Traditional classroom studies have been more or less the only language learning solution for centuries, but it all changed so drastically in the last couple of decades. Today, we have many different ways to master a foreign language, from classical textbooks and online teaching courses all the way to social media learning.
Social platforms such as Facebook or YouTube are getting increasingly popular these days because they perfectly supplement the old learning methods. But how does it really work? Should you incorporate social networks into eLearning?
It's not a simple issue, but we will try to give you a clear answer by the end of the post. Keep reading to see the basics of learning languages using social media.
How to use social networks for eLearning?
With so many social networks available out there, most teachers are not sure of how to take advantage of the new learning tools. For this reason, we begin by showing you the peculiarities and the advantages of each platform individually. Let's check them out:
With over two billion monthly active users, Facebook represents the largest social media in the world. Much of its popularity comes from the fact that it's so versatile, offering multimedia content, groups, pages, messengers, and many other features. You can use Facebook to create a language learning page where you are free to share documents, discuss different concepts, provide pupils with assignment writing help, collaborate, etc.
YouTube is the absolute king of video content. Users publish hundreds of hours of materials every day, so why wouldn't you do it as well? The platform is ideal for video lessons that your students can watch whenever they want. YouTube already has thousands of language learning clips, so you can find the ones that suit your curriculum or even create videos by yourself.
Although some people don't believe Instagram is the right tool for learning a foreign language, you would be surprised to see how effective it is at engaging users. Namely, people are visual beings who process images much faster than plain text. Instagram allows you to publish memorable photos along with brief captions that explain certain words or concepts. That way, your students are much more likely to remember difficult terms or phrases.
If you are interested in micro-learning, then Twitter might as well be the best option for you. This platform is perfect for small language learning lessons coming in short bursts of information. With its 280-character limit, it is by far the simplest way to encourage group discussions without letting anyone suffocate the conversation.
Generally speaking, LinkedIn is not the greatest learning environment, but it is useful for advanced teaching groups. The network gathers professionals from all fields of work, so you can utilize it to form specialized learning groups. For instance, you can create a group for medicine-oriented language learners or users who need to perfect their business English.
Although it's not a standard social media format, Skype is a valuable communication channel for smaller learning groups or individual studies. In case you can't organize a classroom type of lecture, you can always make a conference call with multiple participants.
7. Google Docs
Google Docs is another amazing collaboration tool that gives mentors the opportunity to monitor and evaluate students' work in a real-time environment. Although it's not meant to be a professional writer service, Google Docs is a convenient solution if you want to track content changes and make corrections as it happens, thus making the digital learning experience more dynamic and interactive.
The basic principles of using social media for eLearning
Now you know how to use the major social platforms to improve language learning experiences, but do you know how to plan and prepare for the actual execution? It's not a simple process since you need to figure out the basic principles of using social media for eLearning. There are some ground rules you need to keep an eye on here, so make sure to remember the following:
Determine the ground rules. Each classroom (offline or online) has to respect a set of ground rules. As a mentor, you are the one who needs to determine the general principles of social media behavior and highlight what you consider to be inappropriate behavior. For instance, you can prevent swearing and other sorts of dirty words. Besides that, you can also make a list of topics that no one should write about (such as politics).
Instructions for beginners. As new users keep joining your social media groups, you need to make things clear for them and get them acquainted with the way this service operates. First of all, some of your students may not be tech gurus, so don't forget to discuss the social media fundamentals: pages, groups, messengers, content, etc. Secondly, social media groups may have a lot of participants, so you have to help newbies by explaining how things work here and how they can contribute to the digital learning process.
Ease of access. Another thing you need to pay attention to is accessibility. Since you are not the one who controls user interface, you must organize learning materials in a way that enables effortless accessibility. Everything a user might need should be within a few clicks. Don't force them to search for content for too long, but rather make it all transparent and categorize each unit logically.
Force them to use social media. If you are having a hard time trying to convince some students to join social learning groups, you might as well force them to join the party. How come? Well, the idea is simple – you can publish some materials on social pages exclusively. That way, students who really want to perfect a foreign language won't have a choice but to take part in these groups.
Group activity. There is one little detail that makes social learning so special. It is the fact that all participants are equal in social media groups. Namely, lots of people are more willing to engage and interact with their peers online, particularly because they understand that teachers don't have such a major impact on their activities in the digital ambiance.
Moderation. Although you can't control students the same way you do it in the classroom, you still have to moderate teamwork and coordinate their activities. You are an online watchdog who prevents moving away from the planned course of action, especially if you notice some members of the group trying to take a different course.
Pros and cons of using social media for language learning
Learning languages using social media is not so lopsided after all. There are a lot of advantages, but we must not neglect the downsides, too. Let's check out the positive aspects firstly:
Accessibility. We already mentioned that billions of people use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. All these networks are highly accessible, while mobile apps make participation even simpler. In such circumstances, it would be a mistake not to incorporate social media into eLearning.
Familiarity. Unlike traditional classrooms or online courses, social media are not a novelty for modern students. They are familiar with the digital environment and feel comfortable out there, which means you won't have a problem inspiring them to engage.
Multimedia. Social media content comes in multiple formats. While traditional learning sources are text-only, you can use online teaching to publish all sorts of materials, from images and infographics to eBooks, charts, and video clips.
Interactivity. Social media learning is fostering interactivity. Namely, people are often too shy to engage in face-to-face conversations, but they don't feel the same sort of pressure online.
Real-life language. Another advantage of social eLearning is that students get to learn a real-life language. As you probably know already, every language is different when you compare textbook examples and everyday speech. Learning online, students get acquainted with jargons and colloquialisms used in real life.
Related read: How to Use the Power of Gamification in e-Learning
You've seen the benefits of combining social networks with language learning, but let's see the cons, too:
Lack of organization. It's impossible to study a foreign language using social platforms alone. No matter how good, Facebook or Twitter groups lack organization and structure needed for the successful step-by-step learning.
Learn incorrectly. As much as it is great to figure out the colloquial speech or jargon, it doesn't change the fact that there are tons of incorrect learning materials orbiting around social study groups. Only the best tutors and moderators can keep track of all materials and remove content coming from a writer who is not doing it appropriately.
Distractions. Needless to say, social networks are built as entertainment channels, so it's easy to get distracted. Some students can never get over this issue because they always end up watching random Facebook content or checking out irrelevant YouTube video content.
There are many ways to learn a new language, but social media represent one of the newest solutions in this field. You can use platforms such as Facebook or YouTube to make the lessons more engaging and immerse your students into the studying process.
After everything we've said here, the real issue is not whether you should incorporate social platforms into eLearning, but rather how to do it most effectively. We don't recommend you to rely on social media as the primary learning tool, but you should definitely use it to augment the studies and boost the performance of your students.
This is a guest post by Tiffany Harper. Tiffany is a talented writer from New York, an extremely active woman, and a real leader. She began her career very early as a journalist in the publishing house and later proceeded as writer and editor. Now she works as an experienced expert with custom paper writing service, mostly in business and eLearning technologies. Please do not hesitate to contact her on Twitter.