This post discusses the affect social media has on modern life, and to what extent the world of social media is merging with real life. The focus will be on education and how education has changed, reflecting on the popularity and engagement of social media.
Social media has been defined in many different ways. According to “WhatIs.com“:
“Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.”
Social Media is a platform that allows people to be active in participating to published work. Each action or post on social media is published for a certain network of people to see. This engages the public and is key in changing society from primarily an audience to producers. Another way to think about this active audience would be to think of them as ‘produsers’, which means they are taking charge of user-led content online.
Web 2.0 is the primary step in a content led online society. Web 2.0 provides the move from static web to fluid web, allowing more engagement online and between creator and viewer. Web 2.0 is much more active compared to a passive Web 1, and the focus of Web 2 pushes towards user based content and interactivity.
Education began using the Web 2.0 form from very early on. It was a key element in keeping new generations, which may be more technology dependant, engaged in their academic studies. I.C.T lessons were introduced in primary schools as computers and the internet came to the forefront of the future of education and work life. Sites and applications became much more readily available to combine education with Web 2.0. For example, Virtual Learning Environments (VLE’s) became common place for educational institutions, an area similar to an ‘intranet’, where all members of the institution, including staff, have their own personalised space to log into, with information about them, their grades, their timetable etc. It also acts as a hub to access internal emails. There are also sites such as Blackboard, more commonly used at degree level. This acts as a more in depth personal hub, and allows the institution to communicate with the student about their specific course and modules. Each module can have it’s own section, in which material can be posted about lectures, announcements can be made and surveys and module admin can be accessed. TurnitIn is another example of how education is more reliant on Web 2.0. It is an online system in which deadlines can be set, work can be uploaded and delivered and word counts and plagiarism can be checked. It is a multifunction tool often favoured by institutions to keep track of student submission times, word counts and plagiarism counts. It also allows the student to deliver work at any time of day, without paper.
This proves that the jump from Web to Web 2.0 creates a more cohesive environment within education, and allows institutions to increase engagement with a new generation of students. 20 years ago, students would be used to handwriting submissions and then handing in the physical copy. Whereas students today see using a word processor and submitting online at any time of day as the norm. This shows a big impact on the progression of the world wide web to attitudes and education.
Social media is something that has come about as a result of the attitudes towards Web 2.0 and education once again has evolved to incorporate this. This is something that is seen increasingly at degree level, but elements are also being introduced to earlier years.
The participatory culture of social media ensures that communication can be more personal than ever within education terms. Social Media has opened the gap for students and staff to be creators of the online content. This can contribute to different purposes. For example, assignment can now be completed online, such as multiple choice phase test’s on the Blackboard site, or via applications such as ‘MyMaths‘. This allows the user to view tasks and complete them on an online form, formulating a result immediately. This rapid feedback is extremely useful to students and staff alike, as it allows students to go back and review their work and their grades, and also ensures staff can gain a report of student progress as a like for like format, as everyone will answer in the same form. This type of work can also be password protected, to reduce risk factors such as question leaking, and answer spreading.
Lesson and lectures can also now build upon social media attributes, as these can be recorded using Panopto and be uploaded onto Blackboard, this allows student engagement and interactivity as they can chose certain points or certain lectures to view, and thus select their intake of information to suit their needs. Webinar is a software which allows people to watch live lectures online. This allows lectures to be hosted by someone in a small room, but those with the password can listen in and watch. A key aspect of webinar is that users can then interact with the lecturer, by using the chat function to ask or answer questions. The lecturer can then explain these via typing in the chat or explaining it in the lecture. This real time interaction goes a long way into tailoring education for each specific student.
YouTube is now also a common educational tool. Staff at educational institutions often chose to create and show YouTube videos as part of the course. For example, there may be a summary video at the end of each lecture, or available to view at the end of each week of learning. YouTube is an effective platform for this, as it allows the video to be viewed only by people with the link, so the information is appropriate and tailored to the network of people with the link. Also, the comments sections allow for a discussion between video creator and consumer.
YouTube is often also used for submissions now, as work of an audio or visual nature can be uploaded to the platform, with a link provided for the marking of it. This allows for the promotion of educational work. It also allows students to view past examples of their submission and compare to other similar submissions. This may enable students to get further ideas that weren’t provided within the original course content, and therefore improve on their submissions. The submissions are then stored online for future use, for example, use in a showreel to accompany a CV or can be re used by the lecturer as examples of good or bad examples of work to future course participants.
Twitter enables the users to post short thoughts and comments including media and links. Twitter also incorporates hashtags. These attributes make Twitter a successful platform for lecturers and institutions to post key announcements and facts about the school, course or module. Twitter also allows the user to tailor its services. For example, a lecturer may user twitter as a business style account only using it for University based content. A student, on the other hand, may have this content mixed in with their regular non-student contributions to the site.
The hashtag culture allows for people to connect using module codes or descriptions. For example, #tech2002 will show all comments and content about the Tech2002 Social Media Module at De Montfort University, whereas #tech2002_18 will bring up all content from Social Media at DMU from the specific year group.
Facebook is perhaps the largest social media platform used by educational institutions. Students are likely to have their own Facebook profile, and therefore it is the most effective way for the University to contact large numbers of the student population.
Facebook is often used before the students even arrive at University, allowing groups to be created of people with confirmed places at the Uni starting in a certain year. This allows for the socialisation of new students from all over the country before the year starts. It is also an effective platform for these people to ask any questions to people in similar situations. There are also more specific groups, for example, for all the students starting Level 4 Media Production at DMU in 2016. This allows future course mates to socialise, maybe have a group conversation, add friends and ask relevant questions. Other groups might include those of specific accommodation for the year, allowing future students to potentially find their flatmates and other friends before moving in. This means that moving to uni can be much less nerve-racking and stressful, as bonds might already have been. This can be especially useful for international students.
During the course, students will be involved in many facebook groups depending on what they are a participant in. The facebook group format allows for students to be categorised as they may take different paths throughout their academic career. The will be year group Facebook groups for general announcements to the course. There will also be specific module groups. The students enrolled on each module will be subsequently involved in the facebook group. This allows lecturers to provide relevant information to the relevant people, such as announcements. It also allows the information which used to have to wait till the lecture time to be portrayed as quickly as possible. It also allows real time discussion between students and lecturers, and a public forum for questions to be asked and answered, so that it may help other students. The use of tagging is often used, if there is an urgent message to a specific student or set of students, they can be tagged in order for them to receive a notification which may trigger a faster response. These messages can also be duplicates of emails, in order for students to have more forums to find specific information. This also means that students can find all the information they require in their chosen favoured form.
Take a look at the following video for more on how Education is affected by Social Media:
Delwiche, A. and Henderson, J. (2013). The Participatory Cultures Handbook. 1st ed. New York: Routledge.
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