Social media is one of many tools that faculty can use to enhance instruction and increase student engagement. By design, it is a collaborative area primed to promote active learning. Many students already “live” in these social media areas. They are familiar with the general technology and are comfortable with the style of communication exchange.
Social media is a mashup that includes the aspects of being social through sharing/receiving information with others online and diverse forms of media as a conduit for this information. There are broad categories based on the purpose to which they function. These include: blogging, microblogging, social bookmarking, multimedia, social knowledge, and social networking. Generally speaking, the inclusion of social media and a particular form of social media in a course depends upon the objectives targeted. For example, is the concern more with the sharing of multimedia deliverables (YouTube, Flickr, iTunes), the general exchange of information (Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger), or focusing on developing positive social connections in the learning community (Facebook, LinkedIn)?
Why Use It?
There are several potential benefits to using social media in higher education courses. Most students consider social media easy to use and this perceived accessibility promotes increased participation. Students might put forth extra effort with content. With the public nature of some social media interactions, they are aware their contributions are visible to the world. Also, students can monitor current trends in the field and connect with experts. In addition, they can also connect with other students in other course sections to garner a more robust dialogue.
Twitter limits users to 140 characters per post. This requires students to analyze the data they wish to share and parse it into a coherent statement. As well, social media can provide a back channel of communication that doesn’t interrupt the class flow. In Tweeting for Class, the authors demonstrated how social media made lectures more engaging by incorporating student questions and improved student preparation for class.
A brief survey of a few select FIU Online courses that use social media tools to complement existing course learning objectives follows.
- Professor Roberto Flores (@FIU_IRguy) uses Twitter in his Introduction to International Relations (INR2001) course. Students follow influencers in the field and monitor selected news sources. They also contribute to a running conversation through tweets consisting of 140 characters and/or images. Students are added to a public Twitter list that Professor Flores creates, and specific hashtags are used to easily follow course interactions. A hashtag is a word or phrase that follows the hash/pound sign [ # ] to collate topical posts.
- Dr. Anthony Miyazaki, as well as many other instructors teaching the Marketing Yourself in Today’s Competitive Job Market (MAR4354) course, assigns students to create and/or methodically improve their LinkedIn business networking profile as they work through course materials to solidify their personal/professional brand.
- Dr. Nancy Rauseo, in her CMBA Sales Management (MAR6406) course, tasks students with a LinkedIn profile scavenger hunt. Each student identifies and communicates meaningfully with two other classmates that have similar interests or experiences. This provides a twist on the traditional “Introduce Yourself” discussion assignment.
- Professor Susan Mankita, in her Introduction to Social Work (SOW3203) course, uses a private Facebook group for students to curate professional resources. In addition, students use the platform to introduce themselves to their new learning community.
- Professor Maikel Alendy, in his Honors courses, uses a plethora of social media solutions. Some of these include Blackboard Blogs/Journals/Wikis, ApprenNet’s discussion tool and Pinterest (a bookmarking tool). He also uses Instagram (a photo sharing platform) and private Facebook groups. Professor Alendy’s focus extends beyond providing a variety of platforms for digital narratives to include fostering a strong, collaborative learning community.
Practicing Best Practices
To ensure that professors and students alike have positive social media conversations, several best practices are highlighted.
- Safety first. While students might already use social media in their personal lives, provide them with instructions on how to use it safely for educational purposes. Suggest using an alias for those platforms that allow this option.
- Be FERPA compliant. Avoid revealing student information such as grades or grading feedback on social media platforms. Instead use private channels or the LMS (Learning Management System). Also, supply links to privacy policies for any platform used in the course that may collect user’s data.
- Set expectations. Within your syllabus, identify social media will be used in your course and for what purpose. Likewise, provide guidelines on netiquette and digital rights- specifically on Creative Commons license use.
- Keep it classy! If you already have a personal social media account on the platform you want to use for your course, consider creating a new account just for class use.
- Be Team Hashtag. If your social media platform uses hashtags, use them. Create an unique class hashtag to be able to easily follow and collect course conversations.
Comment on this article if utilizing social media in your course; please share how you use the technology to accomplish course objectives. Interested in learning more about specific social media platforms? Tag team with your instructional designer to discuss leveraging social media in your course for a richer learning experience.