Friday, 12 October 2012

the VLE vs Facebook - what do students think?

As the first term progresses it is interesting to see how students are coping with the Virtual Learning Environment. We do a lot of handwringing here about whether or not our VLE is fit for purpose - often mainly focusing on how easy (or not) it is for academics to use.

So two weeks in to the course, what do our students think? (response rate: 62 students or 60% of those enrolled)

86% are staisfied/very satisfied with the ease with which they can find module and  assessment information
85% are saistfied/very satisfied with the way learning materials are organised
90% are satisfied/very satisfied with the module news and messages from tutors
87% are satisfied/very satisfied with the range of links to other web based resources or links to other resources within the University.

Some comments:

  • I think its a great way of using technology and effective communication - its a quick and easy way of finding the modules.
  • very easy to understand and really liked the layout
  • I particularly like how the sessions are set out in weeks and terms as it makes it easier for me to access the specific session I am after. [NB not all Learning Rooms are set out this way]
  • I like the fact that not only for this module but for every module it has the hand book, that is useful for me to keep looking at and getting my head around it
  • the layout of information was a bit confusing but I'm becoming more confident the more I use it.
Difficulties include: syncing the timetable to their mobile phone using ical (most manage it OK); accessing from home; difficulty downloading some documents and some issues about navigation, given that every module is laid out in a slightly different way.

As part of my investigation into the use of Facebook in my module, I have also been getting their feedback on that too. They have completed an online survey and also responded to a blog post about Facebook in a learning context, via a short essay.

93% of those responding had a Facebook account before coming to university and they use it predominantly for keeping in touch with friends and family (85% rated this as important or very important). However, 65% felt it was also important/very important  to join the Facebook group to interact with other students on their course and over 70% felt it was important/very important to access the Facebook Study Support page run by their tutors.

85% of students responding to the survey had visited the Study Support Facebook page and of these, they expressed 85-90% satisfaction with the links, posts and resources it contains. Suggestions for improvement included posts by course reps and more interaction with other students.

In the short essays, students predominantly come down AGAINST using Facebook for learning, replicating pretty much the dominant conclusion from last year's assignment on this theme. The main reasons cited are:

1) worries about privacy and cyber bullying (reason not to have FB at all)
2) worries about getting distracted from the real work of studying
3) lack of tools to support learning
4) the fact that not everyone has or wants a FB account

On the positive side there is this quote:

"Bringing education in to something that we use day to day, I believe, encourages education."
and another 

 "Since starting university, facebook has become a learning method for me as I was introduced to the Health and Social Care study support group. This I have found very helpful as everyone from the course can comment and help each other out from something as small as the room for our next lecture to advice on our latest essay." ( I think this student is referring here to the students-only group, rather than the tutor-led Page, which singulalry lacks any student comments or posts) 

So whilst not conclusive this again provides some evidence to add to the debate about using social networking in education. Early thoughts: social media definitely add to the experience of coming to University and maybe help with early engagement, but the VLE ain't dead yet......


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