Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Study on the Effective Use of Social Software by Further and Higher Education in the UK

A Study on the Effective Use of Social Software by Further and Higher Education in the UK to Support Student Learning and Engagement (Final Report) / 115 pp.

Date uploaded > 02 February 2009 > Shailey Minocha

Shailey Minocha / January 2009 / Department of Computing /
The Open University / Walton Hall / Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

Executive Summary

The term ‘social software’ covers a range of software tools which allow users tointeract and share data with other users, primarily via the web. Blogs, wikis, socialnetworking websites, such as Facebook and Flickr, and social bookmarking sites,such as Delicious, are examples of some of the tools that are being used to shareand collaborate in educational, social, and business contexts. The key aspect of asocial software tool is that it involves wider participation in the creation of informationwhich is shared.

This study examined the use of social software in the UK further and highereducation sectors to collect evidence of the effective use of social software inenhancing student learning and engagement. In this study, data from 26 initiatives,where social software tools have been employed, has been collected, analysed andsynthesised. The cases chosen give a spread of tools, subject areas, contexts (parttime,full-time or distance learning), levels of study, and institutions (higher andfurther education). A case study methodology was followed and both educators andstudents were interviewed to find out what they had done, how well it had worked,and what they had learned from the experiences.

This study provides insights about the: educational goals of using social softwaretools; enablers or drivers within the institution, or from external sources whichpositively influence the adoption of social software; benefits to the students,educators and institutions; challenges that may influence a social software initiative;and issues that need to be considered in a social software initiative.Our investigations have shown that social software tools support a variety of ways oflearning: sharing of resources (eg bookmarks, photographs), collaborative learning,problem-based and inquiry-based learning, reflective learning, and peer-to-peerlearning. Students gain transferable skills of team working, online collaboration,negotiation, and communication, individual and group reflection, and managingdigital identities.

Although these tools enhance a student’s sense of community,sharing and collaboration brings in additional responsibility and workload, whichsome students find inflexible and rather ‘forced’. The study found that students haveconcerns about privacy and the public nature of the tools for their academic activities. The educator’s role is changing from being a provider of information to a facilitator ormoderator, which raises training needs, workload issues, and adjusting to a ‘new’way of teaching.

Institutions face the dilemma of adopting and recommending toolsin the pubic domain over which they have no control. On the other hand, theinstitution’s VLE may not provide tools with as rich a functionality as is available inthe tools which are in the public domain.

The analysis in this report is presented as answers to questions which educators andpolicy makers may have about social software initiatives. It is hoped that the lessonsand the recommendations, as captured in this report and the case studies willinfluence the learning and teaching strategies in higher and further education –specifically institutions which are considering the use of social software. The resultshighlight the different pedagogical roles of social software: communication, nurturingcreativity and innovation, and collaborative learning.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 7
Executive Summary 9
1 Introduction 10
1.1 Guide for readers of this report 10
2 Background to the study 12
3 Aims and key deliverables of the study 14
3.1 Key deliverables and outcomes of the study 14
4 Methodology and Implementation 16
4.1 Case study research design 16
4.2 Gathering the case studies 18
4.3 Development of the case studies after the investigations 18
4.4 Data analysis and synthesis 19
5 Outputs: Case Studies 20
6 Findings: Analysis and Synthesis of the Data 23
6.1 Educational goals of social software 24
6.2 Enablers to social software initiatives 26
6.3 Benefits of using social software 28
6.4 Challenges in a social software initiative 34
6.5 Issues that need to be considered for a social software initiative 42
7 Conclusions 46
7.1 Benefits to the organisations 46
7.2 Challenges to the organisations 46
7.3 Benefits to the educators 46
7.4 Challenges to the educators 47
7.5 Benefits to the students 47
7.6 Challenges to the students 48
8 Implications 50
8.1 Comparison of the literature review with the findings of this study 50
8.2 Limitations of our study 51
8.3 Taking the study further 52
9 Recommendations 54
9.1 Be learner-centred 54
9.2 Consider the impact on staff 54
9.3 Identify your key stakeholders 54
9.4 Be convinced yourself 54
9.5 Be prepared to spend time 54
9.6 Do not hesitate to learn from others 54
9.7 Keep a log of the experiences 55
9.8 Be willing to disseminate 55
9.9 Be prepared to monitor and intervene 55
9.10 Evaluate the initiative 55
9.11 Be prepared to adapt and change 55
10 References 56
11 Appendices 58

Source And Full Report Available At


See Also

Effective Use of Social Software in UK Further and Higher Education: Case Studies [125 pp.]

Date uploaded > 02 February 2009 > Shailey Minocha

The case studies or initiatives investigated in this study are consolidated in this document. The 26 initiatives or case studies investigated in this study cover a broad range of social software tools such as discussion forums, wikis, blogs, podcasts, microblogging or Twitter, photo-sharing (Flickr), Google Earth, 3-D virtual worlds, web conferencing, social networking sites such as Facebook, and others based on Elgg and Ning.

The case studies are from a wide range of disciplines, at different levels of study (undergraduate, post-graduate, vocational courses) in part-time and full-time courses in further and higher education. The mode of delivery is diverse: face-toface, blended learning (face-to-face and online learning), and distance-education.


Table Of Contents

Case Studies 9
1 Computer Gaming and Video Capture in Second Life 12
2 Using Wikis to Support Small Group Work 17
3 Facebook as a Pre-induction Support Tool 22
4 Community@Brighton: Social Networking at University of Brighton 27
5 Using Web 2.0 in Further Education Library Services 31
6 Photo Publishing with Lulu 35
7 Social Networking through Ning on a Distance-learning Programme 40
8 Using a Wiki for Developing a Portfolio and for Communication 44
9 A Blogging Support System for Trainee Teachers 49
10 OpenStudio: An Online Community for Digital Photography Students 54
11 Collaborative Learning in a Wiki on a Software Engineering Course 59
12 Using Wikis and Video-conferencing on Team Engineering Course 64
13 Blogs and Social Bookmarking for Exploration of Historical Sources 68
14 Photo-sharing on Flickr 73
15 Develop Me! Social Networking at University of Bradford 77
16 Using Podcasting to Develop Oral Skills for Physiotherapy Practice 81
17 Blogs, Wikis and Social Bookmarking to Support Web-based Research 86
18 Social Networking and Community-building in Dentistry Courses 90
19 Digital Identity, Communication and Collaboration through Web 2.0 95
20 Social Networking: Connect-ing Students and Staff 99
21 Google Earth: Practical Exercises in Geographic Information Science 104
22 Using Social Bookmarking: Tools for Finding Things Again 108
23 Student Engagement: Discussion Forums and Web Conferencing 111
24 Supporting a Group of Distance-learning Students on Skypecast 116
25 Using Twitter to Support Students and Their Projects 119
26 Using Facebook to Obtain Student Feedback 122

Full Report Available At


Project Site


Thanks to The Caribbean Librarian for The HeadsUp !

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