Social media could provide a solution for dealing with dissatisfaction among students on the levels of academic feedback they receive at university.
A University of Leicester researcher is trialling the use of social media to enhance feedback -- through the provision of 'feed forward'.
Dr Alan Cann, Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences, has recently implemented a network on social aggregator site, FriendFeed with first year students in the School of Biological Sciences, trialling the success of using social media to deliver course-related information and provide a forum for discussion and feedback amongst students via a social media space.
The biology students use FriendFeed for reflection and development through a network of discussion between peers and academics. The social aggregator is used purely for work-related items and has already been a huge success within the department.
Dr Cann commented: "Since we introduced FriendFeed at the beginning of the month, the response has been incredible. Students are on it 24/7 and are being very social but extremely professional with the content of discussions solely work-related.
"I am quite excited about how this is going. An individual's homepage acts as their portfolio by storing all of their posts, forming reflection on what they are doing and explanations of what they do not understand. Only it doesn't feel like they are doing it as they are so used to doing it in a similar manner in their personal lives on Facebook.
"I have never seen anything like this level of interactivity with Blackboard before. It offers a forum for extended discussion, enabling them to have conversations with 200 other people on their course, providing a way for their questions to be answered as well as providing deeper knowledge useful for essays and other assessments."
It is hoped that interactions between staff and students via social networks such as FriendFeed will enhance the student experience, providing more regular feedback for their assessments. Academics will become more easily accessible on social networking sites, joining the online conversation, answering student queries and providing additional pointers leading to 'feed forward' from lectures as well as the traditional feedback, enhancing the discussion and development of students.
Dr Cann and colleagues have previously investigated the educational potential of Twitter praising it as an 'exceptional communication tool within academia'. He has also recently published a paper, 'Google Wave in Education', analysing Google's new social media venture in which he describes the educational potential as 'enormous', however he notes that educators are yet to embrace the potential of delivering a truly collaborative education experience mediated through information technology.
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