Can social media enhance the MOOC experience?

More isn’t always better

One of the other main issues respondents had with using social media during the MOOC was the confusion on which platform to turn to, since not everyone had time to check all three platforms.

“It’s a time issue,” said one participant. “You know, you’re looking on the community and Twitter and all of the social things, and you end up tearing off your actual course work.”

Other participants said confusion was also a barrier to using social media, with one explaining that “While it is great to encourage using other forums outside the CourseSites to collaborate, it created more confusion as we did not know where to go to stay in touch. Encouraging a set place as a common thread would have been helpful at the start.”

“Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter should be viewed by MOOC designers as an addition to a LMS rather than a substitution,” said researchers. “Social media should ideally serve complementary purposed to a LMS, ensuring that material is not duplicated…It may be worth, for example, incorporating a Twitter feed directly into the LMS site, thereby opening access up to all participants and avoiding the requirement of logging into yet another social media site.”

Researchers also noted that online designers need to make sure that participants are not given too many social media options, “as more is not always better. Instead, more options may lead to confusion, intimidation, and learners who log off altogether.”

Explain the Benefits

For those participants who did use social media and found value in using outside platforms, improved learning outcomes thanks to facilitated discussion and work sharing with peers and moderators, as well as networking opportunities with learners around the world, were two of the benefits most cited.

However, for those participants who chose not to engage with social media platforms, many cited social media as a “waste of time,” both inside the MOOC (LMS) and outside (Facebook and Twitter).

Many of the participants who echoed this sentiment also noted feeling unfamiliar with the platforms.

Along with providing a basic introduction to these platforms, “it [also] may be useful to outline in detail to students the contributions that social learning can bring to a MOOC and, indeed, to any online learning environment,” wrote the researchers. “Those who believe that conversations on social media are a waste of time may view things differently if they understand how conversations and knowledge sharing with their peers can support their learning experiences.”

For much more detailed information, including the design of the CD MOOC, methodology, findings, and researcher background, read “The Space for Social Media in Structured Online Learning.”