Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Social Media and Equine Science: The Effect of LinkedIn on In-Class Engagement of Equine Higher Education Students 1

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Social Media and Equine Science: The Effect of LinkedIn on In-Class Engagement of Equine Higher Education Students 1

Article excerpt

Introduction

Social media has changed the way people from all over the world communicate, the ease of use increasing the amount of online interaction on both computers and smart phones. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedln each provide a template for communication that spans across countries and cultures. Interactions on these sites can lead to various social situations, friendships and even possible employment opportunities. Linkedln, for example, refers to itself as "the world's largest professional network" (Linkedln.com, 2013). As of 2013, the site had 250 million users in 200 countries around the world and its popularity steadily increased since their launch in 2003. The website shares a similar layout with Facebook, but has a more professional, resume-like feel, with more detail given to past and present employment, current projects and other professional endeavors. What is unique to Linkedln is that it allows users to give each other "endorsements" that vouch for another users proficiency in certain skills or areas. When used properly, a user can build up a sizable group of cyber references through "endorsements" that suggest them to possible employers for specific tasks. Another unique feature of Linkedln is that their "groups" act more as intellectual forums, where people in a certain field can interact over current topics, look for employment and gain access to research materials or articles (Linkedln.com, 2013).

An increasing amount of research has been conducted involving the incorporation of various social media sites into educational curriculum. Many faculty and staff in the academic community see social media in a pessimistic light as a "technological disruption to pedagogy", while others see endless possibilities in which this additional educational space of connectivity could provide for students and educators alike (Rambe, 2012, p. 1). A study conducted at the University of the Free State in South Africa, Facebook was incorporated into the course curriculum. Results suggested that by thinking outside the traditional pedagogical path and utilizing social media in classroom, students were able to have a "safe haven" for self-expression, access to a more advanced learning community and a greater opportunity for academic networking (Rambe, 2012). In another study conducted in 2011, a social media survey determined that almost two-thirds of instructors had used social media in their curriculum and 30% of those teachers used content that students could interact with outside of classroom time (Abe, 2013).

Facebook is not the only social media site used in the classroom. A study using Twitter examined the use of the site as a supplement to the curriculum in a college course and evaluated students' engagement and grades. Engagement was measured using a 19 item scale based on the National Survey of Student Engagement (Junco, 2011). Students who received the supplemental social media portion had both grades and classroom engagement that were statistically higher compared to the control group (Junco, 2011).

Research has also examined the effect of utilization of social media in education on the student -teacher relationship. Findings suggested that the use of social media sites in the classroom not only appeared to engage students in the material, but also created deeper and more collaborative relationships between instructors and students (Briones, 2013). However, there has been limited research on student user experiences or the experiences of the instructors who implement social media into their curriculum (Veletsianos et al., 2013). Whether or not traditionalists want to utilize it, social media and other forms of technological advancement are encroaching quickly on the pedagogical norms. While arguments over whether or not to use social media in the classroom generally stay the same, the real question now is: "How do we continue to capitalize on the advantages delivered by social media? …

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