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:
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.
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.
CLASSROOM PROJECT: Make a live connection with distance learning students or keep in touch with students outside traditional class time.
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.
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.
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.