Profiling “User Bases” of Online Social Contexts: Designing Learning With Social Media Integrations

Profiling “User Bases” of Online Social Contexts: Designing Learning With Social Media Integrations

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1573-0.ch006


One aspect of profiling to enhance teaching and learning involves the various contexts in which learners will engage, such as particular social media ecosystems and their attendant microcultures (the social norms and common practices in these spaces), particularly if learners will be engaging with individuals outside of the formal classroom. Understanding the larger online social context helps define the affordances and constraints of what can be effectively taught and learned. This involves profiling the current user base of the online social spaces where the learners will be engaging and interacting and co-creating knowledge.
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In various learning contexts—face-to-face (F2F), blended (including F2F and online elements), and fully online—social media platforms have been integrated for a variety of learning needs. For example, social connectivity with other learners and professionals in the field have been enabled through social networking sites. Information is exchanged through blogs, microblogging sites, and wikis. Learners may curate their own social presences online via social networks and leave trace information through searches and online purchases (Hernández-Serrano, 2011, p. 293). Digital objects, from various innovations, are shared through photo-sharing sites, video-sharing sites, music-sharing sites, code-sharing sites, simulation-sharing sites, slideshow-sharing sites, and others. Social bookmarking and social tagging sites are used to help both those labeling content to develop heightened sophistication of the contents, and to help those looking for contents find what they need. Serious games, including role-playing ones, are enacted in physical spaces with “augmentations” to reality, and in virtual immersive worlds and massively multiplayer online game (MMOGs or MMOs). Learning simulations may be enacted in digital laboratories. Team projects may be co-created using a variety of work-sharing tools. Online surveys and interviews may be crowd-sourced, based on micropayment sites; they may be conducted live on livestreams such as through video sharing sites; they may be conducted in invited groups on web conferencing tools (with video-based social presences). Research contents may be accessed through federated searches, informed in part by social user data. On news sharing sites, they may vote news and comments up or down and have a voice in the popularity of certain information (Hernández-Serrano, 2011, p. 293).

People’s creations of digital avatars to represent themselves offer channels for self-expression, social presences, and identity explorations. These representational avatars may enhance intercommunications through virtualized nonverbals (Allmendinger, 2010). How learners self-represent—through their social presence—“determines the quality of the communication and perception of others” (Caspi & Blau, 2008, p. 323). How learners self-project, perceive others, and identify with the group in an online discussion group positively correlated with each other (as variables) and “with most aspects of perceived learning” (Caspi & Blau, 2008, p. 323). Instructors “should encourage social participation and emphasize shared group identity in order to increase perceived learning” (Caspi & Blau, 2008, p. 342). Finally, as social beings, social presence was found to affect people’s motivations for learning (Yamada & Kitamura, 2011).

Social media platforms are used for learning, research, socializing, collaboration, information-sharing, and even the creation of online communities. The respective technologies are integrated by the software makers, in some cases, or by users themselves in others (given the ease of inline frames or iframes and interlinking).

Various technologies of the Social Web or Web 2.0 enable “2.0 learning environments” (Hernández-Serrano, 2011), with people engaging in social interactions and moving towards collaboration and the co-creation of knowledge. Social technologies may be general ones harnessed for learning, or they may be dedicated ones created specifically for shared learning:

Social media tools are increasingly being used in education, providing students with a medium in which they can actively engage with each other and with their teachers, co-create knowledge, share experiences, work and learn collaboratively. Learning implies not only access to information but also access to other people; in this context, social networking services (SNS) appear well suited for educational use, since they offer social space for people to gather online and make connections…Two approaches are summarized: i) the pedagogical repurposing of existing popular SNS…ii) the design of dedicated educational SNS” (Popescu & Ghita, 2013, p. 184)

This work applies to both types of social media platforms—generalist ones designed for sociality but harnessed for collaborative learning, and dedicated collaborative learning ones created for applied learning.

Key Terms in this Chapter

User Base: Established population of users for a particular social media platform.

Micro-Culture: A localized sense of social rules, norms, and ethos in a particular (online, social media) context.

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