Can social media foster our learning? We are doing it anyway, even without your help! An exploration into the evolution of a student-led social networking group to support collaborative learning

Alison Hartley @AlisonSHartley – University of Bradford

The short paper presents initial findings from qualitative research which aims to explore learners’ perceptions on the evolution of a student-led social networking group within a specific group of undergraduate students.

Team Based Learning® (TBL), a form of collaborative learning, is used to deliver the face to face taught curriculum for this cohort of students.  Students have reported, anecdotally, to the programme team that they are also using a Facebook® closed group as a peer learning tool.  This paper hopes to extend the knowledge and understanding of the learners’ view on whether collaborative learning is being fostered through social media, and how this interacts with both the formal and informal learning communities created.   What are the learners’ views on how much learning is taking place outside of the formal curriculum, and how does this extend the classroom learning, if at all?  Is the collaborative nature of the TBL classroom approach perceived to have had some influence on the evolution of this online group?

Ellison et al (2007) question whether the use of social networking sites for peer learning and support is really at only a very superficial level. This paper reports on whether learners perceive themselves to be simply creating connections with each other rather than this social networking being more powerful and developing into a supportive peer relationship or a community of practice.   In addition this study aims to investigate whether there are any perceived differences in the value of this being a student-led, rather than teacher-led approach to sharing networked, social and active learning.

A series of focus groups will be held between September and November 2015 with students enrolled on the programme, this paper will be the first presentation of a thematic analysis of the learners’ views.