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The virtual study group

The virtual study group
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A recent survey conducted by the research body Pearson Learning Solutions revealed that teaching faculty all over the world has been increasingly...

A recent survey conducted by the research body Pearson Learning Solutions revealed that teaching faculty all over the world has been increasingly taking a keen interest in leveraging social media for educational purposes. Around 59 per cent of educators believe that mobile technologies are also furthering the cause of learning among students.

While social media comes tagged with potential distractions, it can also be harnessed to enable efficient communication among students and teachers. Many educational institutions are taking to social media to reach out to their students. Over 84 per cent of schools and colleges across the country use social media to declare events, distribute study material, conduct virtual tours and alumni meets. Parents too have joined the frenzy of social media communication to track the progress of their pupils and receive instant feedback.

Among popularly used tools are Facebook, Watsapp and Skype. Talk to students from Hamstech Institute, Hyderabad, and their social interaction would reveal the role these tools play in their academic lives. “Interior designing is a creative field and everybody has their own idea of creativity. Sharing work material not only helps us improvise it but also reduces the chances of duplicity in assignments”, says Smriti Malpani, a first year interior designing student.

She adds that classroom lectures are recorded and shared on various social media groups to help absentees catch up with lessons. Mamta, a first year B-tech student explains how some pupils sidestep the grueling process of attending regular classes and maintaining notes to take refuge in group chats or facebook pages.

“These groups are active especially during exams. It is commonly known that only a handful of students attend classes regularly. During exams, the group admin collects these notes and shares it on the page for everyone to study”. Students of Journalism, Osmania University, say that they take to the social media to conduct extensive debates on subjects and hold peer discussions.

Skype takes this kind of communication to another level by allowing groups to personally video chat and brainstorm over important subjects. Anitha from MG Law College states that preparation for exams has become easier with the use of Skype. “We video chat over Skype to help each other understand important subjects. We are able to form self study circles and clear our doubts instantly”, she says.

However, some faculty members opine that a closed group chat or page restricted to students alone compromises the quality of discussion and the credibility of their source material. “Social media surely aids in education. But since the faculty is rarely privy to the information and material massively circulated through chats and groups, there is little we can do if students are learning it wrong.

If we can have access to the material students use, we can better help in their preparation” says Karnam Narendar, a faculty of Journalism from Osmania University. But he also points out to an undeniable advantage, “Social media is the best platform to express opinions or ask doubts, especially for students who are hesitant or shy to participate in live class activities”, he says. It is not all hunky dory for students who solely depend on social media study groups for their exam preparations.

The quality of study in such circles is only as good as the active members in any group. Should the better ones mistakenly or deliberately omit sharing of important material, an entire group can be mislead or remain uninformed on study matters. Though, students and faculty have the power to access one another even outside the classroom, there are clear disadvantages and pitfalls that need to be taken care of least the blind ends up leading the blind.

By:Vaishnavi Girish

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