While bumping across feeds and tweets this morning, I came across this article – Get out of MySpace! (Norah Jones, Haydn Blackey, Karen Fitzgibbon and Esyin Chew – doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.07.008). In the past I’ve commented that students don’t really like having the “tower” come into their online social space. ECAR had article on this and I had attended a session at ISSOTL as well. This however is the first research on the topic that I’ve seen (I’m sure there will be more). What they found was:
In the context of higher education, there is a general campaign and trend for life-long learning, inquiry-based learning, peer-assisted learning and learning in groups for social constructivists. On the other hand, there is an interesting argument appeared from the students’ voices in this research – they refuse to use social software for learning due to their separation of ‘life’ and studying’ or ‘home’ and ‘lectures’. Learning is a ‘painful’ process where as social life is pleasure to many students. One of them has a strong and disconfirming assertion:
Interviewer: “Do you think that social software can provide a more holistic learning for you if they were embedded in the learning module?”
Student C1: “No! Get out from my space! …social software is for fun you know, not for study!”
In addition to social spaces being a “fun” space, students also suggest that instructors are often not knowledgeable enough to integrate social technology:
Some students may not keen in additional “e-tivities” since there are so many physical activities to be involved. Only by individual interest or with extra time availability, students would go further to participate in online activities. In contrast to the massive take-up of certain social software such as Facebook among student cohort, the issue of time-consuming could be related to the attitude of separating social life and learning. Students may perceive Facebook or blog as personal and social pleasure and has nothing to do with the curriculum learning.
Lecturers are not up-to-date and may not know how to integrate and make use of social software
Social software is not the cause of an issue but the lecturer is. Students further expressed their wish list from a pedagogical perspective. For example, students hope their lecturers could teach innovatively, teach with educational passion and keep themselves up-to-date:
“I hope the lecturer can teach other than the conventional way, more things other than the subject area itself. I think many lecturers are not up-to-date!” Student A2
“The problem now is not because of the technology…the problem is the lecturers themselves. The lecturers do not know how to integrate all these. Perhaps the lecturers know how to use them but it is useless if they don’t have passion in education.” Student A1
The article has a number of suggestions in the conclusion, but the kicker for me is the idea of the “social-learning divide”. This “gap” is one that the academy must mind if it hopes to walk the line between becoming part of a student’s life and interfering with it. If the academy looks to the social space as a place where attitudes can be encouraged, then I think it will go much further than if it tries to use the social space for a curricular outcome. For example, a Chemistry prof might put up interesting articles that are not related to the class perse in their social stream for students to pick up. If a small number become interested enough to follow up on those articles, then the coursework that the prof is delivering might have a better chance of sticking as the student now has a “fun” connection to the “hard” material.
At the end of the day, institutions should really look at their social presences as ways to build lifelong learners at best and to advertise their “standard line” at worst. If they try to use it as yet another C/LMS, it seems that they are bound to fail.