Social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and others) have created enormous interest among educators to use it as an agent of change in teaching and learning practice because of its openness, interactivity, and sociability. As net generation students highly rely on social media for information and collaboration, educators are in pursuit of various ways to integrate social media in education.
Instructors and managers in different institutions and organizations can utilise social media as a networking and learning platform to build connections and to advance collaboration. Interaction is alleged to impact positively on learning outcome and social media promotes interaction.
Moreover, social media has a unique advantage in communication and connecting students with faculties in a virtual community. Hrastinski & Aghaee (2012) in their research found that most of the students use social media mostly for 1) quick questions and answers, 2) coordinate group work, 3) retrieve information from external sources, and 4) share documents.Studies showed that faculties and students both are effectively active in social media for their personal communication. Hence, channelizing the use of social media for academic connections and collaboration can act as a supporting tool in learning and teaching along with traditional learning management system (LMS).
Nevertheless, Hrastinski & Aghaee (2016) found the tension of “Digital dissonance” (Clark et al. 2009) among the higher education students in their study. Students are not apparent about the educational benefits of social media. They are unaware of how to take the best advantage of social media. Educators can guide students in deciding their preferences. Students should have control on why, how, and to what extent they should combine or separate the personal and professional domain. Correct assimilation of educational purpose in social media could make the learning process of students more collaborative and flexible. Teachers can play a key role here in supporting students according to their preferences to address the potential educational application of social media.
The open and friendly relationship among teachers and students creates a more interactive and collaborative learning environment. Social media can act as a facilitative platform to induce such culture in university education. Social network can be a resource for the faculties to move towards learner-centeredness from teacher-centeredness that will create powerful opportunities for learning.
To sum up, a teacher can act as a guide in assisting students on how they can build connections and collaboration using social media and how positively it can add value to their overall learning outcome. The combination of face to face class, learning management system and social media can design the best next-generation learning environment.