The Cisco Networking module team at the Open University has been experimenting with the inclusion of social media tools as a method of extending learning beyond VLE content.
The rationale for the experiment was to leverage the free resources available within the social media domain. With the intention of adding a ‘knowledge nugget’ and ‘aide memoir’ dimension to the teaching content; to enhance retention as well as use the interactive resources of social media to bring our teaching team closer to the student experience in an otherwise traditional large scale blended distance-learning community.
The project ran with the internal moniker of ‘teaching by twitter’, armed with a comma separated variable file and hootsuite. A range of platforms, including, LinkedIN, RSS, Facebook, Blogging and Google+ have all been leveraged, to teach our students as well as expose this learning to a wider community
Having completed a technological test run during the Spring/Summer of 2013. The presentation describes ongoing work. There has been a full active experiment on a presentation of 400 students, starting in October 2013, completing its full run in June.
Whilst working on this project, it has been noted that across all platforms there are over 500 individuals engaging (as of 17/06/14). With the open nature of the platforms also attracting external participants observing and contributing to some of the conversations along with an active community of students.
Ranked in order of interaction, the following platforms have as of 17/06/14 shown the following engagement patterns
- LinkedIN, in depth discursive analysis of different technologies, with some of the students and external members discussing professional practice
- Twitter, short queries and sharing of personal study experiences
- Facebook, occasional study humour as well as questions about assessment content
- Google+, almost silent, with one student posting some personal observations
It can be seen that the technologies used support a combination of mLearning and Social Learning Theory; exploring how the student could learn anywhere at anytime (Crompton, 2013) and engage in extending their professional practice with an extended community sic (Bandura, 1963). The social id of each community as well as the technological limitations (140 characters in Twitter); influences the dynamics of student engagement.
Overall, around 1120 posts were generated during the study period of the Cisco Networking module. 900 of these were preplanned outputs from the module team. 160 across the different platforms were response/reaction updates as well as interaction with different participants.
It is impossible to accurately track who is or is not a student, insomuch as some platforms allow individuals to create their own ‘memes’. There has been no external promotion, where analysis of membership gives.
- LinkedIN, 280, students 190, external 90, engagement 15%
- Twitter, 140, we are unable to accurately estimate split between followers, engagement 20% via RT, reply and favourite
- Facebook, 120, predominantly students, 110, with 10 we cannot identify, engagement via like (80%), share or response (15%)
- Google+, 70 followers, 65 we have identified as students, engagement is very low at 1%
The key methodology is based on iterative action research. The course is delivered in four blocks where these iterations enabled:
- Resolution of minor technical integration issues
- Creation of the timed content ‘knowledge based’ updates
- Discovery that ‘open questions’, depending on encourage responses on LinkedIN, Twitter and Facebook
- Establishing that images work in moderation, they encourage shares, but not responses
- Discovery that time of day is essential; ‘UK’ lunchtime and early evenings elicited the best results. Noting that early morning around 7am, was popular on Facebook and Twitter
With another large community of learners anticipated for October 2014, our evaluations are already forming the basis for content refresh and adaptation of the content.
Bandura, Albert (1963). Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Crompton, H. (2013). A historical overview of mobile learning: Toward learner-centered education. In Z. L. Berge & L. Y. Muilenburg (Eds.), Handbook of mobile learning (pp. 3-14). Florence, KY: Routledge.
|Affiliation||The Open University|