I met with an ex-student, now at a University recently. We talked about how informal networks influence his study patterns. I had to re-assure him about why I was interested. “Why are you looking to ban them at your place?” he said jokingly … but went on to explain how he uses about ten FaceBook networks –primary to for ’ immediate help – ‘There’s always someone on”.
He wasn’t using FaceBook for learning, but just to operate effectively inside a large system which has ‘glitches’ as he put it. Navigating the process and protocols of student life … “you can see Student ICT Services and wait for hours in a line – or just go on FaceBook and ask people there who’ve stood in the line already’.
He also said that Facebook gave students “advice on which subjects to choose, as some don’t fit that well” with getting a job.
“You can go on FaceBook and ask people who are graduating, or left already, which units we’re useful, or find someone who has”.
He was using it for social and study purposes – using his mobile phone to do that. He laughed when I asked if he used in it lectures. He clearly felt that his personal technology was there to help him navigate the institution and found efficiencies to be more strategic in study. He used online study to in balancing the “rest of his life”.
He didn’t connect that with learning directly, saying “we have a online learning portal, but it just for the course information mostly, but some academics do a lot of that stuff, just not in my course. We just use forums to answer questions, is that what you mean”.
I asked if he thought it would be good for him if they did … “yeah, but those guys are so busy, they can’t get back to you as fast as you need”.
He felt that there his access to FaceBook made University life easier to manage and didn’t expect that the institution could provide this support network.
“We use the food places, if we can’t get into the library – that place is often packed, people camp there all day with their friends”.
I not sure I drew any ‘ideas’ in this conversation, but really enjoyed being able to talk about how he’s drawing on his friend-network skills to solve ‘glitches’ in the system. I wonder how different ‘adult learners’ as teachers are from students? Navigating the system seems to a universal problem