Applying Social Media to Scaffold University Students’ Inquiry Group Project Work – Theoretical and Practical Implications

Wan Yee Winsy Lai, Chao Yang, Samuel Kai Wah Chu
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 20  •  2021  •  pp. 061-085

This study serves a constructive purpose on the effective use of social media as a technical tool in formal learning at higher education. It outlines practical suggestions for institutions to leverage the participatory design method and refine social media pedagogies.

Social media gains widespread usage from the majority of university students worldwide. Educators examine the potential of social media’s affordances in teaching and learning. While the use of social media in formal learning has garnered much interest among educators, the implementation of such pedagogies remains individually motivated rather than institution-wide.

This research empirically examined university students who took part in inquiry group project work in two courses (undergraduate and postgraduate) under implementation of participatory design approach. It adopted a mixed-method approach by collecting both quantitative and qualitative data to examine their expectations and preferences on social media tools.

Despite the technology’s potential for facilitating teaching and learning, the effective use of social media in higher education has been a recurring problem for many educators and institutions. This study addresses the deficit and proposes a theoretical framework that consists of student’s own experience and teacher-initiated scaffolding students’ adequate use of social media in formal learning using participatory design approach.

Results indicate that students wanted to use social media to gain knowledge, collaborate, communicate with each other and embraced the implementation of the participatory design approach, which offered them a greater sense of participation and ownership. Furthermore, our research has revealed that despite generally being familiar with social media use in everyday life, students relied at least partially on their lecturer’s guidance in adopting social media in the specific domain of formal learning.

To incorporate social media in education, the ultimate goal is to enhance students’ use of social media tools for better and more effective learning. Our study recommends initiating organizational change in universities to the adoption of new pedagogies which allows students’ autonomy and lecturer’s scaffolding support to demonstrate the pedagogy’s positive influence by social media in teaching and learning.

Researchers could examine and compare the effects by implementing the theoretical framework suggested in this research in different education levels, e.g., secondary school education. The researchers could consider cognitive, psychological, and social factors on incorporating social media into formal learning.

Social media has gained its recognition in everyday lives and academic field; however, the feasibility of social media-assisted pedagogies depends on individual educator solely. The current article provides a new pedagogy that educators can refine by students’ levels of social media proficiency and their learning expectations for institutions from around the world to make the best use of social media as part of formal university education.

With the rapid development of social media, further studies are worthy to examine the longitudinal impact of the current and the latest social media pedagogy with participatory design in scaffolding university students’ inquiry group project work on potential for use in formal learning and extent to co-create collaboration with lecturers.

social media, higher education, pedagogy design, participatory-design approach
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