators and corporations continue to harbour their own (and valid) apprehensions about the use of Facebook as a recognised component of syllabus, whether school, tertiary or corporate. Some argue that it is a distraction; others believe Facebook empowers learner procrastination and left unmanaged, will potentially make the learning process less effective compared to a more structured learning system.
From an administrative point of view, though, one major issue is rooted in the way that Facebook is insecure and immoderate, limiting control for the organization.
The lack of structure, boundaries and protocols can not only lead to poor quality content but also security threats. Organisations would be hard-pressed to maintain standards around corporate applications, including those that manage risks.
However, what remains evident is that the wide accessibility and social nature of Facebook as a platform is ideal for learner engagement. As Facebook’s user base and the frequency of access by Australians continue to grow, educators & trainers who dismiss Facebook based on privacy concerns are potentially missing an opportunity to harness social networking to inspire learners to engage and share using technology in a transparent manner.
With over 1.7B users, it’s potential as a medium to reach, excite and educate is unquestionable. While Australian school and corporate learning policies may not (yet) support its use, Facebook can and will be used by learners to meet, collaborate, share and learn. It is unavoidable that we must, at some point, develop methods to allow us to practically harness this platform.
Tips on Organisational use of Facebook for Effective Social Learning
To optimise the positive educational opportunities social media can offer learners as well as control the adverse elements, educators and trainers need to understand the platform to use it effectively.
- Create closed groups - Teachers can create a group and invite pupils to join the group by email, side-stepping the anxiety around teacher-student privacy. A closed group creates a space where students and teachers can collaborate on the platform, without needing to share access of personal profiles.
- Moderate – Learner engagement is a two-way street. You are more likely to achieve genuine participation and involvement through being proactively engaged your self. Moderation also allows inappropriate behavior and conduct to be controlled.
- Stay active – Active, not passive moderation goes a long way in ensuring students know you’re there and see the group as a virtual classroom and its purpose for learning. This also reinforces good behaviors and conduct.
- Look out – As with any physical classroom, staying aware and managing individual student behavior in the group is necessary to establish a positive classroom climate.
- Filter - Introducing keyword lists will serve to filter out inappropriate language for a learning environment. Profanity filters, however, do not apply to images so it’s critical to moderate external content and intervene as necessary.
- Feed - Use RSS feeds and subscribe to feeds so you are alerted regularly to new content.
- Share - Create a group to share your learning’s with other teachers.
- Accept – Whether you like it or not, they are probably going to use Facebook as part of their learning experience. Just like advising them on the physical environment they might encounter, we can introduce strategies to help them with the virtual environments they navigate daily.
If organisations can find a way to productively harness the good dimensions of the social network, the Facebook class room could prove to be a vital tool for organisation training and learning in the 21st century, a feat in the modern education experience.