Archaeology and Social Media in the 21st Century – A Case study

The project seeks to meet the learning design challenges that emerge from the complexities of delivering hands-on practice based archaeology units fully online and intends to:

  1. apply a multi-media approach using video lectures, 3D digital artefacts and social networks (WordPress blog and Twitter);
  2. create experiential learning activities designed for the digital user;
  3. improve student engagement in the online environment and develop a student community of practice.

The results presented are from a 4 week Trial conducted in August 2015.

Comprehensive review of the unit’s learning and assessment design

AHIS170 design summary
AHIS170: Learning design summary (click on image for details)

Layout of learning materials in iLearn

  • Modular: Multi week approach with sequenced and scaffolded learning

AHIS170: Modular- Multi Week example (Module 1)
AHIS170: Module 1 with Weekly schedule (Click on image for details)

  • Students preferred “open” layout (as opposed to “closed” books or features with multiple layers within the site architecture) where:
      • the learning outcomes are clearly expressed (using coloured boxes to signal importance);
      • each step in the Weekly Schedule is visible with estimated time-frames;
      • a checklist is available using the Activity Completion tool in iLearn and a full list at the end of the section.

AHIS170: "Open" structure example from Week 3
AHIS170: “Open” structure example from Week 3 (Click on image for details)

Student Agency and Capacity

Students created and maintained their own “Dig Diary” WordPress blog for weekly critical reflection of video lectures/readings/activities. The blogs were provided to the students via the Mq WordPress multisite.

wordpress7-150x150       twitter12-150x150


  • Enhanced student engagement (as long as it counts!): Students felt most engaged in the trial “when commenting on other people’s blog posts and responding to the comments on my ones” and there would not have been “any interaction within the blog posts if it wasn’t a requirement”.


  • WordPress Blog Set up: Students found locating and setting up their WordPress blog to be “thoroughly confusing!” and required pre-semester set-up as well as “clearly outlined expectations when preparing the blog: Do I need to ‘decorate’ it? Is the language academic or colloquial? How to phrase responses without the risk of mis-interpretation? e.g. tone.” 
  • Privacy concerns: Students found engaging via a WordPress blog and Twitter “intimidating as I had never used them before” were not sure “learning should take place on a public forum such as Twitter”, preferring “convener moderated blogging within iLearn.”
  • Twitter was a fail, professional networks are key!
    • Students were “not sure why Twitter was utilised at all” and did not feel comfortable “asking questions” on Twitter.
    • An introduction to relevant professional networks such as LinkedIn or to engage with key academics/industry partners is preferred.

 Videos. Not for everyone…


AHIS170 Week 3 Video Lecture
AHIS170 Week 3 Video Lecture with links to PDFs of the slides and MP3 audio files


  • Accessibility and revision tool: Students found the ability to “re-watch the video clips as much as I wanted” helpful.


  • Lacked authenticity: “I personally found the video clips boring as there was no interaction with lecturers” and were very formal in comparison to live F2F lectures where anecdotal evidence or informal commentary is provided by teaching staff.

Social media offers a new pathway for enhancing a more customised, or personal, approach to student engagement.

  • Digital by design requires clear instruction and teacher presence to provide a personalised learning experience.
  • Design for digital uses available digital tools to increase student engagement and agency in participative and collaborative learning.


This project is funded by a Learning and Teaching Delivery Grant for 2015 entitled “Mediating Student Learning: Archaeology and Social Media in the 21st century –  A Case Study on AHIS170: Egyptian Archaeology. An Introduction”. The grant is held by Dr Alexandra Woods and Dr Peter Keegan in collaboration with Ollie Coady (LTC), Dr Panos Vlachopoulos (LTC), Michael Rampe (LTC) and  Dr Eve Guerry, Suzanne Eiselle-Evans and Ellen Ryan (all Ancient History).