Student Guest Blogpost: SMASH (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam)

SMASH logo

SMASH (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam) is a team of four IT with Business Studies students from Sheffield Hallam University looking to incorporate social media for the purposes of aiding higher education learning.

Corran Wood
Jess Paddon
Ola Mazur
Sher Khan

Originally the team attended the SocMedHE16 conference at Sheffield Hallam University (having individually applied for one of 10 free student places). It was an interesting and exciting conference showcasing how lecturers and students alike were using social media to aid and develop their teaching/learning throughout higher education.

After attending this event and with the guidance of Sue Beckingham the team formed a group to look further at social media for learning. The team met weekly and set out to achieve the following objectives in relation to social media use at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU):

  1. Helping staff to identify and use social media tools for communication and collaboration within and beyond the classroom (Learning Activities).
  2. Helping students and staff to identify and use relevant social media tools to curate and organise information relating to learning (Organising Learning).
  3. Helping students to prepare digital portfolios to openly share outcomes and projects to develop a professional online presence (Showcasing Learning).

1. Learning Activities

First and foremost, learning activities. From the conference and also teaching in SHU it was clear that social media was being used in a variety of different ways to communicate with students in and out of lectures. Three key tools lecturer used for learning activities were: YouTube, WhatsApp and Socrative.


Every student is different and each prefers to learn in their own way, i.e. visual learners, auditory and kinaesthetic etc. One such test can be taken here to assess the preference of learning style. Bearing this in mind it’s useful for lecturers to adapt their teaching styles in ways that would allow them meet all three types. Here’s where YouTube comes in handy. One lecturer used video scribe to create revision based videos which they then published on YouTube. This came handy for students looking to revise the material but in particular for visual learners.


Often Lecturers and students communicate either verbally or via email. But one technique a Lecturer used was to communicate with their students through the ever popular tool WhatsApp. In particular this was useful to create groups for classes/modules and then allow the students to communicate with the lecturer via the groups set up. Although certain lecturers may feel that this may be too personal possibly, it did however allow for rapid communication between students and lecturers.


Often lectures are a one sided push of information. However one technique used by a lecturer to make their class more interactive and to involve the students to participate was to use the Socrative application. This allowed for students to take part in polls related to class materials and vote during the lecture in which case the lecturer could provide feedback on the results to aid students learning.


2. Organising Learning

Social media tools can assist in the collaboration of learning, as both students and staff have multiple modules to organise and complete work and collect information on.

Google Docs

When completing group-based projects in modules, it is often the case that students face issues to do with arranging suitable times to meet and to complete these activities. The three main applications, Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets aim to solve this issue. By using these applications, tasks can be collaboratively fulfilled in real-time sessions, with further information about who has completed what work within the assignment, to aid peer feedback, and this can be used effectively by lecturers to record weekly task marks, and keep tabs on who has completed what in their students’ groups assignments.


Pinterest, a more image oriented social media, can be used with the creation of ‘boards’ to define each module and learning topic being discussed, wherein a different board is used for different topics. Staff to student sharing of boards can be utilised with this site, to exchange useful links and sources and can be used to collect important information in one specified location which is crucial for revision. This is especially useful for more visual learners with the use of image based content.


Significant posts can be taken from different social media sites, in order to create stories to organise learning into appropriate sections for effective learning. These posts can be found by hashtags to curate all this information shared with these tags into a story board. Narratives can be added with these story boards to aid learning underneath the playlist of storyboard videos.


3. Showcasing Learning

Why spend long amounts of time completing work and research projects if you aren’t able to share them with other academics and professionals? Social media platforms are key for enabling users to share their work amongst others’ in order to expand their own knowledge and their peers work.


A professional networking site to build connections to other people working within similar industries and with similar interests to you. University projects can be uploaded including other people who have contributed and who you have collaborated with and your clients. Qualifications can be showcased, as well as academic achievements. This is a popular way to discover potential candidates for a position by HR departments within companies.


Specified plugins and themes can be used to create web pages based on chosen topics. Blogs style articles can be written within these for reflection and showcasing learning. Links to other social media channels can be used to showcase other aspects of learning.


Slideshow presentations can be uploaded from past conferences and learning conventions to enhance others’ learning, and curate resources for learning. Slideshare can be used by academics for lecture material and students for assignment research.


Users can post and interact with tweets from other users, including high-profile users. Twitter may be used to promote projects completed and showcase work and achievements completed, as well as acknowledge and share other users’ work and features include ‘pinning’ specific and current projects/events to the top of your Twitter profile.

Below is an infographic summarising how social media can be used for learning.


Guest Bloggers


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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