After giving a presentation about Using Open-Access Data in Changing the Learning Landscape (CLL) at 22 Mar 2013, I was very lucky to receive funding from The Higher Education Academy to carry out a mini project embedding new media technology in teaching.
I designed this project to encourage students to use Facebook and SlideShare to publish their presentations slides and interact with each other. I conducted this project for a 2nd year Social Sciences UG course called ‘New Media’ from September to December 2013. I first created a Facebook Page for this course and asked students to ‘like’ the page. In the first session, I told students that they would form groups in pairs and present a 5-10 minutes short presentation each week based on an empirical research paper. There would be 2 or 3 groups each week to give presentations, upload the slides to SlideShare and post the link on the course’s Facebook Page. Additionally, the students who gave presentation were responsible to find good resources related to the topic (eg., articles on BBC website, blogs & videos) and also post them on the Facebook Page.
All students were encouraged to ‘like’& ‘comment’ on a presentation and other resources. I chose Facebook because of the ‘Like’ function could work as a peer-reviewed system for students to have a competition. Each week, there would be a winning team out of the 2-3 groups based on the combined score of ‘like’ from the presentation and good resources on the Facebook Page. The winning team would be announced the next week and receive vouchers as incentives. In this way, students could learn to work in team and learn from each other. The peer-reviewed system encouraged them to reflect and being critical.
The aim of the project is to help students develop technology skills and digital literacy as well as enhance students learning experience and team work ability. By the end of the course, the Facebook Page was filled with Students presentation slides and resources related to the topic found by students. These can be useful resources for students to prepare for essays and exams. I conducted a survey at the end of the course with 10 respondents. All of them found it helpful for their own learning experiences while searching for resources to prepare for the presentations. Eight out of 10 found the presentation slides and other resources on Facebook Page ‘a little helpful’ for learning this course. A few students noted the usefulness of this practice. One said, ‘Easy to access the resources, everything in one place.’ Another said, ‘Contemporary way of teaching & learning. Effective.’ Another one said, ‘It is a good way to engage us to learn online.’
However, at the time of the survey which was a week 11 revision session, only 3 out of 10 looked at other resources uploaded by other students, although 9 out of 10 answered ‘very likely’ (3) or ‘likely’ (6) when asked whether they thought they would look at other presentations and resources on Facebook to help prepare for exam. So hopefully some students would make the good use of the resources later on when they prepared for their final exam.
One of the barriers/inconveniences was that Facebook Page was not very user friendly in terms of its visual presentation as it only showed user name and URL link for a post. To access the content, users had to click ‘see all’ to see the details of the specific resources and presentation slides. This can be solved by creating a Facebook group instead as posts on Facebook group usually have a nice and detailed presentation. Facebook group also has the function to automatically send emails to members for any new messages and comments posted on the group wall.
One student suggested that the tutor should ‘include important notice on Facebook-such as change of class’ and another suggested to ‘make it more interactive’. So one strategy is to have a focus group session to encourage students to talk about how they would like to interact with each other online. Speed-meeting in the beginning of the course and after-class socials might also foster interaction off-line to help students ease shyness and social anxiety to work and interact better online.