SOCIAL NETWORK MEDIA IN A DISTANCE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR ELEARNING AND PEER TO PEER SUPPORT: THE NIGERIA DISTANCE LEARNING PROJECT
This study emanates from a distance learning portal service rendered for some distance learning institutions in Nigeria.
The deductions from the observations made from the learning process via the peer to peer support provided by various social network media, was an eye opener in the learning environment. The author felt it was imperative and also crucial to take these observations further by doing a study. It also serves as a stimuli for the academic communities, especially tertiary institutions, to impact the pedagogic process and to enhance online collaboration among students and tutors. The last two years has seen the rapid growth of the social network media in supporting learning and information sharing. Most e-learning and technological Education driven conferences are abuzz with them and open resource tools.
The purpose of this study is to expose social network media as a positive tool that can enhance the teaching/ learning process as well as the pedagogic environment particularly in distance learning to improve student learner support (peer to peer support, collaborative learning, tutor to student aspect etc). The Nigeria distance learning project provides a good platform for this study as it covers the 7 institutions. The drivers of the projects are the National Universities Commission, the British Council, the Open University of UK with SchulPortals Technologies Ltd as the indigenous technical partner.
Three elements make up the important concept in social learning: a technology platform, a vibrant community and a great content. The methodology focuses on two themes based on a selected review of the research literature as well as the author's observations from online polls conducted online for applicants into distance learning programs distance learning institutions in Nigeria.
It was observed that the social network media (such as facebook, twitter etc) can serve as direct and indirect students learner support tools for collaborative learning, an avenue for providing validation of creative work, peer to peer support, peer-alumni support for school-life transitions, and help with school-related tasks. It also stimulates social and civic benefits, online and offline, which has implications for education. Recent studies show trends of newer web technologies, improved learning tools with appropriate technologies for information sharing and students support for informal learning .
The findings showed the preference of online interaction integrated with periodic face-to-face student-tutor interaction. It was also observed that a lot of the newer entrants into programs were quicker to form groups and support on facebook and Blackberry than the older ones.
This paper presents, in a clear pattern, how social network sites, typically seen as a distraction and having many schools screening them off their network, might be re-envisioned as supports for revised student learning outcomes. This study also tests the electronic readiness of our numerous applicants and students away from the assumption that they are internet natives and their teachers are internet immigrants.The results of this study, sadly, proves this axiom.