Learning together: Using social media to foster collaboration in higher education

Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education 01/2011; 2:105-126. DOI: 10.1108/S2044-9968(2011)0000002009


This chapter focuses on how social media tools can be used to enhance collaboration in higher education and the benefits and challenges that this can bring. We investigate how two social media tools, social bookmarking, and microblogging, can be utilized to foster collaboration and determine why this is important in contemporary higher education. Case studies of social media use at Bournemouth University show how social bookmarking and microblogging have already yielded benefits.The case studies are grounded in the challenges facing higher education in 2010. We explore how social media has been used in the context of a need to enhance academic excellence and drive efficiencies in the face of funding constraints and changing demographics.The case studies illustrate, first, how social bookmarking has been used to foster group cohesion, reflective practice, and evaluative skills in students, as well as being used at an institutional level to drive professional and administrative efficiencies; and second, how microblogging has made a difference in promoting reflective learning, group cohesion, and professional awareness in students and how this style of social networking has contributed to enhancing academic and professional networks.Whilst the tools, uses, and stakeholders vary, the case studies show how social media has enabled collaboration between, students, academics, librarians, learning technologists, and even professional groups beyond the institution. We conclude that, when used appropriately, social media can facilitate the collaboration that will be essential to overcome the challenges facing higher education.

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    • "Finally, because social media tend to be more 'social' than 'media' – i.e., not based on a particular technology – the different uses available can bridge both formal and informal communication and learning. This allows the professor to engage with the student on different levels of social interaction than in the traditional classroom (Ford et al., 2011; Hew, 2011; Vie, 2007). As a result, some research suggests, this kind of technology creates advantages over formal, traditional teaching technology in finding ways to create the collaborative and participatory educational environment that many professors treasure (Bull et al., 2008; Gandomi, 2011). "
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