Online media can be a powerful learning tool
Used the right way, online media can be a powerful learning
tool. Photo: K. Ananthan Search, connect, share and study academic learning has
now acquired a collaborative dimension, thanks to immense resource potential of
social networking sites.
It is now an almost impulsive act for many - turning on the computer and logging
on to Facebook and Twitter. College students may say a quick ‘hi' to friends or
check out new photographs and updates, but after that it is not merely campus gossip
or the canteen fare that figure in their social networking activity. There is academic
work happening too. Students are putting to use the immense potential provided by
social networking platforms to extend their classroom discussions to cyberspace.
They connect to resources, collaborate in study and share information through social
media. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs are all finding their way to classrooms
or rather classrooms are finding their way into these sites. Instant connectivity
to resources, collaborating and sharing the information is key to making use of
these online media.
Thillai Rajan, associate professor, department of management studies (DoMS), IIT-Madras,
recounts how one of his Ph.D students used a social networking site to identify
the right methodology to be used for her research. "A student searched for other
people who are working on similar research and contacted them to clarify her doubts,"
he adds. The use of web to elicit views from students has also helped many a college
process become democratic. "With most cultural fests becoming completely student-organised,
it has become easy for us to gather what students feel through Facebook. Right from
what music shows they would want to what events they would like, taking a poll on
the Net and considering the views makes the fest better and the activity engaging.
Moreover, this way, participation levels have also increased among students in college
affairs," says Vaibhav Krishna, a student of VIT University.
Besides researchers, even undergraduate students share information on the Net. K.
Yashwant, a second-year M. S. Electrical Engineering student, IIT-Madras, submits
his assignments, reads class notes and clarifies doubts through discussion threads
- all using a course management software moodle.org. "We no longer need to submit
sheets or pen drive to our faculty members. It's all online and convenient," he
says. Deciding on the future course of study, choosing the right institute is another
area for which the power of such medium can be harnessed. Students form groups to
discuss their GRE or TOEFL scores, understand which universities and courses they
are eligible to apply for and also to get in touch with the alumni to seek advice.
"For every application we need to shell out a significant sum of money. So it would
work out better if we can contact people who have been through the entire process,"
says Yashwant. Often, the process doesn't end here. Students who have got admission
to a particular university can also form an interest group and discuss about moving
to the new place and settling down.
Similarly, LinkedIn is one of the websites that more and more students are getting
hooked to for making professional contacts. Students remain connected with their
faculty members who can give recommendation on the website. This profile is just
passed on to a prospective employer or college for admission. Student-organised
cultural and tech fests are also being advertised and promoted extensively online
There are other things faculty members are experimenting with in these networking
sites to reach out to students. "After every class, I ask my students to give the
summary of what was taught in class in blogger.com. It is not compulsory for students
to attend the class, but they would at least take that extra effort of finding out
what was taught in class on the same day," says Ravindra Dastikop, Director, Centre
for Web 2.0 Enabled Learning, SDM College of Engineering and Technology. Besides
this he asks his students to post a question on Facebook and all the others would
try to answer; also they need to choose the best answer for which they are given
credits. "In this way every student reads his classmates' answers and in the process
a corpus of information is created," he says. For the next generation, developing
the socio-technical skills in using these media not just to elicit information,
but to develop research skills, participatory skills, interpreting skills is key.
So next time teachers complain about students getting hooked to social networking
sites, teach them to use it the right way!
Courtesy: The Hindu