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E-Learning and Social Networking

Posted on the 12 October 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

The internet is now so embedded in our daily lives that all generations are becoming digitally fluent. This has had a massive impact on the way we acquire knowledge and e-learning is on the rise across the all areas of education from school to university and workplace learning. A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel Development survey showed that 80 per cent of public sector organizations use e-learning and 49 per cent of private sector businesses. In higher education, 79 per cent of students access course-specific materials at least once a week and Web 2.0 is used to discuss coursework (73 per cent use social sites), source material and communicate with both peers and lecturers .It is now accepted that for technology to be used effectively in the learning process it must be led by firm educational principles rather than being driven by technology as an end in itself. This has led some experts to suggest that the term e-learning is replaced with something perceived as more inclusive such as interactive flexible learning . It’s also crucial to design learning solutions which users can get the best from instinctively. Expert Dr Matt Jones of the University of Swansea’s Future Interaction Technology Lab says that IT systems now play such a central role in modern life that ensuring they are designed so that their users interact more effectively with them is of paramount importance.The impact of technology on communicationUndoubtedly the internet and devices used to access the internet are having a dramatic impact on the way we interact with all our contacts, from our peers to organizations and educators. Increasing use of social networking tools is helping to increase engagement and learners’ well being. Online tools can help usually shy or unexpressive learners to shine through use of mechanisms such as learner-generated podcasts, video podcasts, Powerpoint presentations or online contributions to discussions. New technology can also encourage deep reflection: the thought required to developing a podcast or a blog can help to improve cognitive learning, lead to better critical thinking and deep learning.Today the relationship between learner and tutor is often less hierarchical and adopts more of a partnership approach, with formal meetings to review progress replaced by emails, ‘phone calls, texts or messages via a virtual learning environment. Most educators would agree that collaborative and blended learning approaches can help to ensure that the benefits of personal contact are combined with the undoubted benefits of elearning. Some distance elearning courses, for example, for dispersed workforces include ‘webinars’ or web seminars where the group interacts online with the tutor via text or webcam and text. Blended courses also include face-to-face sessions to encourage the group to bond and collaborate through activities such as away days or more formally in teaching sessions. And not all elements of the courses need to be online: many learners prefer to have hard copy documents, manuals or books which they can annotate and to use e-learning tools to participate in discussions and seminars online.Social aspects of learning such as wikis and online social networkingSocial networking is currently only used by a quarter of those on the internet but that figure is sure to rise. It was only four years ago in 2004 that Mark Zuckerberg developed a website which was the first iteration of the Facebook phenomena . In an indication of the growth in popularity of social networking sites, News Corp paid $580m for the parent company of MySpace in 2005 when it was just taking off and had a mere 17m members ; now it has an estimated 110m . Just two years later in 2007, Facebook was valued at an estimated $15bn . It is the UK’s number one social network with over 8 million users . Businesses are starting to use social networking tools for a variety of reasons from locating knowledge or experts within the organization to easing the path for new employees or to help post-merger bonding.Social software can encourage learners to use e-learning as a way to collaborate and take greater control of their own learning. Learners perhaps do need to be more self-motivated than previously – in universities and in the workplace alike they are encouraged to find their own materials via the web. Web 2.0 tools also open up more possibilities for informal learning and group learning, which follow the popular social constructivist pedagogy.Open source e-learning system Moodle was the creation of Martin Dougiamas, who holds graduate degrees in Computer Science and Education. Martin’s later Ph.D. studies examined “The use of Open Source software to support a social constructionist epistemology of teaching and learning within Internet-based communities of reflective inquiry” and this research has strongly influenced some of the design of Moodle, providing pedagogical aspects missing from many other e-learning platforms .Moodle can be used with social networking tools in various ways and embedding social networking within a learning management system avoids ‘death by navigation’, the switching between applications identified by IT industry analysts IDC as a major hidden cost in the use of technology . Embracing social networking and including it in course management systems will help to ensure social networking is used for learning as well as social reasons. Course developers can’t afford to ignore social networking: the single largest growing Facebook demographic is people over the age of 25 who “typically spend their waking hours in the corporate world” and Facebook records show that already 30,000 Microsoft employees and 20,000 Accenture employees are subscribers. It’s certainly here with a vengeance: technology research specialists Forrester predict that “enterprise 2.0″ will spend almost $5bn on social networking tools by 2013 .Author: Ray LawrenceArticle Source: EzineArticles.comProvided by: Credit card currency-exchange fees

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