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Integrating Social Media in the Humanities Online Classroom

  • Published: 2017-02-17 (Rev. 2017-02-18) - Contact: Stacey Atiyeh at University of Phoenix
  • Synopsis: Authors describe strategies for Social Media platforms in which faculty can incorporate into online classrooms to develop relationships, communicate, and provide relevant information.

Main Document

Abstract

Social networking technologies are popular mediums of communication with our technology driven need for immediacy and are where educators can potentially locate a significant portion of this generation of students. Thus, instructors are continuously searching for ways to integrate these dynamic tools into the online classroom. In this research, the authors describe three strategies for each platform - LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter - in which faculty can incorporate into the online classroom to develop relationships, communicate, and provide relevant information.

Introduction

Social media is an avenue that many people utilize on a daily basis including our students. It is estimated that 90% of young adults (ages 18 to 29) use some type of social media and 65% of all adults are active on one or more types of social media (Perrin, 2015). Over the past decade, research has shown that people with some college involvement have consistently been more likely to use some type of social media than those without any college experience (Perrin, 2015). Many faculty are wanting to explore avenues of reaching our students on their own turf, which is on social media. Therefore, it is essential that educators in higher learning platforms find ways to implement social media aspects into the classroom. This paper discusses four specific types of social media and the implications these have in the classroom. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all examined and three specific strategies for each are determined.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional network social media site that allows one to build a comprehensive, professional resume to share with others around the world. This social media site allows users to connect, find career opportunities, share research and resume ideas, and more. Conner (2014) shares that there are over 300 million users worldwide. This has increased 46% since 2013 (Conner, 2014). Breitbarth, a LinkedIn expert (as cited in Conner, 2014) shares that 41% of users have more than 500 connections.

With such a powerful tool, how can higher education instructors implement the features and resources with students? With limited research to support this idea, the authors have discovered several strategies for using LinkedIn with students. First, students can create a LinkedIn profile and have the instructor review his or her resume, make recommendations, and offer suggestions for improvement. This can ultimately lead to increased student motivation and confidence when it comes to a job search and career readiness. The instructor can form a LinkedIn group for students to collaborate and interact with one another based on interests and field of study. This can result in greater networking opportunities, stronger student-to-student relationships, and sharing of experience and expertise. Additionally, this can lead to stronger instructor-to-student relationships, building trust and confidence. Finally, using LinkedIn as a classroom resource can "provide students with 21st Century skills which could aide their employability and increase levels of satisfaction" (Dunn, n.d., p. 1).

Instagram

Instagram is a mobile social network app for pictures and fifteen-second videos that can be quickly shared across multiple social media platforms. According to Instagram (2016), "they have a community of more than 500 million and share 95 million photos a day." Their uniqueness is that they provide "filters" to transform your pictures from "ordinary" to "extraordinary."

When a picture is worth a 1000 words; why wouldn't faculty want to share information and knowledge engaging with the student in a visual and creative way that connects the curriculum to the student's everyday life while fostering and boosting creative and critical thinking skills? As excited as we were to consider the possibilities, the incorporation of Instagram as a learning tool into the online classroom at the university level appears to significantly lag behind other social media outlets. However, there is a significant body of research in the K-12 arena that could bridge over into the higher education setting. In our exploration, the authors found three strategies where faculty could use Instagram in the online classroom.

First, visuals can be a powerful tool to provide inspiration and motivation to engage and encourage students. Pictures with motivational quotes or versus provide positive impact and builds relationships between peers and between instructor and student. Second, it could be used quickly to make classroom notifications and announcements. Instructors could send assignment reminders or reminders of upcoming school breaks and events. Lastly, it could be used to build community. One of the disadvantages of online courses is that the student is isolated and has to study and learn on his or her own. As Diasio (2015) stated,

As students share and collaborate using YouTube and Instagram they see the work of others that are going through the same course and facing the same challenges. In this way, students do not feel alone, but instead feel invested in the course, build a shared identity; sharing common symbols and build an environment of trust and safety. (para. 5)

Facebook

Facebook was launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and has evolved to be one of the largest social networking sites with 1.7 billion users worldwide as of 2016, 3rd quarter results (Carlson, 2010; Statisa, 2016). Facebook web application popularity has become a familiar social networking site for sharing information that can be accessed from multiple electronic devices. Facebook's no-cost access provides support for user groups in private or public platforms, notifications, chatting, and creates activity logs that can be traced (Derawi, 2015).

Facebook is gaining popularity with students as an informal use for networking and studying. For instance, Pimmer, Linxen, and Gröhbiel (2012) conducted research on medical students using Facebook as a tool for learning groups on clinical and medical discussions internationally. The engagement of medical students across international borders offered opportunities for sharing knowledge and expertise, however, these discussions were outside the boundaries of an educational setting and were shared on Facebook as a tool for engagement (Pimmer et al., 2012).

Facebook could be used for course preparation and discussion groups McCarthy (2015) believed that Facebook could create collaborative learning environments that can hold course materials for students to access, share, and communicate with instructors. It could also be used to connect students through networking and feeling part of a community using different devices (Derawi, 2015; McCarthy, 2015). Lastly, it can enhance discussions and lecture material by using tutorials, PowerPoint presentations, and research links all housed in one location instead of searching different Internet sites (Derawi, 2015).

Twitter

One way to foster collaboration and engagement both in and out of the classroom is by using an online social media networking service called Twitter. Twitter affords users the ability to write up to a 140-character message called a "tweet". Not only can you tweet character messages, you can also tweet photos, videos, and links to interesting information that connects learning in the classroom with real-life experiences and examples. In its 10 years of service, Twitter now has over 500 million tweets posted within a 24 hour period (Shandrow, 2016).

In this day and age of technology, educators are constantly looking for ways to engage students and connect the learning process. What better way to do that than bridging social media, a tool that many students use already, to the online classroom. "Social media applications provide educators with the opportunity to foster engagement and interaction in their higher education classrooms. Specifically, Twitter helps engage learners using a media application in which they are interested. It enables educators to curb the traditionalist comprehension based model and encourages critical thinking, synthesis, and evaluation throughout the learning process" (Rockinson-Szapkiw &Szapkiw, 2011, p. 360).

There are several ways to use Twitter in the online classroom. Twitter is a great avenue to engage students in current events that relate to the material covered in your classroom. Consider using this opportunity to provide a platform for continued discussion outside of the classroom, which can enhance reflection of key concepts presented in a lesson. Another way to use Twitter in the classroom is to create a custom classroom hashtag. Doing so allows students to connect and collaborate on not only on course topics, but also allows them to find pertinent course information tweeted by the instructor. Students can simply search for the hashtag for instant access. Additionally, Twitter can be used to engage students while presenting live lecture tweets. For example, faculty can ask questions and connect with students using twitter polling; students can live tweet questions, post links to supplementary material, etc. which allows them to be completely engaged kinesthetically during a class lecture.

Conclusion

This research examines four popular social networking technologies - LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter - along with various strategies for incorporating each of the four social mediums into the online classroom. All twelve of the strategies identified by the authors have been found to significantly enhance communication and ultimately the teacher-student relationship. While these technologies have an impact on student-teacher connectivity and relationships, future research needs to quantitatively focus on whether these social networking technologies really has a positive impact on the student learning process.

Educause (2006) says it best,

Any technology that is able to captivate so many students for so much time not only carries implications for how those students view the world but also offers an opportunity for educators to understand the elements of social networking that students find so compelling and to incorporate these elements into teaching and learning. (p. 2)

References

Carlson, H. (2010). At last - The full story of how Facebook was founded. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/how-facebook-was-founded-2010-3

Conner, C. (2014, May 4). New research: 2014 LinkedIn user trends (and 10 top surprises). Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2014/05/04/new-research-2014-linkedin-user-trends-and-10-top-surprises/#369c03e23ad2

Derawi, M. (2015). E-education with Facebook-A social network service. Computer Science & Information Technology, 111-121. doi:10.5121/csit.2015.50210

Diasio, S. (2015). Insights from online teaching using YouTube and Instagram. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/insights-from-online-teaching-using-youtube-instagram-stephen-diasio

Dunn, L. A. (n.d.). Teaching in higher education: Can social media enhance the learning experience? Retrieved from http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_276225_en.pdf

Educause. (2006, September). 7 things you should know about Facebook. Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2006/9/eli7017-pdf.pdf,

Instagram. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/about/us/

Leaver, T. & Kent, M. (2014). Facebook in education: Lessons learnt. Digital

Culture & Education, 6(1). Retrieved from

http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/leaver.pdf

McCarthy, J. (2015). Learning in the café: Pilot testing the collaborative application for

education in Facebook. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1).

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1500

Perrin, A. (2015, October 8). Social media usage: 2005-2015. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/

Pimmer, C., Linxen, S., & Gröhbiel, U. (2012). Facebook as a learning tool? A case study on the appropriation of social network sites from mobile phones in developing countries. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 726-738. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01351.x

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., & Szapkiw, M. (2011, January). Engaging higher education students using Twitter. Retrieved from DigitalCommons: http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1205&context=educ_fac_pubs

Shandrow, K. L. (2016, March 21). 10 interesting facts about Twitter on its 10th birthday. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/272803

Statisa. (2016). Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 3rd quarter 2016 (in millions). The Statistical Portal. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/

Authors

Stacey Atiyeh
University of Phoenix
1625 W. Fountainhead
Tempe, AZ 85282
USA
Stacey.Atiyeh@phoenix.edu

Dr. Jessica Bogunovich
University of Phoenix
1625 W. Fountainhead
Tempe, AZ 85282
USA
Jessica.Bogunovich@phoenix.edu

Teri Hirlinger
University of Phoenix
1625 W. Fountainhead
Tempe, AZ 85282
USA
Teri.Hirlinger@phoenix.edu

Dalynn Jackson
University of Phoenix
1625 W. Fountainhead
Tempe, AZ 85282
USA
Dalynn.Jackson@phoenix.edu

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