Monday, 4 February 2013

Facing up to University

I have been working this weekend on putting together a poster for a conference at my University focusing on how I set up a Facebook Page for students transitioning into HE.

I have written elsewhere about this FBPage and its diminishing returns.I have now started to read some interesting papers exploring these issues which tend to confirm my developing hypothesis that too much tutor presence is bad for encouraging interactive student spaces.

In my poster I contrast 3 different scenarios:

Case Study 1:
Description: Open student led Facebook Group set up by 2nd year Student Mentors for incoming 1st year. Group is now into its second year. 93 students have joined and over 50% of these are regularly  active. Some involvement also by student mentors and other final year students. No tutors involved.
Aim: originally set up as a space where prospective students could meet prior to Induction.  No tutor involvement.
Method: students initially find Facebook page via Induction Website; later  on are added by friends
Posts are grouped broadly as follows (in order of number in category)
Requests for information: Hi can someone from Group 6 message me when we are meeting?
Requests for support with learning and assessment: is anyone doing the healthcare bill question for -- [module]? i can't find much information on it :/ x
Advice and information related to learning and assessment:   “choose a theoretical perspective like the Marxist perspective and build up your knowledge on this perspective i.e. how the perspective has changed over time and relate it to health and illness in general, adding in other perspectives like phenomenology, social construction, etc to back up the points you've made about Marxism …. Hope this helps xx
Expressions of  emotion: So struggling!! …. I'm so confused on this assignment xx …..
Congratulations/encouragement: Okay everyone, so our results are out tomorrow so a VERY GOOD LUCK EVERYONE :D
Criticisms of staff: no word of a lie three emails and not one has been replied to, it's a joke!
Social arrangements: HUGE night at Gatecrasher on weds…also, it's my 21st birthday that night! be cool if you came :)

These exchanges link to Garrison’s (2009)  Community of Inquiry Dimensions: Social Presence, Cognitive Presence and Teaching Presence. Rambe (2012) observes that self directed online groups present a “student regulated space” which subverts the normal hierarchy and power relations of educational establishments, giving a platform for complaint but also allowing shyer students a voice and permitting them to take on a teaching role.

Case Study 2: 

Closed Facebook Group set up in Term 1 by Social Work tutors in response to student requests. Currently has 50 members (about 1/3 of the student body). The posts are largely Tutor-led though one particularly active student (who is a student “social media ambassador” also dominates). Very little interaction between students so this functions more as a notice board. Staff concerns about privacy have led them to set up second accounts, official identities with which to manage this group. Lack of participation by majority of student body is possibly due to dominance of tutors.

Case Study 3:
VLE discussion Boards

Level 1 activity: Research a topic related to the module and post a link/commentary on Discussion Board. Add a comment in response to another student’s post. 80% of students did the first part of this successfully but very few (2-3%) completed the second part. Tutor responded to every post. 

Level 3 activity(Health & Social Care): work in small groups to develop a presentation. Use a closed Group Discussion Space in the Learning Room to organise and discuss progress. All students participated in this and there was good evidence of interaction amongst them. Tutor could see the group discussions but did not participate.

Level 3 activity (Social Work): take a personality quiz and work out your “type”. Post results in Discussion Board and add commentary. Comment on another student’s post. 50% of students participated and 70% of those also completed part 2. Tutor did not respond to posts.

Ke (2013) observes that frequent posting by instructors leads to shorter discussions and does not encourage student posts. He goes on to recommend interaction arrangements that prioritise student to student contact because these  lead to more elaborative and knowledge constructive interactions. Structure and leadership are needed to create deeper learning but this can be provided by students - not solely by instructors. Follows Majeski and Stover 2007 in asserting that deep learning is highly collaborative and interactive.


Chelliah, J. Clarke, E (2011),"Collaborative teaching and learning: overcoming the digital divide?", On the Horizon, Vol. 19 Iss: 4 pp. 276 - 285
Ke, F (2013) Online interaction arrangements on quality of online interactions performed by diverse learners across disciplines. The Internet and Higher Education, Volume 16, Pages 14–22
Garrison, D. R. (2009). Communities of inquiry in online learning: Social, teaching and cognitive presence. In C. Howard et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of distance and online learning (2nd ed., pp. 352-355). Hershey, PA: IGI Globa
Poutanen, P. Parviainen, O. Åberg, L (2011),"Conditions for self-organizing and creativity in blended learning environments", On the Horizon, Vol. 19 Iss: 4 pp. 286 - 296
Rambe, P. “Constructive Disruptions for Effective Collaborative Learning: Navigating the Affordances of Social Media for Meaningful Engagement” The Electronic Journal of e-Learning Volume 10 Issue 1 2012, (pp132-146)

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