Creating value from social networking

Updated: Sep 2 2014, 04:21am hrs
Continuous improvements in personal technology and the growth of online communities have redefined what it means to be social and, consequently, this is re-exploring what it means to teach and be taught. Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest push people to connect, share information, collaborate and develop relationships. However, they can also give the means to wander without direction, discovering people and information that may not serve any value when it comes to learning.

Having said that, there is no denying that people have woven these networks into their everyday lives. About 72% of all internet users are now active on social media and, of this, 18-29-year-olds have an 89% usage. Even the 30-49-year-olds group sits at 72% and almost 60% of 50-60-year-olds are active on social networking sites. If global trends are to be believed, as per comScore, the time spent using social tools by young audience increased by more than 62% (from 1 out of 13 minutes to 1 out of 8) between 2011 and 2012. This means use of the more traditional web fell by more than 500 million hours during the same period.

Todays active web users or digital natives are demanding pupils who would prefer to be benefited from social networking. Even researchers and academicians are observing the benefits of social networking in higher education. Therefore, there is need to explore how best these social networking technologies can be utilised in educational settings.

The primary edge that learning through social networks provides is two-way interactive communication, something which the multitudes of e-learning platforms have failed to offer. Learning can be course-centric as well as informal, without a pre-defined leader or curriculum, when topics originate organically from the learners themselvesfor example, a group of students who get together to study for an upcoming test or just learn something new. They can get their queries answered by the best of minds in the space, ranging from students, professors as well as non-academicians. Many websites and apps have pre-defined filtering tools in place to whiz out non-credible and non-valuable information.

A lot of social learning portals are coming into existence to satisfy the learning hunger of the youth and facilitate knowledge swapping among the audience. These portals operate on the idea that everyone is a teacher and should contribute the best of their knowledge with others. Couple of similar platforms are already making noise in the West, such as EFL Classroom 2.0 (a community of thousands of English learners and teachers) and Life Pulp (a social networking website to enrich the user skills via a great deal of motivational content).

Establishing education-based social networks which are non-commercial is another hook which is making them popular amongst the student fraternity. A lot of e-platforms are giving special focus to address the privacy and safety concerns of educators and academicians which allow the experts as well as non-experts to fully exploit the space. To sum it up, these platforms are serving the crying need to make the web more productive and help in developing 21st century competencies. How best people can utilise their presence on the social media is totally up to them. Social networks for learning is not just a fad that will die out soon enough; it is the future.

Sumit Maniyar

The author is CFA and co-founder of Function Space, a social learning network