How do your students stay in touch with developments in their future professions while they are studying? How do they make those important connections with other academics and professionals working in their chosen field? Embedding social media into your learning design can help with this, and much more.
Three Key Benefits of Social Media
Fiona Nicolson, Educational Developer, sees three key benefits for employing social media in your learning design.
1. A unit of study usually encourages students to read and interact with academic research. Social media can help students to find, and engage with the practical applications of that research that are happening right now. They can also test out academic findings in the ‘real’ world.
2. Social media can help students find and connect with real people who are working in their chosen field or share their professional interests. Not only can they begin to build a network within the profession, they can also add their own voices to the disciplinary discourse.
3. Crucially, social media has a lot to offer in terms of building digital literacy skills. Fiona Nicolson says, “a high priority for Higher Education is to make sure that we are equipping students to go out into media-rich environments where they will need digital and media skills.” What that means will vary depending on your discipline, but it encompasses an ability to find and process information, and to contribute to what is already there – essential skills in any professional career.
Case Study: Distributed Digital Essay
ECED833, a Postgraduate Early Childhood unit convened by Dr Helen Little, trialled a ‘Distributed Digital Essay’ using social media as an assessment task in keeping with the unit’s inquiry-based approach. This trial was the subject of an innovation and Scholarship Program project led by Fiona Nicolson, in collaboration with Dr Mitch Parsell and Sherrie Love. (You can read the project’s report, including full details of how the Distributed Digital Essay assessment was structured, here in PDF format.)
The Distributed Digital Essay was in fact a two-fold task: having first inquired into the available academic research on their chosen topic, students then investigated real-world applications using social media sources.
Students were asked to make connections and engage online, and then to produce a digital essay collecting together their findings from social media platforms and around the web. Students were encouraged to share their completed essay widely – both with their peers in the unit and with those they had connected with using social media.
Fiona Nicolson says that the students “loved the fact that it was about connecting with professionals in the field, and also helping them to find their own voice amongst all those other voices and comparing their opinion. They also felt it helped with grounding their knowledge and finding contextual examples of what they were reading about in their unit.”
The Distributed Digital Essay project chose Storify as the platform for students in ECED833. Storify allows you to produce a media-rich story or narrative, by collecting and curating content you find on different social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and so on), as well as anywhere on the web. It’s free, it’s mobile friendly, and it provides you (or your students) with a url that can be shared more widely.
You can view an example of a Distributed Digital Essay using Storify here.
A few things to consider
- this type of approach works particularly well in a unit with an inquiry-based framework, where students are seeking applications of ideas or making connections outside of the unit content or readings
- be aware of the University’s social media guidelines
- for more advice on embedding social media into your learning design, contact your Educational Designer (firstname.lastname@example.org).