Social media platforms such as Wikis, blogs and Twitter hold great potential as vehicles for student learning. These social media platforms can support meaningful, rich learning outcomes when assignments are developed to align with course objectives. Yet social media has an image issue—in tutoring at least; it’s viewed as frivolous, a time waster, a distraction.
Social media In Higher Education
Social media applications are used by tutors in various contexts: 1) as a tool for communicating with students, 2) as a subject of study, 3) as a pedagogical technique for learning and instruction. The latter is what we concentrate on in this post but it is instructive to acknowledge the other uses.
Most tutors were first introduced to social media via Facebook, with students checking-in during class period. But some of these same tutors have discovered the value of social media applications, as learning and teaching tools. Twitter for instance—tutors can send Tweets to students with class updates, reminders and links to course-related resources as described in “Class Twitter Account”. Other options include Google+ and Facebook that can serve as a platform for a course (study group, club, etc.) where notices can be posted, resources shared and messages exchanged. In these instances, social media applications act as supplements to courses that improve learning.
Three Platforms—Three Instructional Strategies
Different from above however, is using a social application such as Twitter and Wikipedia as a pedagogical technique to support learning objectives of a course. The learning outcomes vary depending upon the assignment and course, but tutors find students learn not just course concepts and facts, but develop additional skills that include critical thinking, digital skills and advanced written communication.
1) Wikipedia: A lecturer of Museum Studies teaches a one-credit hour, face-to-face course “Wikipedia as a Research Tool” to fresher students. The focus of the course is less on Wikipedia, and more on the ideas of user-generated content, public access and open authority. He uses the Wikipedia platform for the primary assignment where students create a Wikipedia article and substantially edit an existing page—a process involving considerable research, edits, responding to criticism and feedback. Students look to learn just as much from the process itself, as about their subject and topic.
2) Blogging: In Mythology and Folklore students are needed to set up their own blog the first week of class, which they use for weekly and daily assignments throughout the course. Students ‘publish’ their writing every week, which permits the tutor to review the work, and mates to read other’s work. Credit is given for learners commenting on three or more posts in choose weeks. Instructions for each assignment are detailed; the lecturer explains how to make each blog post clear, motivating students to put their writing into context for potential readers.
Students are also needed to add images and bibliographies. The tutor includes a detailed section on her course site describing the concepts including digital copyright, public domain and Creative Commons, along with resources and instructions for each. Students seem to engage at a higher level in this course, given they are writing for an audience; skills developed go beyond writing and comprehension skills.
3) Twitter: A digital humanities lecturer created a unique assignment using Twitter—the Twitter Essay. Twitter is known as a micro-blogging site. It has the 140 character limit of messages, or ‘Tweets’.
Student Learning Curve
Almost all of the lecturers mentioned the learning curve students experienced when becoming familiar with the features of the social media platform. Contrary to what we consider, young people are not always expert in all social media platforms. Thus tutors planning on using a social media application would do well to give links to tutorials, step-by-step instructions, and build time into the course to accommodate for technical learning.
Though social media platforms can be an important learning tool, there is an upfront time obligation required on the tutor’s part. Planning for the assignment or homework, involves not only the writing of the materials and instructions, but requires familiarity with the platform, estimate of the alternatives and then the selection of way that fits the requirements of the class. Though, the time investment on the tutor’s part appears worth it, not only for the student’s advantage, but for the quality of learning students experience as a result. You can also make assignment better with assignment help services. There are various sites which provide assignment help services.