A student-led approach to using social media for academic studies

Sue Beckingham, Corran Wood, Jess Paddon, Ola Mazur and Sher Khan
Sheffield Hallam University

Short paper

This paper will demonstrate how a student-led group with an interest in social media for learning evolved and went on to explore useful resources for both their peers and tutors teaching them at Sheffield Hallam University; whilst also helping themselves develop valuable employability skills.

The founding group of students who created SMASH (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam) set out to identify how social media could be used effectively to enhance learning and teaching, with a view to encouraging tutors teaching on their own courses to embrace innovative approaches in the classroom. As a collective the group considered how social media could contribute to formal and informal learning (Dabbagh and Kitsantas 2011); the affordances mobile devices provide in relation to social media for learning and teaching (Gikas and Grant 2013); and the implications of a professional approach to social media use and how social media guidance is of value (Suigmoto et al 2015, Rennie 2016).

They identified three key areas where social media was being used: within learning activities, as a means of organising learning, and as a way of showcasing learning. Using these they developed three strands to focus on:

  1. Helping staff to identify and use social media tools for communication and collaboration within and beyond the classroom (Learning Activities).
  2. Helping students and staff to identify and use relevant social media tools to curate and organise information relating to learning (Organising Learning).
  3. Helping students to prepare digital portfolios to openly share outcomes and projects to develop a professional online presence (Showcasing Learning).

The team then identified what tools could support these activities and created resources in the form of a blog post and infographic poster. Their use of social media to showcase these outputs, demonstrates the third strand and an exemplar of student led extra-curricular activities that will contribute to their applications for the Hallam Award scheme led by the Student Union. The students will share what their motivations were to engage in this project, what the learning gains have been for themselves thus far, how they planned to extend the project to enable it to continue and involve other students, and ultimately how they plan to engage both peers and tutors with the benefits they have identified as users of social media for learning themselves.

Dabbagh, N. and Kitsantas, A. (2011) Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. Internet and Higher Education, 15 (1), pp 3-8. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751611000467?via%3Dihub
Gikas, J. and Grant, M. M. (2013) Mobile computing devices in higher education: Student perspectives on learning with cell phones, smartphones & social media. Internet and Higher Education, Vol 19, pp 18-26. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751613000262
Rennie, F. (2016) The Use of Social Media Services at Scottish Universities. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 4 (1) pp.19-24. http://jpaap.napier.ac.uk/index.php/JPAAP/article/view/167/pdf
Sugimoto, C., Hank, C., Bowman, T. and Pomerantz, J. (2015) Friend or faculty: Social networking sites, dual relationships, and context collapse in higher education. First Monday, 20 (3). http://firstmonday.org/article/view/5387/4409


social media, professional online presence, communication, collaboration, curation, creativity, informal learning, digital capability

Relation to the theme

  • engaging, stimulating and challenging learners
  • reaching and engaging different groups of learners
  • innovative ways of meeting learning outcomes and enabling learning gain
  • enhancing employability outcomes
  • building staff and student digital capability and confidence
  • scaling up excellence for broader impact