On July 6, 2015, attendees at the Future Professor Series session (Western University) brainstormed responses to potential social media scenarios. Read on for summaries of the ideas that participants brainstormed in response to the scenarios.

Scenario 1: The revamped lab
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 a new, creative assessment, incorporating social media, to replace the lab surrounding next week’s topic, the skeletal muscle system.

Idea 1:

This new lab assignment will make use of Youtube and would work well for a kinesiology course. In pairs, the groups will take a video of a mundane (everyday) activity (body movements) and breakdown what is happening with reference to course material.
Lab #1: Create a video of the movement.
Homework will be to apply course concepts to the video.
Lab #2: Teach back lesson
Comments on what is going on in videos, ask questions.
Describe the systems that are involved and activated by this action.

Idea 2

Use Powtoon to have students develop an online skeletal muscle presentation.
Divide the muscle system into 4 categories with 4 groups working on the different categories. Each group member will contribute to each category through the presentation by adding content (i.e., info, pics, videos, etc.) At the end, all categories of the muscle system will be presented in class.
All students and instructors will have access. Instructors can assess and evaluate the content presented. Gaps can be filled by the instructor.

Idea 3:

Students create youtube videos which are shared via twitter links.
Assign groups of 3 students to a given area of the skeletal muscle system. They must create 140 second videos for that topic (e.g., ankle joint) and post to Twitter. They must touch on x number of topics, (e.g, muscle innervation, joint type, etc.), but video quality is not graded.

Idea 4:

Use twitter (#206bones hashtag) and wordle.
The instructor or TA starts first tweet with a few bone names. Each student must tweet a few bone names. Use a wordle to show most tweeted bone, and if all 206 are there. Use to start conversation about some of the untweeted or less tweeted bone names.

Scenario 2: the reflection assignment

Idea 1

Use wordpress.com. The students will be divided evenly to be responsible for one week of course readings. Students can decide their week of choice. They will post a reflection on the week’s content on the class blog. Each student’s reflection will build on the previous week’s reflection, being sure to keep steady track of the learning development as the course progresses. The rest of the class will be required to respond to their classmate’s reflection (word limit = ~100-250 words).

Idea 2

Use a private facebook groups; the professor posts an article and a question each week. The students share their response or article/ media with justification of relevance to topic.

Idea 3

On OWL and Tumblr sites, students will be given themes and have a variety of responsibilities (reflecting on material and student commentaries) which will change from week to week.  Students will have different responsibilities so will have to think about it and come up with something original. Results will lead to interesting and surprising reflections and change the ways students thought about the concepts.

Scenario 3: Design portfolio

You are a teaching assistant for an upper year class with many lab 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 in the field component throughout the course into a well-organized report/ document. Design an outline for the design project in which the students use social media instead of a hard copy.


Use wordpress.com to track student progress during different phases of the project. Each student is asked to create his or her own portfolio. They can update the portfolio as they progress throughout the project. The instructor can get access to the student’s portfolio and give feedback and ask questions weekly. Other students can read and see other’s portfolio but can’t change the content.

Scenario 4: large class size and presentations

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 giving up his assignment all together (he likes the creativity that students bring to presentations and the chance to learn from peers), help Professor LeBlanc design an alternative format that’s more fitting for a larger class.

Idea 1

Students use wordpress to create multimedia blog post in small groups. Within each group they grade each other. Have multiple posts within the blog to build an archive of their research.  They don’t all need to present, but student can read a number per week and grade it and reflect on what they can take from it.
Idea 2
Have students create pre-recored presentation on youtube.
The class is expected to view it and ask questions of the groups, who will then respond.
It will be assessed as:
40% answers to questions
30% content of presentations
20% quality of questions asked to other groups.
Idea 3
Use youtube to have students create videos of set length (to deal with time constraints of having many more students).

Groups of two are still feasible.  Youtube videos can be watched in class – and comments can be posted online, on youtube, OWL, twitter, etc. The videos don’t need to feature students (for those uncomfortable being online).  The youtube videos can be used to encourage active learning environments through other media. Students can assign a portion of their partner’s grade based on their participation.  The students can also engage a wider audience if desired.

 Scenario 5: reading renovation
Every year, Bianca TAs a course with weekly tutorials where students are expected to critically engage with readings. Their participation is worth 10%.  For the third week in a row, the students are not adequately prepared to discuss the readings. next year she will TA the same course.  Help her to propose a solution involving social mediate that will encourage students to be more engaged and prepared to discuss readings. 

Idea 1

Use Twitter or OWL, and assign a mandatory post for class participation. Divide the participation mark (Twitter/ OWL) 5% or full participation.
The assignments requires them to provide a critique or comment in response to the reading.
These critiques or comments are used as a response to the reading and as prompts for class discussion.
Have students to take turns moderating the posts.
Idea 2
Have students use twitter and tweet 2 questions or comments or links to videos or articles that relate to readings.  They must be tweeted 24 hours in advance of a tutorial.  Bring them up as discussion in class.
The tweets count as part of participation assessment. For example, if each tutorial is graded out of 10 makes, allocate a certain amount to online participation.

Strengths in design

As part of the exercise, participants considered ways that their assessments addressed some common drawbacks of using social media in higher education:

  • Working together at start of assessment (i.e., setting up class site or account) and co-creating guidelines, rubrics, etc.,  builds buy-in.
  • responsibility for class content, discussion notes, etc. is not only managed by the professor.
  • Design allows for learning is self-directed.
  • Class youtube account is created so students don’t have to use their personal accounts.
  • Asking students to create original content and teaching them about copyright issues.
  • Working in groups means students less comfortable (for example) on camera can play a different role.
  • Working in groups means students can share video recording devices.
  • Original applications of concepts limits plagiarism.
  • Classroom time can be used for more in-depth conversation as the basic concepts are discussed outside of class.
  • Privacy concerns are addressed by making use of privacy settings of different platforms.  Comments are made private as well.
  • Pre-assess students so groups consist of at least one student who is familiar with social media.
  • Focus is on learning outcomes – the platforms is for sharing but the research is still related to outcomes.
  • Students are required to actively participate in a measurable way that gives them incentive to do homework and gives them some direction (things to look for) when reading.
 Weaknesses in design

Participants also identified weaknesses with some of the designs which will require more consideration. Here are some of the weaknesses that were identified:

  • time to deal with technical difficulties
  • assuming familiarity with various platforms and tools
  • participants left to learn software on their own may lose time that should be spent on content.
  • potential for information overload if students have to read/ watch content created by all other students.
  • computer access.

What would you do to alleviate some of these weaknesses in design?