Social Networking and Higher Education Article 2

The Use of Alternative Social Networking Sites in Higher Educational Settings: A Case Study of the E-Learning Benefits of Ning in Education.

Kevin P. Brady, Lori B. Holcomb and Bethany V. Smith


Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Vol 9(2)

Summer 2010



Similar to the last article that I reviewed, this case study used university students who took part in an online class using the educational social networking site Ning. From 2006-2007 there was a 9.7% increase in the number of college students enrolled in at least one online class, (page 151) and with the steadily increasing use of social networking, it makes sense to merge these two aspects together. “Research has shown that distance education courses are often more successful when they develop communities of practice” (page 151).  This sense of community is important because often, learning takes place most effectively when one engages in social interaction. Social networking sites, or educational sites with a social networking type layout, better account for creating this sense of community between a group of students.

Course Management Systems such as Blackboard and Moodle are common sites that Universities use for their online courses, but these lack many aspects that social networking sites have such as media sharing, wiki, tagging, groups, friends, and profile pages which ultimately connect people together on a deeper level.  “Social networking sites created specifically for an educational audience provide a unique opportunity for educators to facilitate a strong sense of community among students and encourage personal interactions…” (page 153).

After a term of using Ning for their online courses, college students at College of Education at North Carolina State were surveyed about their experience. About 70% of those who participated felt that Ning allowed for more frequent collaboration with peers and colleagues compared to face-to-face interaction. Along with this, 82% agreed that it aided in communication outside the classroom.

With a majority of students who have used social networking sites as part of their classes, it is interesting to me that so many universities are still so hesitant to adopt this type of technology. Implementing social networking into college classrooms would be an example of multiple NETS standards. It would facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity by giving them the push to collaborate and learn from one another with the ability to share videos, websites, etc, the professor would be a role model digital age work and learning by being on track with new learning forums and it could be the start of engaging in professional growth and leadership for both the student and professor.


Social Networking in the Classroom Resource List

  1. Blog: For Social Media in the Classroom to Work, Instructors Need Best Practices
    2. This blog is from a professor who teaches college journalism and writing classes. He gives insight and direction to what did and did not work when we implemented different social media uses into his classroom. This is a personable review and something one might benefit from reading when they are just starting to think about how to incorporate social media into their classrooms. He emphasizes the one should only use these ideas in their classroom if they are 100% comfortable with technology and such. This fits into the NETS standard Model Digital Age Work and Learning: teachers exhibit knowledge, skills and work processes representative on an innovative profession in a global and digital society. Social media can be effective if professors are confident in using technology.
  2. Social Media in Higher Education: A literature review and research directions
    2. This review is done by researchers at the University of Arizona and Claremont Graduate College. Although it is pretty extensive and lengthy, it is beneficial because not only does it provide research and results from different studies, it also provides guidance and directions one might use when implementing social networking into their classroom. This coincides with the NETS standard Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments because it provides ways those professors can incorporate contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes identified in the NETS-S. This is a very straightforward way for educators to look over a wide overview of research done on the topic and take what they want from it in terms of using it in their own classroom.
  3. Blog: 7 Reasons to Leverage Social Networking Tools in the Classroom
    2. This is another blog from a teacher sharing what seemed to work and not working when using social networking within the classroom and as homework. She has a different view than most and gives seven (pretty unique) ways in which social networking can be beneficial such as engagement, social learning, use time outside of class better so you can use class time better, provides opportunities for writing and writing assessment, encourages dialogue and reach more students, helps students get ahead of the professional curve and builds connections. I think her blog is interesting and helpful because she gives links to more resources and covers a large array of grade levels. The NETS standard this resource addresses is Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership. It allows for teachers to improve their practice and possible be seen as leaders in implementing new practices into their classroom.
  4. 100 Ways to Teach with Twitter
    2. This is a great assortment and compilation of ways to use twitter in the classroom. It has articles and ideas ranging from “25 ways to teach with twitter” to “50 ways to use twitter in the college classroom”. This fits perfectly with my theme for the week of social networking and Undergraduate students because   it has not only has a section specifically for college students, but it shows how to use one of the most popular social networking sites (twitter) in your classroom to benefit and enhance student learning. The NETS standard this resource affiliates with most is Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments because teachers are able to use these ideas as stepping stones in developing their own use and practice of using social media in the classroom.
  5. Most Popular Websites on the Internet
    2. This is just a place that lists the top 50 most popular websites on the internet. This is useful to adding social networking to the classroom because with this list teachers/professors can take a look at what is popular and the websites that their students are most likely looking at. When implementing something that is popular and most students already know about, you have less confusion and time spent introducing the site and showing how to navigate it. The NETS standard this addressing is Technology Operations and Concepts because using these sites will help students have a sound understanding of technology and social media and how it works.
  6. 16 Ways Educators Use Pinterest
    2. Pinterest in and of itself is a social Networking site full of pictures and ideas ranging anywhere from home decor ideas to current events. An increasingly number of teachers have started to use Pinterest to share ideas with colleagues and teachers across the country. This site is a way to show teachers how they can use Pinterest and social networking to help with ideas for their own classroom and even let students use Pinterest for ideas as well. This is an example of the NETS standard Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility. If teachers use these social networking sites themselves and encourage students to explore them as well they and promoting the use of technology to their students and fellow teachers as well.
  7. How to Transform Your Classroom Using Web 2.0 Tools
    2. This site shows different educational tools that can make learning more exciting for students and ways to “boost” your lesson plans. This is aimed at teachers with younger classrooms. If you do not have elementary or middle school students this is still beneficial because it lists sites that not many are aware of in the education world. Instead of popular sites like Twitter and Facebook it focuses on sites like Skype and Glogster. The NETS standard this is most associated with is Designing and Developing Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments. With most of the sites listed here, teachers are able to upgrade their current way of teacher by adding technology to their lesson plans.
  8. Resetting Education: Social networks for the classroom
    2. This article talks about how social networking sites such as Blackboard and Moodle have been used in college courses for years but goes more in depth for how to implement these in grades k-12 for all the teachers out there wanting to use this type of learning environment.  A huge focus of this article is encouraging teachers to embrace the internet instead of hiding from it, even with younger ages. This fits perfectly with the NETS standard of Promoting and Modeling Digital Citizenship and Responsible because it mentions how sheltering children from the internet may not be the most beneficial way but instead to embrace it and teach children how to use it safely and correctly.
  9. YouTube for Schools
    2. This part of YouTube is specifically for grades k-12 and provides schools with access to thousands of free educational videos. While teachers can access all videos, students are only able to access certain videos their school as selected with makes the social networking site safe for even the youngest students. Teachers can use these videos in the classroom and students can use these for projects as well. The NETS standard this shows is Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity. Teachers are able to use their knowledge of the social networking site for educational use as well as encourage students to use a site that they probably have already encountered many times.
  10. How higher Education Use Social Media
    2. This site gives a visual outline of how colleges have implemented social networking in their courses, what sites are most commonly used, and which platforms seemed to work best along with certain challenges that lay ahead. With the theme of the week being social networking in college courses, this is a perfect start for professors wanting to take this next step. The NETS standard this addresses is Modeling Digital Age Work and Learning. By deciding to add social networking to the classroom, one is modeling for others how to use the benefits of technology in coursework.

Social Networking and Education (Undergraduate Students)

Education Use of Social Networking Technology in Higher Education

Hsiu-Ting Hung and Steve Chin-Yin Yuen

Teaching in Higher Education Vol. 15, No. 6

December, 2010

 In today’s world, social networking is as common as watching television. Web 2.0 is a new generation that supports social interaction and is a simple way for people to exchange information and share their interests and passions. Examples of these sites include posting videos to YouTube, photos to Flickr, and everyday thoughts to Twitter and Facebook. In recent years, the internet has changed the way people interact in day-to-day life.

 Many educators believe that social networking has the potential to make a huge impact on the way people learn. “Educators should make instructional use of the social nature of Web 2.0 social networking tool as an alternative supplement to traditional classroom learning”, (page 703).

 The focus of this study was to investigate how social networking can be used to help facilitate courses taking place in the classroom and to help “enhance the students’ sense of community and, thus, to promote classroom communities of practice in the context on higher education”, (page 703). It has been argued that learning emerges from the presence of social interaction. This is an example of Situated Learning Theory which “significantly shifts the view of learning from a cognitive process to a process of participation in the social world”, (page 704). Hung and Yuen use community of practice as their primary area of impact when it comes to social networking in the classroom. It is argued that if online students feel a sense of community and social support, it is possible that this emotional connectedness could provide the extra support for one to, not only complete the course successfully, but also to learn more during the course.

 Ning was the social network of choice for this study. It includes aspects such as text searching, media sharing, peer interaction, and content delivery. Students were able to access course material and exchange ideas and opinions anytime and anywhere. Students were asked to create their own profiles and encouraged to share interests (whether related to the class or not) and get to know one another as well as participate in required discussion forums.

 Undergraduate students at two public universities were surveyed after participating in these classes. Over 90% of the students agreed that the social networking site allowed them to 1. Share their personal interests, 2. Find and share educational resources, 3. Communicate easier about course topics, 4. Take place in learner-centered activities and 5. Promote knowledge sharing. Along with this, 100% of the students agreed that they had obtained personal and professional growth after completing the course and 73% felt a stronger sense of social connectedness.

The overall implications of this study were that students had a huge positive response towards Ning and although research on this area is still new, social networking seems to have a positive impact on students of high education and can impact learning by creating a greater sense of community within the class. The NETS standards that this article addressed were numbers 1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and creativity by creating a more profound sense of community with the students in the class and allowing them to create and share their own profiles and personal interests along with class material and 2. Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments by implementing the new idea of adding social networking in the classroom. I do not have my own classroom, nor want to become a teacher but this information is interesting to me because many college courses are starting to implement the idea of social networking (example would be WOU using Moodle) and it is nice to know that this type of learning seems to be making a positive impact on students and the amount of information they are gaining from the course.