Delving into the Specificity of Instructional Guidance in Social Media-supported Learning Environments

Tian Luo
Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice  •  Volume 17  •  2018  •  pp. 037-054

This study investigates the variations in student participation patterns across different types of instructional activities, learning modes, and with different instructional guidance approaches. In the current study, different variables, modes of learning (guided versus unguided), and types of guidance (social versus cognitive) were manipulated in a series of microblogging-supported collaborative learning tasks to examine to what extent and in which aspects instructional guidance affects the effectiveness and student perception of microblogging-supported learning.

Despite the overwhelming agreement on the importance of instructional guidance in microblogging-supported learning environments, very few studies have been done to examine the specificity of guidance, such as how to structure and support microblogging activities, as well as what types of guidance are appropriate in what learning contexts.

This semester-long study utilized a case-study research design via a multi-dimensional approach in a hybrid classroom with both face-to-face and online environments. Tweets were collected from four types of activities and coded based on content within their contextual setting. Twenty-four college students participated in the study.

In response to the call to improve social media learning environments under-scored in contemporary education, the current case study took an initial step aiming at deepening the understanding of the role of instructional guidance in microblogging-supported learning environments.

This study showcases that with instructor facilitation, students succeeded in being engaged in a highly participatory and interactive learning experience across a variety of tasks and activities. This study indicates that students’ perspectives of social media tools rely heavily on what instructors do with the tool and how the instructional activities are structured and supported. Instructors’ scaffolding and support is instrumental in keeping students on task and engaging students with meaningful events, thus ensuring the success of microblogging-based learning activities. Meanwhile, students’ perception of usefulness of instructional guidance is closely related to their own pre-perception and experience.

When incorporating social media tools, it is important to examine learner’s prior knowledge and comfort level with these tools and tailor the design of instructional activities to their attributes. It is also vital to monitor student progress, adjust the type and amount of guidance and scaffolding provided as they progress, and eventually remove the scaffolding until students can demonstrate that they can perform the task successfully without assistance.

Due to many other potential factors in place that could potentially influence student learning, no conclusive remarks can be made regarding the superiority of either one type of guidance approach. Future researchers should continue to develop robust research methodologies to seek ways to better operationalize this variable and strive to understand its effect.

Future replication studies in other settings, with a larger sample size, and different populations will certainly provide further insights on the effects of instructional guidance in microblogging-based learning. Alternative coding methods may also shed light on differences in student interaction in terms of content diversity and depth of learning when analyzing the tweets. Advanced data collection techniques may be explored to ascertain the completeness of data collection.

instructional guidance, social media, microblogging, Twitter
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