Friday, 16 May 2014

Event at Sheffield Hallam:Social media in learning, teaching and assessment

A couple of weeks ago I attended the “Using social media in learning, teaching and assessment”  event at Sheffield Hallam University on  the 1st May 2014. The event took place in Hallam Hall on the main Campus. I thought it would be useful to share some highlights with you…


Well not quite… I am referring to the format of the event, which was very similar to the speed-dating style.  We were presented with 11 tables that each contained a particular showcase in social media and were asked to choose a particular table as our starting point.

We were then given 15 minutes at that first table, before moving on to another of our choosing. Each table in turn would then also last 15 minutes.  The idea being that you got some good insight into about 4-5 tables’ worth of showcase within the entire allotted time.

I enjoyed this method of presentation. It ensured that you got to take in the main points from a good cross section of different activities. The only issue I could see with this style of presentation, is that things have to coordinate well, in terms of table finishing/starting times, otherwise you miss some important information from your next table.

Here is some highlights from the tables I chose…

Table 1 : Sharing experiences in starting out with social media in Learning Teaching and Assessment

The lead for this table was Dr Mark Faulkner in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing at Sheffield Hallam. The activity involved getting his students to produce a video that would then be hosted on YouTube. Students shot the video themselves (the content focusing on getting residential care patients away from the home and to more stimulating outdoor environments). This served as a fun initial activity for students (and student feedback was positive) but it also had a number of longer lasting goals…

  • Development of a facebook page that would incorporate this type of video plus other sources of information from/for health professionals.

  • Opportunity for students to look up the YouTube video and reflect back on the key messages that it contained.

  • The key messages from the videos could be disseminated to health professionals, in particular nurses caring for patients.

This table served as a great introduction for those who are interested in the  use of social media in learning, but were relatively inexperienced in the field.

Table 9:  Students’ use of social media for professional networking

As part of a module entitled “Designing & Developing E-Learning” a group of students  were tasked with putting together an online employability resource that would showcase the use of social media (particularly LinkedIn) for employability.

The resource, a mobile website, was built using a mixture of technologies including HTML5, Bootstrap (a website which helps new developers create web resources) and contained a mix of text/video and pictorial resources.  The resource was presented to us  on iPads that we could all use to scroll through the various information that was available. It was noted that the resource was still in development.

The students reported that this project had been an incredibly useful exercise, not only in terms of learning about the social media platforms themselves; how they work, and their main functions; but also about how important they may be as part of raising a student’s career profile.

Table 10:  Blended use of Facebook and Twitter for a deeper level learning and understanding of the course.

Matt Willett talked about his use of a Facebook group in the Business School, that had been developed over a number of years. Matt talked about how the use of this group (currently around 350 students) had enriched the learning experience for students, by giving them an area for support (academic and peer led), discussion, information exchange and fostering a learning community.

We talked about keeping the purpose of a student Facebook group clear. For example ,official course communication could/should be made in the VLE, whilst the facebook group remains the mechanism for more informal and supportive communications. We also talked about how academics would interact with the group. Students have the right to post information in this Facebook group,  but there is a fairly constant academic presence there, to ensure the group stays engaged and on topic. 

Matt also utilised a Twitter account to further help inform students, as well as structure and direct learning. An example use of this technology would be to help inform any upcoming lectures, so that students(who were following the Twitter account) would be armed pre-lecture.

Table 5: Enhancing Course Identity through social Media

Due to the overrunning of the previous session, unfortunately I missed some of this session… however...

The Presenters Claire Bland, Billy Bryan and Joanne Jenkins were talking about how they were looking to develop a code of practice for social media through research, focus groups and interviews with staff and students. These interviews were made to ascertain how best to structure social media platform/s that suited both staff and students.  There were 4 technologies included here: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Blackboard. 

There was some interesting discussion regarding how much input and presence staff should actually have in maintaining learning-directed social media areas (particularly Facebook/BlackBoard groups). Leaving students to their own devices on the one hand could lead to lack of student engagement but gives them much more freedom.  On the other, there is a potentially large administrative burden on staff in constantly keeping the information flowing, and students may feel restricted in what they can say. We also discussed the fact that Facebook has been seen in the past, as a the one social media tool that the students want to keep separated from their academic study. However it does seem that if set up correctly it can be a real addition to the student learning experience.

That wraps up my highlights from the day... very enjoyable, and hope to see more of this style of workshop!


  1. I was there for the earlier session and really enjoyed the style of the event (but note your points on over running) Looks like we visited similar tables, I certainly picked up on those students developing the support website for LinkedIn. One table I visited were using LinkedIn profiles to link and promote their CPD work on an externally hosted wiki (pysiopedia), interesting stuff. Here's the storify for the whole day from @suebecks #SHUSoMe

  2. Hi Ian, thanks for your comments.. I certainly would like to try some of this kind of conference format at UoS. Thanks for the storify link as well, very useful...



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