Tuesday, May 10, 2016

For the Professors, Part 5: Social Media in the Classroom: Challenges and Opportunities

by Steven S. Vrooman

 Social Media in the Classroom: Challenges and Opportunities 
 Engaging Pedagogy Conference, TLU, Seguin, TX  May 11, 2016 
 Steven S. Vrooman, PhD  svrooman@tlu.edu  @MoreBrainz  morebrainz.blogspot.com

 A self-centered review of previous research:

These things work in eLearning:[1]

1.       LaRCs (Laterally Rewarded Competitions): Structured “games” which have non-graded rewards, either course-relevant (late pass) irrelevant (badges). Ex: The best post on a board gets to choose the next day’s debate teams.

2.       CATs (Content Applied through Technology): We disrupt their sense of control with surprising or de-centering moments in high impact classes. E-learning makes that harder. Use technology applications in surprising ways to do something similar. Exs: Use free software to make a comic. Oral interp their paper on YouTube. Instagram a page of marked-up text.

3.       MAJiCs (Modular Asynchronous Jobs in Collaboration): Group work with need for real time (synchronous) intra-group interaction removed. Ex: A discussion board debate. Reward for “winning,” but up to them how much to collaborate before they start posting.

4.       IDIGs (Interactions Daily, Individually & Grouped): Every day give them some individual feedback and some collective comments. Have them working on multiple assignments at once, some individual, some collaborative, and have pieces of each due every day (you can just grade for completion sometimes).

 These are what students engage with via social media, matched with eLearning techniques  & class-used social media  :[2]

·         Deep

·         Inspiring

·         Personal

·         Funny

·         Fandom

·         Hacks

·         Events

·         New

·         Problem-solving

·         Games

Note: There is decent evidence that these drive face-to-face and classroom engagement, as well.[3]

 Social media options used in classes, with additional engagement opportunities cued:

1.       Blogs: Students post data analysis (273, 274, 339, 378),[4] drafts (339, 379), final projects (339, 379). Peer review.

2.       Public Blog Comments: Alumni/experts invited to critique student work (339, 379).

3.       Discussion via Facebook EventIncluding alumni/experts (339).

4.       Students Publicized Work: They did work on Instagram and shared it & blog work via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (339).



1.       Better Work: Public work is better work, especially when outside voices tell them to improve it and students are promoting it.
2.       Engagement: Social media, used in certain ways, can increase engagement more than courseware, especially for Inspiring, Personal, Funny, Events and Problem-Solving.
3.       Portfolio: Students can retain their entire work to show progression or just the final versions to demonstrate their expertise.
4.       eLearning BonusesLaRCs work better in public environments. CATs are easier to design using social media. IDIGs are open-sourced, a bit, with peer and public comments.
5.       Skillset Development: For COMM majors, social media skills are key. For other majors, they are more important than you might think.[5]
6.       Alumni Engagement: Many LOVED the opportunity to reconnect with professors and students at TLU in this way and share their new skills and perspectives. Mentoring happened in many cases. And it set the stage for increased inclusion of those alumni in face-to-face events with students.


1.       Age:
a.       Nontraditional students: They had troubles: unwilling/critical of social media, self-doubt due to lack of familiarity, higher privacy concerns.
b.       Traditional students: They had troubles: difficulty adjusting to violation of “fun” space, difficulty with academic self-promotion.
2.       Sign-Ups:
a.       Technical DifficultiesFewer than courseware & easy to Google answers to, but signing up for accounts is surprisingly very hard for them.
b.       Secondary Accounts: Younger students often do not want classwork in their personal accounts, but second email addresses are often required for multiple accounts. Managing multiple accounts is easy for some platforms (Twitter) but hard in others (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn).
3.       Oversight: Hashtags are not enough to find their work. You need them to @ you or you won’t see everything.
4.       Content ABOUT Social Media is Needed: Things like how-tos, technical difficulties, privacy, etiquette, bullying/flaming, etc. probably need class time/resources to go over (however, offloading classtime experiences into social media helps offset this).

Social Media use for college classes is more than worth it, but it requires a level of faculty time and investment that not all will want to commit to. However, it seems unlikely, especially for classes which already utilize eLearning, that NOT doing this will remain a reasonable option for long.

[1] “Online Education Sucks” TLU Center for Teaching and Learning Mini-Workshop, April 10, 2015. http://morebrainz.blogspot.com/2015/04/for-professors-part-3-elearning-that.html.
[2] “Social Media and College Auxiliaries: Missed Opportunities and Lessons Learned.” Invited “NACAS Talk” at NACAS Conference, San Antonio, TX, November 2, 2015.
[3] “Our Brains Are A-Twitter.” Presentation at TEDxSanAntonio, San Antonio, TX, November 18, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6c5eeOCZ7E.
[4] All classes are COMM.

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