The rise in popularity of social networks, most notably Twitter and Facebook, really became significant from around 2008. These can be seen as an effective means of combining the preceding elements, as they encourage easy sharing, connections and combinations of media. The use of social networks in education is varied, from individual educators having popular Twitter accounts, to course-specific feeds on Google Plus, to Facebook pages for universities or subject areas.
You will undoubtedly have your own opinion regarding social networks and their use in education. For open education they have been significant for a number of reasons:
- They facilitated the connections between peers, which gave rise to some of the significant open education developments. (For instance, the early adopters of MOOCs were all active on social networks and in contact with each other.)
- They provided some of the tools for use in open education. For instance, Twitter was used as a communication channel for live synchronous events.
- They provided a conduit for sharing and disseminating OER or gaining involvement in MOOCs.
The open nature of social networks has been significant because anyone can participate in the discussion – it does not take place in a closed environment.