Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reflections on Social Media, Adult Education and the Educator's Role

With the introduction of Social Media into the classroom and the curriculum, it has become apparent that the role of the instructor has changed in many ways. It has been over 10 years since I went to university and was first introduced to email.  Professors and TAs had set office hours where students could contact them or come to their office to have questions answered.  Lectures were teacher focused and they were the main sources of information for the course. Independent research was done in the library and the goal was to find journal articles about the topic.  Yes, things were very different than today with regard to adult education.

During my web-conference with my learning partner, Cara, we discussed how different the role of educator has changed from how we remembered it.  Online learning has grown leaps and bounds and the educator's role has had to evolve to changes that Social Media has brought to the delivery of learning.  At the same time, it has allowed the learner to take courses/classes that would never have been possible due to life's responsibilities/work/distance to a learning institution.

Today, the instructor has become a facilitator in the classroom by helping to clarify or sort the information for the students.  I experienced this first hand with my recent first online course in which the instructor presented us with the topic for the week and the list of learning outcomes.  We were then given 3 discussion questions and assigned a role of either a discussion starter or a responder. Discussion starters would research and post their findings/answers on the message board and then the responder would read the post and add their comments/feedback/questions.  In addition, the discussion starter had to formulate two additional questions about the topic and pose it to the responders.  The instructor's role was to check the progress of the online discussions and provide further information, clarify or pose another question. At the end of the week, the discussion starter would post a summary of the week's discussion and the instructor would comment on the summary.

This experience gave me the chance to control my participation in the learning process and gave me greater autonomy rather than sitting and watching an online lecture about what I needed to know.  What a very different learning experience from what I remembered in the classroom and how I got so much more out of the course for the simple reason that I had to seek out the information and report back to the discussion board for my peers to review.

Social Media has also allowed instructors to be more accessible whether the student lives in the same city, province or country.  But at the same token, students from all different education backgrounds, experience and learning styles are now able to enrol in classes that were once not available.  Educators have to be accommodating to the variety of students than are now in their classrooms and help to ensure that all the students have a certain level of competency with the technology in order to complete the course by taking on the role of being a coach.  In addition, educators are now expected to be readily available to answer inquiries.  With Facebook and Twitter, questions can be posed at any time and there is an expectation that the response time will be quick and immediate.

The role of the educator has changed and evolved over the past decade from a teacher focused approach to a student centred approach.  Instructors are now facilitators of information and coaches of the new technology which has also made them far more accessible to students.


Abe, P. & Jordan, N. A. (2013).  Integrating Social Media Into the Classroom Curriculum.  About Campus, 18: 16-20. doi: 10.1002/abc.21107

Integrating Social Media Into the Classroom Curriculum

LeNoue, M., Hall, T., & Eighmy, M. A. (2011).  Adult Education and the Social Media Revolution.  Adult Learning. Spring 2011, Vol. 22 Issue 2, p4-12. 9p.

Adult Education and the Social Media Revolution