Social Networking for Teaching and Learning

In this post I looked at ten projects/case studies of social network/social media usage in Higher Education settings. For each I offered a summary of the highlights I found and how it impacted me personally from a professional standpoint. You can also find the same content curated via my account at .

Projects/Case Studies

In this case study a “Social Media and Public Relations” course incorporated the social bookmarking tool offered at a Southeastern. Going into the class most of the 59 students enrolled in the course were unaware of social bookmarking and in particular the tool.  According to the study an overwhelming majority of these students appreciated the platform allowing their professor “to pull together up-to-date, relevant links”. Some of the other benefits of using Delicious noted by students included being provided links to real world examples of concepts discussed in class and getting alternative perspectives on subjects through shared blogs or news stories. Other benefits seen by students were that the ranking of links by classmates served to assess the merit or quality of the resources being shared and the use of tags made the source of the info clear. This case gives me the idea of using a delicious account for staff professional development in my office. Because I work in the area of finances we constantly have to stay up to date with industry regulations, trends, ideas, and what other schools or offices are doing. A shared Delicious account would promote learning amongst staff.

In this case study the University of Manchester used EduBlogs and Facebook in its School of Dentistry to overcome challenges communicating with its 400+ students. The blog is used share resources for students to learn and network through, they also use it for a Q&A function that helps students ask questions who are normally afraid to in a face-to-face class setting. According to the school, “Facebook is used for discussion forums, organizing social events, and distribution of a weekly update, and to provide a platform for staff to answer any academic questions”. The successful integration of social media to communicate was largely attributed to the fact that students were already using social media such as Facebook for personal purposes. Main benefits identified as a result of using social networking have been better collaboration amongst students and staff, a better sense of community, and having a strong platform for sharing of news and events. This offered good insight into how a blog can be used just beyond posting stories or information and using it for interactivity. I am currently looking at ways to target information and offer communication a communication venue to the student athlete population I deal with. I think this sort of practice could be relevant in achieving my goals with that.

This case study involved the University of Bradford who used the Ning social networking platform facilitate the process of new students transitioning into the university. They chose to use this platform to develop a more integrated and inclusive social network rather than using Facebook or something else that was more established because they determined some students were uncomfortable using them. Student’s use this Ning based social network to start making friends with future classmates, share their feelings or concerns about coming to the university, and ask any questions they have. The social network has been successful and continues to grow. Both staff and student feedback on the University program driving this network has been positive, which they claim “indicates a positive impact on engagement, transition, retention and progression”. One of the biggest challenges working in my area of higher education is dealing with students and parents entering the system for the very first time. Since it is a big transition going from high school to college I think a social network dedicated to aiding in the transition process is a brilliant idea. The students and parents in this bracket typically all have the same sort of questions and concerns. A network specifically for them could definitely help me address these people all more easily, but at the same time it would also create an environment where they can help and learn amongst themselves.

This case study examined the use of social networking in higher education in Zimbabwe. Facebook is the most widely used social networking technology according to the study. The main findings regarding use of social networking sites by students were that they use it for either general or specific school work; and most of this work is group assignments. One related finding was that students do gain some specific skills by using social networking sites, specifically technology, communication, research and academic writing ability. The authors conclude that based on their findings Zimbabwe should   embrace using social media in the learning process so students can best build these skills. This was insightful for me to see some of the certain skills students gain through utilizing social media in their learning process. The fact that in this country Facebook is the most widely used network tells me that it is probably the same here in the USA. Based on this case study I am going to look into how I can possibly enhance the use of our Facebook page as a teaching tool for certain initiatives instead of just using it to send out messages.

This was an example of how a social media professor the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University used the HootSuite University platform to actually increase students’ knowledge and skills in using social media in business. Not only does it act as a teaching tool but it also has the function of being able to evaluate student social media. Social Media professor Dr. Ward also used the HootSuite platform to be able to track student tweets, hashtags, and more to gauge student participation in his course. According to the case study, by integrating social networking assignments the learning of students was no longer held to just weekly assignments and in-class exams because the social media engagement became part of the assigned work. I found this to be great insight into a formal education opportunity on social networking. HootSuite was not something I had ever heard of before coming across this Case Study but now I am intrigued by it. In my field there is constant talk of using social media to help our work and our students but nobody ever seems to have the skills needed to do so. I will be sharing HootSuite University with my supervisors as a possible means to educate key campus staff on best practices and techniques for social media/networking.

This study looked at whether or not a social networking site (Facebook) created by English students and the shared with the university staff at Sheffield Hallam University would be helpful for developing course “identity” in conjunction with hosting the actual class in the campus virtual learning environment (VLE). The VLE used by the university was Blackboard. The study identifies how important it is for staff to embrace social networking because it is an important part of student life. Student’s greatly value the use of social networking sites to facilitate their learning and promote engagement. Staff in this study tended to agree with students on the need to use the social networking site but raised the point that balance needs to be drawn for how they interact with students in this realm. I relate this to my professional area of work in that we are constantly finding it a struggle to police interaction amongst students and staff to a reasonable level. The good thing about social media is everyone can get their voice out the bad part I have experienced from that is the system is then also open to abuse. This article gave some good insight into the student’s perspective and how both sides can perhaps best embrace and navigate the territory of social networks.

In this case study the researchers explored how students used Twitter on mobile devices “Microblogging” as a tool for collecting, sharing, and commenting to complete learning activities. This was an interesting find for me because this example comes from Boise State University professors Yu-Chang Hsu and Yu-Hui Ching and the EDTECH program coursework. In this particular section of the instructional design course students were required to have smartphones or other mobile device with a camera and internet connectivity. Students were required to tweet once a week over a twelve week period which included incorporating a graphic design example taken from their real world experiences. They then had to reply to the peers of their tweets. Both the original tweets and replies had to include hash tags. The results of this study showed that “Microblogging” did in fact support learning as “students were able to co-construct knowledge through their exchange of tweets. I think that the concept these professors came up with is something I can adapt in some form with financial literacy coursework. With students coming across financial transactions and happenings every single day I like the idea of having them incorporate their own real-life experience into the learning process. By having them share these experiences through “Microblogging” they can learn from each other’s financial successes and failures.

In this project Carlow University introduced Facebook and Twitter for campus use in 2008. They used it as more of an information gathering tool to start to find out what students and parents were saying, and what questions or concerns they had. They in turn used this to build strategies catering to these same people. These strategies include crafting the language and images shared via Facebook or Twitter so they will best appeal to parents or students since each has different sensitivities or hot points. This way the university is creating the image it wants to portray and getting helping positively impact its recruiting efforts. The university doesn’t just guess at what social media strategies are working it collects data in terms of what type of posts get the most likes and those which get the least attention. What I learned from this post for my personal professional growth is that you need to constantly be monitoring and tweaking your social media campaign based on what is actually working. For my office right now we just post information via the networks but we don’t actually collect data or monitor to see what is being re-tweeted or liked etc. We are constantly too focused on the content we are putting out but now whether or not it actually helped us in a meaningful way and getting the data to back it up.

This case study looked at the impact of integrating social media into a Tufts University School of Medicine course. Twitter and Facebook were the social networks actually used by students as part of their coursework but the primary focus was Twitter. Students were encouraged to Tweet throughout the course and had to setup an account prior to the start of class. They were also given an introduction to using Twitter in a class setting. The major integration of Twitter in the course was participating in a weekly one-hour Twitter chat moderated by the Medical Editor of Students by majority conveyed positive feedback about using social media to facilitate learning.One thing that I connected with personally from this study was how some of the students experiences differed in terms of feelings on the social networking integration in their course. The study indicated that these differences can come largely from the students’ level of experience with the media or platform going in. I actually related this back to this EDTECH 543 course. As someone with no Twitter experience going into the course I can see how my experience would be less positive than someone who was comfortable using Twitter. Where I am learning how to use hash tags and chats from the ground up others are perhaps learning more of the nuances and perfecting the craft. They might get a different level of satisfaction, learning, or professional growth than me.,_belinda_-_creativity_in.pdf

This research looked at several cases of experimental social media integration in higher education. It specifically looked at the University of New South Wales, “where social media tools have been used to foster student interaction and participation. “ One great example of social media integration done here was the use of wikis for designing and assessing an online group project. Another implementation of social media in higher education done at this University was actually using Facebook to create a so called “Learning Loop”. According to the study this “Learning Loop” comes from the use of Facebook to expand student discussion of course content after the lecture, then into the actual lesson, and then carrying it back into the lecture again, creating a collaboration cycle of sorts. These interesting examples of social media integration into the learning process are inspiring to me as future educator. The biggest thing I took to heart from this research article was the importance of embracing creativity in coming up with ways to integrate social media in education. It makes an important point and one that I want to subscribe to going forward and that is to not have fear in pushing the boundaries of what we do. New technologies give us the chance to experiment with learning approaches where we can learn alongside our students.

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