Academic journal article Research in Learning Technology

The Space for Social Media in Structured Online Learning

Academic journal article Research in Learning Technology

The Space for Social Media in Structured Online Learning

Article excerpt

Responsible Editor: Carlo Perrotta, School of Education, University of Leeds, United Kingdom.

Copyright: © 2015 G. Salmon et al. Research in Learning Technology is the journal of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), a UK-based professional and scholarly society and membership organisation. ALT is registered charity number 1063519. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license.

Received: 12 May 2015; Accepted: 23 November 2015; Published: 15 December 2015

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Introduction: social media in learning

In this paper, we explore the role played by social media in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by an Australian university. Social media sites are increasingly being used for educational purposes and a range of benefits and drawbacks have been documented in the research. We examine how the usage of social media in the MOOC enhanced participants' overall learning experience and how it led to increased networking and knowledge sharing with peers. We also report on the negatives of social media usage as perceived by the participants. These lessons may inform future design choices of the inclusion of social media in MOOCs and other structured digital learning.

Social media in higher education has been found to enhance learning outcomes and academic achievement (Junco, Heiberger, and Loken 2010; Özmen and Atici 2014), and to contribute to knowledge construction (DeWitt et al . 2014; Kassens-Noor 2012). Social media can assist students to share administrative information with peers, such as meeting times and locations, and assessment requirements (Bosch 2009; Selwyn 2009), and also to network and promote peer feedback (Davies et al . 2010). When deployed for learning, social media can facilitate the development of online communities, allowing for collaborative and participatory engagement by placing emphasis on collective knowledge and social interaction (Maloney 2007; Wodzicki, Schwämmlein, and Moskaliuk 2012). Social media can help strengthen the social relationships among students, heighten students' self-esteem, and boost their learning performance (Llorens and Capdeferro 2011; Yu et al . 2010). Students may be more willing to voice their opinions or disagreement with peers in an online discussion rather than in a face-to-face setting (Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe 2007; Kim 2008; Oblinger and Oblinger 2005; Sullivan 2002; Thompson and Ku 2005). Further, online social interaction allows shy students to contribute and be 'heard' by the group (Davies et al . 2010) and thus may provide benefits to those with lower self-esteem (Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe 2007).

Although university-utilised learning management systems (LMSs) and social media platforms both enable file sharing, collaboration and discussion (Gray, Annabell, and Kennedy 2010), social media platforms tend to be more popular with students for peer-to-peer interactions (Davies et al . 2010; Veletsianos and Navarrete 2012) due to their familiarity and flexibility. Peer learning communities (off and online) have been identified as a way to foster the development of higher order thinking skills and increase student and academic engagement, interaction, retention, and satisfaction (Brownell and Swaner 2010; Dodge and Kendall 2004; Yuan and Kim 2014). In MOOCs, where engagement and motivation tend to be low (de Freitas, Morgan, and Gibson 2015; Yang et al . 2013), social media may be beneficial in fostering online learning communities, which, in the context of a MOOC, are necessarily located online, enabled by an LMS (also referred to as Virtual Learning Environment) or social networking site. …

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