The use of Social Media for assessment (The FB site for this module is for staff only)

Hilary Cunliffe-Charlesworth – Sheffield Hallam University
Abby Butler and Laura Burden – L6 students

Short paper

The use of social media on university courses has been noted as helpful to encourage student engagement and support the development of more contemporary pedagogic approaches (M.D. Hassell and M.F.Sukalich :2016.)

While social media is increasingly used in teaching, its use for assessment is less common. Examples include the use of social bookmaking, (parallels with literature reviews), blogs (portfolio of documents to demonstrate knowledge);  vlogging to develop reflection and demonstrate CPD,  and videos  for assessments by courses from nursing to engineering and languages. (Bartle, Emma and Lawrie, Gwendolyn (2013).

The ever-changing technological landscape from FaceBook, WeChat and VK  (VKontakte), has pushed the boundaries of student interaction between personal and professional.  However, apps such as Tumblr (micro blogging with multimedia),

Vine (video hosting) and Pintrest (image sharing and curation) offer a richness for student assessments unavailable to essays and examinations.

The disadvantages of social media include the additional time required for academics to set up and mediate sites such as FB. Hindrances include a perception of a digital divide for BME students or those from rural areas with poor internet speeds.  Additionally a lack of support for the students and staff) in the use of the technology is not clearly addressed.

Using social media has ethical implications and the need to update ethical procedures (Townsend, Leanne and Wallace, Claire (eds) : 2016) can also be seen as a reason not to shift to new assessment formats due to more complex ethical procedures. Moreover, while traditional assessment formats, notably essays are understood for their required content and evidence, their social media equivalence is seen to be less robust and more subjective. If assessment rubrics area more clear about the content and reasons for the assessment, the clarity of the task, whether written or social media based, should be more lucid to the student.  Subjects such as Film or Fine Art have a tradition of non-written assessments that are tacit in their quality of ‘HEness’, and courses such as Journalism and Digital Media can readily incorporate social media because of the relationship of the industry to the technology.

The advantages of social media are that they can be designed to be inclusive assessments: for example, rather than devising an alternative to an examination for a dyslexic student, all the students in cohort could be asked to choose between a traditional and an alternative format. Certainly the use of social media is more contemporary and related to future careers options. Indeed it has been estimated that 50% of the subject content of a four year degree course will be outdated by the end of a course (Scott and Fisch 2013) .

Just as academic writing is shifting from refereed journals and small readerships to academic blogs that are equally detailed in their use of citations yet open to all, assessments using social media are changing the landscape of learning. Social media based assessments provide experience and tools, that like their future careers, evolve and shift during the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.


Bartle, Emma and Lawrie, Gwendolyn (2013). Using student-created digital media assessment tasks to enhance understanding of basic science concepts: A case study.. In: Centre for Medical Education Research and Scholarship (CMEDRS) Learning and Teaching Conference, Brisbane QLD, Australia,  3 November 2013.)

Hassell, M.D. and .Sukalich, M.E.  (2016)’ A Deeper Look into the complex relationships between social media and academic outcomes and attitudes ‘ Information Research v21 n4 Dec 2016

McCloud,Scott and Fisch , Karl (2013)  cited in World Economic Forum The Future of Jobs (2016)

Townsend, Leanne and Wallace, Claire (eds) (2016) Social Media Research: A Guide to Ethics University of Aberdeen and E&SRC


Evaluating social media for assessment

Relation to the theme

  • innovative ways of meeting learning outcomes and enabling learning gain
  • building staff and student digital capability and confidence