Using Social Media in Creating and Implementing Educational Practices

Using Social Media in Creating and Implementing Educational Practices

Robyn Gandell (Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand) and Inna P. Piven (Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5826-2.ch005


Social media use has become ubiquitous in the everyday lives of many people around the world. Combined with smartphones, these interactive websites provide a vast array of new activities and immediate access to a world of information for both teachers and students. Research into the use of social media in educational practice is growing. In this chapter, the authors examine the use of social media from the perspective of lecturers and learning designers in a tertiary education institute in New Zealand. Data from a qualitative, interview-based research investigation highlights three key themes: 1) the use of social media as a course management tool; 2) the use of social media to enhance student centered learning; and 3) the need for institutional support for using social media in educational contexts.
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Over the last twenty years social media websites, particularly commercial social media sites, have increased in number and functionality (Tess, 2013; Chaffey, 2017). This has happened as, and perhaps because of, developments in smartphone technology where millions of people now have everyday access to handheld computers and an increasing array of applications (Smith, 2010). Using smartphones, it is now possible to easily record, edit and post photos, videos and other media to social media sites where they can be viewed, potentially by millions of people but more likely by friends and relatives. With such large numbers of people worldwide interacting through social media sites everyday (Chaffey, 2017), social interactions are changing and this has the potential for significant change in classroom social interactions as well. The early reaction of many lecturers and teachers to mobile phones was to ban use of these devices in the classroom. As smartphones evolved, educators and institutions realized that these devices allowed unprecedented access to information and to the world from the classroom. In addition, with the growth of online Learning Management Systems (LMS) and blended learning in education, some educators realized that social media could also offer a way to enhance the learning and teaching in the classroom.

Although there is a growing body of literature on social media, the research into the benefits and challenges for tertiary learning is still emerging (Salmon, 2015; Tess, 2013). This research provides a snapshot of lecturers’ and learning designers’ use of social media platforms in a tertiary education context. The study investigates the experiences of these educators, their use of social media in learning and teaching, and their understanding of how social media fits within a pedagogical framework and best teaching practices. In seeking to understand what is happening in these courses from a lecturer’s and learning designer’s perspective we posed the following research question:

How is social media effectively integrated in learning design and development within the tertiary educational context?



Social media is a new social and cultural reality characterized by unlimited opportunities for connection, communication, information seeking and knowledge sharing. As Piven and Breazeale (2016) state; “the most noticeable changes in all aspects of our collective, private and public lives are connected to the emergence of social media” (p. 283). In a multitude of ways, social media plays an important role in day-to-day practices and experiences within the education sector. For example, the recent global survey of higher education social media usage by Hootsuite (2017) reported that over 90% of education providers across the globe are now engaged with social media. While marketing and communication departments remain the most common users, there is a high adaption of social media by academic staff as well. The report also confirms that a changing student profile is the key driver behind social media adaptation by educators. As Benson (2016) states, “this new generation of students has provoked the proliferation of technology resources that could be used by academic staff to facilitate students’ learning experience” (as cited in Kofinas, Al-Shawakbeh, & Lim, 2016, p. 268).

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