Establishing Learning Communities: A Google+ Experience

Peter Lumsden @PLumsden, Karl Lester @karlrlester and Mark Wallwork – University of Central Lancashire


**NOTE, if choosing this workshop, it will be most beneficial if you have
a gmail account in advance of the session**

On very different courses, the three authors have independently developed on-line discussion as part of the curriculum and have been exploring the use of alternative platforms to the traditional, linear discussion threads prominent in VLEs such as Blackboard or Moodle. Here we want to present evidence of, and share with participants, the ways in which social media, specifically Google+, provides a non-linear approach to online discussions and some of the learning benefits which result.

The first part of the session will be an exploration of student demographic profiles and patterns of social media usage of students from different courses at the University of Central Lancashire: first year students from the Division of Business, Economics and International Business (KL); third year BA (Hons) Business and Management Top-Up students engaged in online learning (KL); geographically dispersed BDS Dentistry students (MW); and staff engaged on the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in HE (PL). We consider both the academic level of these students, and also how and why the different groups segregate according to their usage of Google+. This analysis explores contrasting examples of usage and considers if these correlate with overall patterns of engagement. Issues of changing interfaces, taste and preference of platform, and development of learning communities are also examined.

The session will also explore the effect social media has on individual learning and teaching practice. Using Google+ participants will share their experiences of social networking media and how this has been employed within learning and teaching (participants will therefore need to have a Google+ account set up in advance). Topics for discussion might include: student engagement; student motivation; communication; organisation and management of learning; knowledge creation and sharing; and problem solving.

It is hoped that the Google+ community established here will be self-sustaining beyond the confines of the conference.