Using social media for learning, teaching and research

We want our students to

  • develop confident face to face and online communication skills
  • work collaboratively both synchronously and asynchronously
  • develop a professional online presence
  • use digital tools responsibly and effectively

To help our students develop these skills and knowledge we need to have clear pedagogic outcomes, embedding opportunities for them to learn and become fluent in a range of digital literacies. Information, media and technological fluency are all important. Futurelab’s report on Digital Literacy across the curriculum highlights the importance of both creative and critical uses of technology in the classroom and considers the following as key areas to focus on:

  • functional skills
  • e-safety
  • effective communication
  • the ability to find and select information
  • collaboration
  • cultural and social understanding
  • critical thinking and evaluation
  • creativity

Social Media

The use of social media has grown exponentially with an almost ubiquitous use of mobile technology to access information any time and anywhere. These technologies provide useful affordances in relation to learning, teaching and research. However as educators we have a responsibility to provide our students with guidance and help them understand the impact of using social media. At Sheffield Hallam University we have now created a series of guidance leaflets (available at which come with a Creative Commons licence so that others may use. These include:

  • How to use social media responsibly
  • Staying safe online
  • Managing your digital footprint
  • Using social media for learning

There are also resources and case studies being developed at

The slidedeck at the top of this post provides a wide range of examples of how social media can be used and serves as a discussion point inviting further examples to be shared. The key areas covered are:


  • Blogs to share introductions and other induction activities
  • Wikis and Google Drive for project collaboration
  • Google hangouts for group online meetings
  • YouTube videos for how to guides
  • Screencast tools such as Jing and Screencast-o-matic to create short summaries
  • Pinterest for visual reading lists, Diigo for social bookmarking

Academic Professional Development

  • Sharing information via Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Discussion forums such LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities
  • Curation tools to gather resources on specific topics such as


  • Be known as an expert in your field on LinkedIn
  • Research your project definition, funding and collaboration reaching out to a rich personal learning network of educators using social media
  • Share and promote publications: papers, books, articles, websites, presentations via Twitter, Mendeley, ResearchGate, and LinkedIn

Student Guidance

  • Facebook and Wikis for FAQs and space to raise questions
  • Twitter to signpost support areas such as wellbeing, study support, disability support
  • Social Bookmarking tools such as Diigo to tag and highlight key documents and web resources
  • Pinterest board of Who’s Who in Student Support
  • Newsletters using Blogs

Peer Support

  • Maintain/make new connections/friendships via Facebook happens!
  • Course blogs to share interests, hobbies etc.
  • Collaborative Pinterest boards to share inspirational quotes or picture quizzes of places and people in University
  • Online group chat using Google+ hangouts, Skype or Blackboard Collaborate

Student Professional Development

  • Share information via Facebook groups
  • Professional networking
  • Learning about companies via LinkedIn company pages
  • Job opportunities/career development on LinkedIn and Twitter


  • Communicate events/open days via Facebook, Eventbrite and Lanyrd
  • Showcase event photos and videos on Pinterest and Flickr
  • Company presence on LinkedIn Recruitment – Post info and links to undergraduate and postgraduate courses, distinguished lecture series, careers opportunities and the university Media Centre

University Communication

  • Having an active presence on Twitter, LinkedIn Company page and Facebook
  • Clearly place links to university social media spaces on websites and written communication
  • Utilise social sharing buttons so that information can be easily shared by readers to their connections via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google +

Professional Development

To take these ideas forward it is important that we also focus on the staff development of those working in higher education. Social media is still for many a relatively new communication channel. It is equally important to understand how its use can have both a negative and positive impact. Providing a scaffolded and supported integration of digital skills within the curriculum will ensure our students are confident users of these technologies.

What would you add to these suggestions? I’d love to hear from you.

About Sue Beckingham

A National Teaching Fellow, Educational Developer and Principal Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
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1 Response to Using social media for learning, teaching and research

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