5 things Facebook can teach us about elearning

Guest PostFacebook is an Internet phenomenon. It launched to a small group of Harvard students in 2004 and now has millions of users worldwide. Although elearning is popular, it has not had the kind of widespread acceptance with the general public that Facebook has seen. Let’s take a look at a 5 things Facebook can teach us about elearning.

1. Anyone can do it.

One reason people give for not wanting to participate in elearning is that they aren’t good with computers or technology. According to Inside Facebook, Facebook’s fastest growing demographic is women over 55. I’ll never forget the surprise I had when I logged into Facebook and saw that I had a friend request from my mother. MY MOM IS ON FACEBOOK! I was shocked. If she has the ability to create an account, upload pictures, make status updates, and everything else she’s been doing on Facebook, why can’t she take an elearning course?

2. People don’t mind spending time online.

Another complaint I’ve heard about elearning is that people don’t like spending that much time on the computer. If you take a look at Nielsen’s Online Ratings, you’ll see that the average Facebook user spent almost 6 hours on the site in December. If someone can spend 6 hours a month updating their status, viewing photos, and participating in virtual pillow fights, they should be able to spend time participating in elearning.

3. Evolution is critical.

Facebook is constantly changing and improving. They add features that are needed and take away features that people don’t like or don’t use. They change the layout to help improve the user experience, even though everyone doesn’t always agree.  Elearning must take a similar approach for the content and the experience to remain relevant. Elearning must take advantage of the latest technology, make changes based on user feedback, and keep content up to date in order to improve the overall experience.

4. An active facilitator is not necessary.

Elearning proponents often talk about the need for an active facilitator to help create a thriving online community. Facebook blows this theory out of the water. Facebook has an extremely active and constantly growing community without having someone in charge of making sure everyone is participating. However, there is some facilitation programmed into the system. It might make a suggestion about adding a new friend or contacting someone you haven’t messaged in a while, but there is no live person checking to make sure you do these things.

5. It’s not for everyone.

I know I said earlier that anyone can do it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to do it. Even with over 300 million Facebook users, there are still people who just don’t get it. I know several people who have signed up for an account, spent some time looking around, and then never returned. The same applies to elearning. It just doesn’t seem to fit with some people’s learning style.

So, if you are involved in the development of elearning, keep these things in mind. They might help it improve. If you can think of other things that Facebook can teach us about elearning (good or bad) please post them in the comments.

Guest Blogger: Joey Weaver teaches Computer Technology to high school students at Kansas Career & Technology Center in Memphis, TN. He is currently working on a Master’s degree in Instructional Design & Technology at the University of Memphis.

Image courtesy of Befitt at http://www.flickr.com/photos/befitt/3786204929/