December 12, 2010

Social Networking and Professional Education

By Nicole Hahn, Pharm.D., PGY2 Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Practice Resident, University of Maryland
There is no doubt that the popularity of social media sites has boomed in the last few years and with it has come new ways to communicate to and among students.  The London School of Business and Finance Global M.B.A. decided to capitalize on the success of Facebook by using the site as a vehicle to advertise their online M.B.A. program.  Students will be able to sign up for the program just as they join any other group by sharing their name, profile picture, Facebook ID, and list of friends.  Short (15 minute) online video presentations, Facebook discussions, and case study materials are provided for each course.  Unique to this program is the way in which tuition is paid.  Students have free access to all of the online study and collaboration tools and only pay when they want to take exams.   Similarly to other Facebook groups, students post comments on each other’s “walls” and this mechanism is used to provide feedback about courses.
As instructors, we are encouraged to recognize the different learning styles and preferences of our students.  And we should strive to structure our lesson plans to incorporate all of them.  What we sometimes fall short in accomplishing is appealing to what our students’ interests are.  It is amazing how people can remember every single word to a song on the radio they haven’t heard in years but struggle to remember concepts from a lecture they sat through just yesterday.  Or a student athlete who struggles in the classroom due to a learning disability but as the quarterback of his team, remembers and calls every offensive play.   So what is the difference described in these two examples?  A favorite song, a passion for playing a sport are activities that these individuals enjoy doing.

Today people of all ages enjoy keeping up with friends and family on social networking sites such as Facebook.  The online M.B.A. program at The London School of Business and Finance combines a social networking conduit with scholarly activity – joining an activity people enjoy doing to one they may struggle to motivate themselves to accomplish.  One of the most important steps in developing a lesson, course, or degree program is providing feedback.  Constructive feedback is very important for a teacher and being able to “post” on Facebook is a great incentive to get students to actually write meaningful feedback.  Educators in this program discovered that students began posting feedback without even prompting them to do so.

As we look ahead and postulate how online social networking can be applied to ourselves as educators, we should do so with caution.  There exists a very thin line in managing your own personal life and your professional career when using sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.  It takes some effort to prevent these two lives from crossing one another, but it is not impossible.  When used effectively, social networking sites may be appealing and useful to both to the educator and the learner.

Guttenplan DD. (2010 Nov 28). Poking, Tagging and Now Landing an M.B.A. The New York Times (New York, NY). 

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