There has been a lot of research and case studies popping up recently about using social media in higher education. Does it facilitate class discussion, or distract students? How can professors utilize social media tools in the classroom? What platforms are most effective? At Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (also known as the iSchool) social media is used in several classes in order to enhance the learning experience for students and faculty. Professor Anthony Rotolo teaches IST 486/686: Social Media in the Enterprise and uses social media platforms in conjunction with class discussions about social media in order to give students hands-on experience using these tools, increase student engagement and enhance participation. As the teaching assistant for the course, I’ve seen how using social media in a higher education setting can have positive effects on learning in the classroom. There are numerous ways to use social media in the classroom; here are several tactics used in #Rotoloclass.
Create class hashtag: In #rotoloclass, in our first meeting all students are required to create a twitter account (if they don’t already have one) and follow Professor Rotolo and myself. They are also encouraged to use the class twitter hashtag, #rotoloclass, during class and outside of class to share information with other students and the rest of their followers.
Provide a live feed during class: By allowing and encouraging students to use computers, cellphones and iPads in class, some feel it creates an environment of multitasking and results in distractions from the lesson. However, this mirrors the real world- in a professional organization, you’re going to have these devices in the office and meetings as well. Professor Rotolo displays a screen in his classroom that live-streams tweets with the #rotoloclass hashtag. This encourages students to use the hashtag, and it also focuses their attention on the lecture and the thoughts of other students. They’re actively responding to the lecture with their own thoughts, replying to other students, and taking notes! It also allows their ideas to spread online to those following #rotoloclass, or students who are sick and unable to attend. Another positive result of the live-steaming and tweeting has been connections to other professionals and organizations who are following the discussion from their homes or offices.
Encourage discussion outside of class: The students are encouraged to use Twitter for their own purposes outside of class to network, gain a following and participate in conversations. By using Twitter, students are actively using the information they’ve learned in class about social media and gaining experience using the platform. Students use the class hashtag to share content about social media to other students outside of class meeting times. They can also ask questions and interact with Professor Rotolo and myself about the course, assignments, current events, or other matters. It has created an environment of collaborative learning and an open exchange of information.
Learning outcome: The results of using Twitter in these ways has enhanced participation and increased engagement in the course.
Create a class Tumblr: Students in #rotoloclass create and contribute to a class blog using Tumblr to learn about blogging in a professional organization, share relevant information about social media with others, and foster discussions about the course topics. This not only allows them to get experience blogging and using this specific platform, but it also creates an online community with several benefits for the course.
Research and learn outside of class: Contributing to the class Tumblr account encourages students to seek relevant information on their own outside of class and share it with their peers. They’re able to enrich discussion about a topic of their choosing, research it thoroughly, and report their findings in a succinct manner. They’re also encouraged to not only report the facts, but reflect on the topic and contribute with their own thoughts and opinions.
Share resources with other students: By adding content to the course blog, students are not only furthering their knowledge on a specific topic or event but teaching other students in the course (or other people on the internet) about it as well. The posts and comment discussions on the blog contains a huge amount of additional information that Professor Rotolo wouldn’t have time to cover in the allotted time for class in the semester.
Learning outcome: The students are teaching themselves, learning to blog, and sharing information with each other. It also encourages them to continue learning and keep up with news outside of class lessons.
Create accounts and content: One of the most highly anticipated assignments in #rotoloclass is the viral video assignment. Students create youtube accounts and must attempt to create a video that has the potential to spread on the internet using methods that we describe in the course. This teaches students how content spreads online, how to create their own content, and provides them with experience to the numerous kinds of videos that can be used in a professional organization.
“Fun” assignment encourages creativity: This assignment isn’t meant to be difficult; very few students actually achieve the goal of getting hundreds or thousands of views on Youtube. We don’t assign any guidelines about what the video should be about. Students come up with an idea, go out and shoot it, edit it and upload it to the site. But, it does allow them to understand the random nature of viral videos, work in a group, get creative, and have some fun.
Learning outcome: Students learn how to create video content and share with others effectively online.
Provide office hours: As the class TA, I held my office hours using Skype instead of having a set time and place. Students were encouraged contact me if they had questions about a topic or assignment and organize the meeting based on our schedules.
Experience virtual meetings: In many organizations, meetings aren’t only held in-person anymore. The goal of using Skype was to acclimate students to meeting in a virtual environment.
Learning outcome: How to utilize online opportunities in a professional organization and communicate virtually.
For further information:
- Read: 100 Inspiring Ways to Use Social Media in the Classroom
- Read: 13 Enlightening Case Studies of Social Media in the Classroom
- Watch Professor Anthony Rotolo speak about his methods on using social media to strengthen lessons in the classroom