Learning and Online Technology

The revolution in online technology and social media is strongly impacting every aspect of our lives. Education is not an exception.

To a certain extent, educational institutions are striving to cope with these technological advancements, by applying the relevant tools to their learning activities. Yet, there still is a long way for them to go.

Many universities, and other educational institutions, started partially replace their conventional classroom (face-to-face) learning activities with online learning management systems “LMS” technologies.
Applying these closed systems to the educational process has many benefits, including:
– Flexibility; as instructors can provide the learning materials in different formats for only once, which students can repetitively access at whenever time they find appropriate, from anywhere.
– Facilitated Collaboration; between instructors and students, as well as among students.
– Efficient students database management; including evaluations, assignments, and progress.
– Controlled environment; since these systems are closed, access is restricted only to instructors and enrolled students.
– Security: since access to the LMS is controlled, students are protected from being bullied by the public internet users. Also access of students is controlled so they are not exposed to inappropriate materials.
– Availability of technology support.

In recent years, social media has grown rapidly, in many forms (including social networking, blogs, and multimedia sharing). Uses of these platforms have developed widely extending to a variety of areas, including education.

The introduction of open social media as a learning tool has revolutionized the education process. Learning through these open platforms has the following benefits:
– Improved Communication
– Ease of access to information
– Large population involved in the learning process
– High flexibility
– Students are already familiar with social media
– Cost Efficiency
Yet, there are still some risks and limitations associated with using open social media in the education process, including:
– Threats to privacy; noting that this can be monitored and controlled to some extent by adjusting the privacy settings of the tools used.
– Access to inappropriate materials; where students may be exposed to materials not appropriate to their age.
– Poor management of assignments and students evaluation.
– Lack of sufficient support.

Some institutions have applied the concept of blended learning, where both closed LMS and open social media tools may be combined into the educational process along with face-to-face learning. The best combination is contingent to the learning needs, and varies from one situation to another.

Given the benefits and risks associated with applying both systems, educational institutions and instructors have to realize that the existence of social media as a learning tool is a fact that they need to accept and cope with. Students are already using social media any way, which constitutes a significant part of their lives.

More research is needed to achieve the best results from using social media platforms as learning tools.

Written by:
Hattem AlHajery, CMA.