THE USE OF SOCIAL NETWORKS AS SUPPORT TOOLS TO IMPROVE TEACHING-LEARNING PROCESS IN UNIVERSITIES
European Universities are involved in the convergence towards the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), to create more comparable, compatible and coherent systems of higher education in Europe. The EHEA offers Universities the opportunity to, not only redesign the study plans, but also to enhance the learning process with the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). ICTs offer us a wide range of possibilities to generate new teaching methodologies, materials, etc. The difficulties of students and teachers to get familiar to new ICT applications are barriers to the introduction of these technologies. In particular, students prefer those ICT tools that they daily use in their leisure time, instead of those specifically designed as learning platforms. Nowadays there are some ICTs tools that have become true global social phenomena, but they are still far for becoming tools for educational purposes. This is the case of social networks. A social network is a ICTs tool designed under a web platform that offers many services: chat, email, forums, photo galleries, etc. They are used for all kinds of purposes: to reunite lost friendships, support all kind of causes, events, etc. The extraordinary ability to communicate and make contact has led to them entering the lives of many people who just a few years ago were completely outside the Internet world. The use of social networks in university can open doors to new models of university teaching-learning: models that support real-time communication, students’ participation, transfer of knowledge, student initiative, etc., i.e. the University 2.0 model, where the student is no longer a mere recipient of contents, is now a user that interacts. This work addresses the use of the social network Facebook and Twitter as support teaching tools to improve teaching-learning process in a university subject. We created a pilot in Facebook (Facebook page), linked to Twitter, to support teaching of the compulsory subject Laboratory of Network Communication Services, a second year subject of Telematics Engineering degree, at Technical University of Cartagena (UPCT). After a year of pilot, results have shown the use of this platform by students was a success: 98% of students enrolled in the subject, also enrolled in the social network page. Results showed that students are interested in the information the teacher publishes on the page, the site was visited regularly, and all teaching information (explanatory videos, reporting notes, etc.) were displayed quite frequency. Results also showed that teacher-student interaction is not limited to those days when the teacher taught the master class, but it can be every day at any time. Although results were satisfactory, we cannot forget that for teachers, running a page on a social network is an extra job: to find contents, to prepare teaching material in the appropriate format, to track and moderate student interventions, etc. In addition, social network page does not replace traditional lectures, while teaching platforms do it. Therefore, social networks must be understood as another ICT tool which makes better the teacher-student interaction, and, although they may not ensure that students get a better understanding of the contents of a subject, but whether they promote the positive attitude of students towards the subjects, and allow greater interaction of teachers and students, as well as a more personal an close personalized attention.