Today I held a workshop at the Teaching Support Centre at Western University entitled “Using Social Media Effectively in Higher Education”.  I will use my next few posts to expand upon ideas presented during that session.  First, I’m pleased to share the great ideas for using social media in higher education that the workshop attendees came up with.  Please check out these solutions for some great ideas!

socialmedia

Scenario 1

The instructor for the first year course you TA has noticed that her students seem to be bored and creatively unchallenged with her standard (and slightly repetitive) weekly laboratory assignments. Design for her a new, creative assessment, incorporating social media, to replace the lab surrounding next week’s topic, the skeletal muscle system.

Solution A

Students are divided into groups to make short videos (5 minutes) demonstrating a skeletal muscle injury/ condition and upload them to screencast.com.  The video will address how the injury occurred, explain damage to underlying anatomy, and treatment.  Students will watch all the videos in class and give feedback on the other videos.

Students will be assessed based on the creativity, correctness, and originality of the videos.  Students will list what each group member was responsible for.

Pros

  • Students can be grouped based on access to technology (e.g. computer, camera, etc.).
  • Keeping the video in screencast.com reduces distractions that are on youtube.
  • Screencast.com is private.

Cons

  • Sourcing of materials (This should be addressed ahead of time. Make sure students know expectations of citing sources!)

Solution B

Groups of four will focus on different topics regarding the lungs.  Over the period of the course the students will post resources on the group’s blog.  Discussion boards will be used to organize the report.  Finally, the students will create a wikiversity entry for hand-in.

Pros

  • Students will learn new skills: e.g. communication
  • Students in groups will stay on the same page

Cons

  • Students may be uncomfortable working online.

Scenario 2

You are teaching an upper year class for the second time.  Last year, you had the students write weekly reading reflections, but the students did not seem to build on their knowledge from week to week. Redesign the reflection writing assessment for this year in a way that will encourage students to engage more with the material and to build their personal interests in the course using social media.

Solution A:

Each student will create a Tumblr account and post weekly reading reflections using a class tag.  This way students will have a log of all their previous reflections and can share them with the class. The blogs will be deleted at the end of the course.  The assignment could be altered to include a requirement to relate the course readings to either a personal or media example (which should be linked/ posted on the blog). The instructor could also encourage students to ask questions about readings or discuss with other students.  The prof/ TA could have a tumblr account as well and could reblog particularly interesting/ relevant posts to their page.

Assessment would be relatively informal, with marks for clarity, analysis/ critical thinking, and completeness.  Worth 10-15% of final mark.

Pros

  • The assignment is accessible – all that is needed is a computer.
  • Due date is flexible.
  • There’s no need to use a personal account so interactions can remain professional.

Cons

  • Students could potentially copy (although the students will know everyone can see everyone’s work, which could potentially act to deter copying – BH).
  • Commenting system is a little messy on tumblr.
  • Only manageable for small classes (<100).

Solution B

Each week, students will make a blog post about the reading.  Other students are able to comment on the posts. Students can also use twitter to ask questions, and share news articles/ videos related to the reading. This allows for more interaction between students and previous posts are easily available to the students.

The tweets are for participation marks. The blog posts should illustrate that they understand the reading and are building on previous knowledge. Peer assessment can also be used.

Pros

  • Can be as creative as possible with posts.
  • Can look at past posts to build on previous knowledge
  • Blog posts and tweets are done before class to minimize distractions during class.

Cons

  • As a professor, it could be difficult to manage/ follow.
  • Some students may not have necessary skills (agreed – I think we can not assume students will know how to do it. Introduce new necessary skills)
  • Learning curve might be difficult for some topics.

Solution C

Using GoogleDocs and OWL, students can go back to the previous reflections and see what was written and evolve from there.  The work will be collaborative so students can build on others’ knowledge and expand their contributions.  This assessment will increase the level of engagement by connecting the class material to what was covered in class.

You might be able to see qualitatively if they have improved. Using GoogleDocs you will see how much time was spent editing and going over the ideas.

Pros

  • Notify students of privacy issues ahead of time
  • Have an orientation session about how to use the site
  • Anticipate possible problems that students might have.

Cons

  • Before anything, you need to be clear on the assessment, i.e. the work will be graded once it’s finished.

Scenario 3

You are a teaching assistant for an upper year class with many practical and design components.  The instructor has asked you to design a project in which the students synthesize all of the data, photos, videos, etc. they’ve collected throughout the course into a well-organized report/ document.  Design an outline for the project in which the students use social media instead of (or in addition to?) a hard copy.

I don’t seem to have this groups sheet but I will do my best to recall what their project was!  If you are a member of this group and want to modify what I wrote please contact me.

Solution

Students will be divided into groups with a particular topic.  Throughout the course, they can post resources, photos, videos, etc. on a group blog without worrying about organization, just to keep track of their progress and what they have found so far. The final product will be well organized wikiversity page that summarizes their findings from throughout the course.

Scenario 4

Professor LeBlanc has a greater enrollment than usual in his first year class in your field.  Usually, he is able to have pairs of student give a presentation about a topic of their choice in front of the class, but it seems impossible to schedule so many students without taking up too much lecture time. Without losing the creative component and interaction entirely, help Professor LeBlanc design an alternative format that’s more fitting for a larger class.

Solution

Students will create videos in groups and post them on screencast.com.  Students are assigned to comment on another group’s video.  Have students vote on polleverywhere for the best video in multiple video categories.

The video is the largest component of the assessment, with a smaller portion for commenting on each others videos.  Part of the assessment could also be done by peer evaluation.

Pros

  • Screencast is private.
  • The activity is done outside of class time and therefore not distracting within class.

Cons

  • Time to figure out website
  • Students have a range of technical ability (e.g. editing etc.)
  • Lectures in class make everyone see the material.  Voting would help with this.

 

Scenario 5

Professor B’s first year class in your field did worse than expected on the midterm, especially the short answers. Professor B is desperate to find some way to help her students learn how to study big concepts and connections between concepts rather than to memorize trivial facts.  She always tells students that the best way to practice for these questions is to practice explaining concepts to others, but the students don’t seem to follow her advice.  She expects the students don’t know each other well enough to form study groups.  Help her to design an online ‘venue’ for students to ask and answer practice questions of their peers. Include strategies for encouraging students to use this resource in your design. 

Solution

We will use a discussion board on Owl or blog posts.  The blogs will be divided into subsections to organize study groups.  Some of the questions will be included on the exam, which will act as incentive for students to use the group.  If the topic is important, the professor can also post on the group to steer discussion in the necessary direction.

Contributions will be assessed, and posting and participation will be 5% of the final grade.  The participation grade will incorporate the quality as well as the quantity of posts.  Students who ask good quality questions get a better participation grade.  Peerwise would be an excellent tool to assess the quality of questions by a student rating system.

Pros

  • Participation marks provide incentive to use it

Cons

  • Potential for copying
  • Instructor has to monitor to make sure questions are relevant.