Stitching The Diss*: Researching Social Media Use in Higher Education Classrooms

As part of my dissertation, I need to discuss how social media is currently being used (and researched) in higher education settings.  I had hoped to search “connected learning” and higher education and be done with it, but as we can tell from this post, “connected learning” wasn’t going to cut the mustard for finding all the articles in the higher ed world.

So, given that my research question revolves around the assessment of the social learning processes that occur on social media platforms, why not search for:

Social Media” AND “Higher Education or Universities“?  

Once again, I used ERIC, Academic Search Complete and Education Research Complete (both from the EBSCO aggregator).

I found a total of 311 articles.  Once I removed:
(1) Repeats
(2) University use for recruitment, admissions, or communication with the community at large
(3) Non-academic use by students
(4) Non-instructional use by faculty
(5) Literature reviews, expert opinions, and theoretical position paper type things, I was left with

64 articles that described or studied class-related use of social media in graduate and undergraduate settings.

Here is what’s being studied and called “social media” in the educational research literature: 

“Other” includes: podcasts (3), mobile devices such as ipods or smart phones (3), Pinterest (1), Yammer (1), and homegrown, closed private social networking sites (4).

More useful information: 

  • A vast majority of these are individual case studies, describing how an instructor integrated social media platforms into their classrooms. 
  • Most describe digitally-enhanced face-to-face classes, although fully online courses are represented in small numbers.
  • Many of the studies came from business, music, library, or general education contexts with some health sciences, pre-service teachers, and humanities sprinkled in.   
  • Almost all studies focus on instructor perceptions of the technology, student satisfaction, or student perceptions of the value added by social media.
  • This information was captured through end-of-class surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
  • Most of the remaining were phenomenological studies meant to capture the student experience through qualitative content analysis of digital artifacts. 
  • Findings were almost ubiquitously positive. Some of the more interesting insights include:
    • Evans, C (2014) Twitter for teaching: Can social media be used to enhance the process of learning? British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(5), 902-915. –  This was a virtual ethnographic observation and qualitative/quantitative content analysis of a class in which Twitter was incorporated for the purpose of building a learning community. It found that amount of Twitter use was positively correlated with student engagement but not correlated with class attendance.  Course related tweets were entirely separate from any relationship-building between tutors and students.  Students used Twitter well for structured course-related activities but failed to use any of the interactive mechanisms available (mentioning, replying…)
    • Lin et al (2013) Students enjoy lurking/consuming tweets, but do not care to actively participate. Conclusions: scaffolding and education is needed to encourage students to participate.
    • Novakovich and Long (2013)  suggest that even though the quality of student feedback on blogs weren’t great, the act of providing it increased engagement and time on task. 
    • Pohl et al (2012) Enhancing the Digital Backchannel Backstage on the Basis of a Formative User Study. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 7(1), 33-41. Suggests that the use of Twitter during large lecture hall classes increases the students’ skills in asking critical or higher level questions. 
    • Jacquemin et al. (2014) Twitter was perceived by students and faculty to be too obtuse for formal discussions, but provided a wonderful hub for linking between course information and news/community/realworld


I know for a fact that there’s a lot of juicy information under the keywords “blogging” “microblogging” and “Twitter,” so no I do not think I’ve captured everything with this search.  However there is some interesting information here.  Until next time…

*What is “Stitching The Diss?” I’m enrolled in a doctoral seminar that’s meant to help us complete the first three chapters of our dissertation.  The instructor, Paul Gerber, has suggested that the literature review is best contemplated in little nuggets (he said segments, but I work at #VCUALTLab, so I say nuggets) lest we get overwhelmed and confused by the task at hand.  Ok.  In an attempt to stay pleasantly overwhelmed and only as confused as can trigger creative productivity, I’ve opted to blog about each search I do so that I might stay engaged and increase my time on task.  After I blog about it, I “stitch” or “connect” it all together.  Stitching the diss. In other words, I’m hoping to learn. 


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I love that you're blogging this! Thanks!


  2. Laura Gogia says:

    No, thank you for commenting :). So far this has been a very helpful exercise as I work through how I want to lay out my literature review. For example, I've been struggling with the fact that my dissertation will use the term “connected learning” when in reality what my research is focusing on is “openly networked.” The use of social media in the classroom gets at the openly networked component of connected learning. So right now it seems obvious – go from social constructivism to communities of practice to connected learning to openly networked (which is the talk about social media in the classroom) to assessment of “openly networked”…but until I started blogging this stuff (maybe increasing my time on task :)) isn't wasn't that obvious. Plus, I've got a journal of my process. Plus, I don't have to do all my thinking in APA. It's a win-win-win-win. Highly recommend.


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