Below is the presentation I gave with my wonderful research partners Dr Alison Purvis and Helen Rodger at the 2015 Social Media for Learning in HE Conference #SocMedHE15 at Sheffield Hallam University. We were all also part of the organising team for the conference.
The focus of our study investigates current institutional practice of the use of social media to support and enhance learning. Our short paper shares survey findings; highlighting both enablers and barriers for what is for many, still considered innovative practice where peers are calling for guided support.
There are many examples of social media used in HE to enhance learning and teaching. While some academics are confident in exploring multiple strands of social media and blend them instinctively for a multi dimensional learning experience; others are more tentative, preferring to understand the nature of the tool or process thoroughly, often by learning from others before embarking on a social media based activity (Beckingham, Purvis and Rodger, 2014). There are a broad range of factors, experiences and perceptions that may influence an individual and their resulting use of and expectations of social media as a learning construct.
The aim of the study was to examine current institutional practice in the use of social media in this way, to inform strategic direction and consider implications for future academic development to achieve a positive impact on the learning experience for students.
Fifty individuals responded to an online survey. While the majority of these (n=33) were already using social media in some way in their teaching practice, and mostly had positive attitude to it, the remainder had not. Some were open to the idea, though naturally cautious, but others were clear that it had no place in their teaching practice.
This rich picture presented a variety of barriers and enablers: where confidence was high and support and equipment available; uptake of social media as a technology enhanced learning tool was more prevalent and more successful. There was a strong connection between support (formal and informal) and individual confidence, and a subsequent willingness to try new things to enhance learning.
Recent research advocates the development of digital capabilities including the confident use of social media for communication and collaboration (Beetham 2015); and that where embedded, provide essential skills for future graduates. It is therefore timely to review the skill sets and development needs of staff in order to support the learning of students.
Beetham, H. (2015) Thriving in a connected age: digital capability and digital wellbeing. [Online] Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/thriving-in-a-connected-age-digital-capability-and-digital-wellbeing-25-jun-2015
Beckingham, S., Purvis, A. and Rodger, H. (2014) The SHU Social Media CoLab: Developing a Social Media Strategy Through Open Dialogue and Collaborative Guidance. The European Conference for Social Media, University of Brighton, Brighton, 10-11 July 2014. Available at: http://academic-conferences.org/pdfs/ECSM_2014_abstract_booklet-new.pdf