NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Game Changer

September 14, 2012

Social networking has revolutionized the way people connect and conduct everyday business. It only makes sense that educators take advantage of social networking to enhance the learning experience for students across the country. For example, Grockit, among many other companies, is changing the way students prep for tests and study by making it more convenient and social, says Michael B. Horn, the cofounder and executive director of Education of Innosight Institute.

Students can sign up through Facebook or Grockit directly and work through questions or watch tutor-recorded videos for help. Additionally, students can enter group mode and study with friends on Facebook. This allows students to get feedback on how they're doing and see their scores and overall improvement on a subject.

There are many advantages to using a social platform for learning:

  • A social learning experience prompts students to study longer and answer more questions correctly.
  • Additionally, they can compete against their friends to do better by showing off badges and other awards they earn.
  • Richard Light, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has reported that students' ability to participate in small study groups influences their success in college more than multiple other factors.

One obstacle is that a majority of schools block students from accessing Facebook at school, which inhibits the ability to learn on Grockit. However, another company, Edmodo, is a separate platform that allows educators to share content, access homework, grades and participate in class discussions online.

Critics point out that Edmodo furthers the concept of one-teacher-to-many-students, but because it is free and cloud-based, a teacher can organize a full course that all students can access readily and easily.

Another company that offers similar services is Sophia Learning. Similar to the Khan Academy, Sophia Learning puts thousands of instructional videos on its websites covering many subjects that are taught in schools. The difference is that it the subjects are taught in many different ways by many different instructors.

The jury is still out on the efficacy of social learning on a student's performance, but early results seem promising. Students are cited as being more engaged and showing improvement. Furthermore, social learning reduces pressures on both families and educators because of the reduced costs and ease of access.

Source: Michael B. Horn, "Game Changer," EducationNext, Fall 2012.


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