As Adult Education programs struggle to manage shrinking budgets, many are looking “outside the box” for ways to increase funding. In fact, many programs have started to look into utilizing social media as a fundraising tool.
However, employing social media within Adult Education can have benefits beyond merely fundraising. Creating a social network can also have a positive impact on student retention and motivation, as well as promote learning through new platforms.
Extensive research has been conducted on the effectiveness of social media in education, specifically on the adult learner. It seems that both positive and negative effects are present. In his research paper, Ben Akoh says that social media is “disruptive, and at the same time creative, in ways that challenge existing structures and causes us to rethink society and how we learn, work and play.” In the end, however, it seems that the positives consistently outweigh the negatives.
The key to success lies in finding the most productive and useful application for these tools. The authors of a MacArthur Foundation white paper observe that social networking is most effective when educators can “link learners with others who might share their interests or – encourage students to publish works – [for] a larger audience.” In essence, promoting social media as a networking and collaboration tool can provide an outlet for adult students with far-reaching benefits. Not only may this open a door into a new world, the experiences a student has here may lead to new interests and future job opportunities.
There are some main pieces that make up the networks of social media:
- Facebook allows for two-way communication between your program and its biggest fans. You can share articles, photos and videos, and even conduct polls and contests. There is even a page dedicated to Adult Education: https://www.facebook.com/FBinAdultEducation.
CLASSROOM PROJECT: Create a Facebook page for your program to share successes, broadcast upcoming events and invite donations. Encourage “friends” to like and share your page to further broaden its reach.
- Twitter allows short updates with the ability to tag other people, ideas or programs and link to other sites.
CLASSROOM PROJECT: Twitter broadcasts short “headlines” to capture the interest of your followers. Utilize this stage to draw individuals into videos, in-depth articles or links to other sites, including your Facebook page or program website.
- Skype allows you to speak to, see, and instantly message other people. Within the latest versions, you can even try out group video. Most of the services on Skype are free and allow students to stay connected and engaged in learning.
CLASSROOM PROJECT: Make a live connection with distance learning students or keep in touch with students outside traditional class time.
- twiducate is a private networking site that only teachers and students may view, thus creating a private network for you and your students and a safer online learning environment. This means you can utilize twiducate to promote social networking within safe confines and without concern that the general public will read or contribute to the discussion. The disadvantage may be a lack of new ideas and experiences that can come with opening a site to the world.
CLASSROOM PROJECT: Have your students answer questions, collaborate on projects and gain experience embedding pictures and videos, all while you maintain control over the content.
- YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch, and share originally-created videos.
CLASSROOM PROJECT: Post videos of your lectures on YouTube with permission that will allow everyone, or only viewers you invite, access to your material. Search the millions of videos to find discussions, demonstrations or current events and embed these into your other web sites and pages.
- LinkedIn’s mission is simple: connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. Of all social media discussed and listed here, LinkedIn may prove to have the greatest impact on the future success of your student. LinkedIn is a network that allows students, instructors and area businesses to connect.
CLASSROOM PROJECT: Empower your students to become familiar with creating their own page, making connections with other professionals, building an online resume and generating referrals and endorsements to boost their profile.
Remember that the most important piece in making these platforms effective tools is the timeliness of the information. Make a commitment to keeping all material relevant and timely. Make this an even more effective learning tool by assigning routine tasks to students. Encourage them to share their thought, ideas, pictures and videos. Multiple “voices” improve the interest and dimension to your platform.