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With social media becoming an everyday

communication method for individuals and

organizations, it’s logical to incorporate
its use into instructional approaches.

Using Social
Media to Enhance
Students’ Learning
James A. Griesemer

Abstract features such as bulletin boards, wikis,

Current business students are and online meetings and also incor-
digital technology natives with great porate other tools like blogs, podcasts,
sophistication in the uses and poten- really simple syndication (RSS), and
tial of social media. This is good Twitter. Although incorporating social
because businesses and other organi- media into a course requires consider-
zations are expecting today’s graduates able time and effort, the results to date
to be highly proficient in these tech- have exceeded expectations.
nologies. 1 Social media tools radically
alter the way people view and use Introduction
communication. The task of knowl- Social media tools are rapidly chang-
edge construction is thus being shared ing the communications landscape.
among the instructor, students, and Their emergence has impacted signifi-
other individuals who share an interest cantly how students learn and the way
for the subject. 2 instructors teach. In today higher edu-
This article focuses on continuing cation settings, instructors, students,
efforts using social media to enhance and others collaborate on the tasks of
undergraduate business students’ learn- knowledge construction.2
ing experiences. My college makes an The influence of social media on
online course management system learning and teaching environments is
(CMS) and training available to instruc- growing more each year. Social media
tors, but leaves its use to the instructor applications can reinforce class mate-
for traditional courses. I use the CMS’s rial and positively influence discussions,

8 Quality Approaches in Higher Education Vol. 3, No. 1

collaborative work, and authoring. Educators and Approach
researchers are constantly experimenting with Incorporating social media into a business
social media technologies hoping to stimulate course can allow a diverse group of interested
critical thinking skills, collaboration, and knowl- individuals to engage in creating and developing
edge construction. content and to gather online to share knowl-
Social media technologies offer the capability edge, information, and opinions.5 In my business
to both receive and create content with the hope 3010: Production Systems Management traditional
that a collective intelligence emerges. The goal semester course, this group included the students
is to improve students’ learning experiences to in the course, adjunct faculty who teach other sec-
prepare them to enter a workforce that is not tions of the course, myself, as well as members
geographically constrained and expects them to of local sections of professional societies like the
have highly developed online collaboration skills. American Society for Quality (ASQ) and APICS,
The pursuit of such benefits drives academics the Association for Operations Management. I am
to incorporate new technological approaches in an active member of both professional societies.
their teaching methodology.3 It was necessary to switch from the traditional
The new technologies that are changing the lecture and questions/answers approach to bet-
way instructors teach and students learn include ter use the various social media tools to meet
the following: students’ needs and expectations. These needs
• Weblogs. Weblogs or blogs, as they are known, include increased access to the instructor and fel-
are easily created and updateable websites low students as well as course-related project data
that allow authors to publish to the Internet and information. For example, I redesigned his
instantly, thus allowing instructors and students production systems management course to incor-
to communicate easily. porate blogs for use by students to support closer
• Wikis. A wiki is a collaborative web space where collaboration on team projects. The teams were
anyone can add or edit content that has already also encouraged to use and monitor RSSs contain-
been published. ing course topic information and utilize social
• Really simple syndication (RSS). RSS allows users bookmarking. Individual wikis were created as
to subscribe to news feeds originating either homework help lines where I posted some answers
from blogs or more traditional web spaces like and hints for completing homework assignments.
newspapers and magazines. The content comes Wikis were also used for polling students about
to the reader instead of the reader having to changes in assignments and presentations’ dates,
retrieve the content. and for class meeting make-up dates. Twitter was
• Social bookmarking. Bookmarking sites allow used along with e-mail for one-to-one communi-
users to save and archive entire web pages. This cation. Students were also required to give a brief
enables users to produce a searchable, personal- lecture using audio/video casting.
ized Internet.
Student Experience
• Online photograph galleries (OPG). OPGs allow A survey conducted in the first class meeting
the posting of photographs that support sharing found only 3 of eighteen (~17%) students had used
of ideas and experiences. either wikis or a social networking site in a college
• Audio/video casting (AVC). AVC makes it easy to course previously, and none had used Twitter. By
produce digital voice and video files and publish the end of the course all students had used wikis,
and distribute them over the Internet. It also social networking sites, RSS, social bookmarking,
supports basic, live-streaming television online. and Twitter as part of the course. In addition, each
• Twitter. Twitter is a powerful tool for connecting project team incorporated the use of online photo-
with others and sharing content easily. graph galleries and audio/video casting techniques
• Social networking sites (SNS). In addition to in their course research presentations.
supporting wide area communication in both When surveyed at the last class meeting, student
audio and video formats, SNSs help teach the feedback included the following findings:
network literacy that is required to navigate • Although most students had used social media
these new connections.4 such as Facebook and Twitter in their personal 9
lives, they needed instruction on how to
use them safely in an educational setting. A Social Media Usage Agreement—
social media usage agreement (see the side- Terms and Conditions
bar, “Social Media Usage Agreement—Terms
and Conditions”) was quickly established to • Students are expected to act safely by keeping
address basic safety practices. personal information out of their posts.
• While some students quickly embraced the use • Students agree not to use their family name,
of social media in the course, others initially password, school name and location, or
questioned its value and the need to learn it in any other information that could enable
addition to the required course content. someone to locate and contact them.
• Over time, the majority of the students devel- • Students are to use social media as an aca-
oped an appreciation for its use. demic resource only and therefore behave
• Some students expected the use of social media as in the classroom.
to correct some of the traditional problems • Students should not respond to comments
associated with group projects, namely, uneven that make them uncomfortable. Instead,
participation. They learned they could use blogs they should report these comments to the
and Twitter to keep all team members more instructor immediately.
fully engaged in the projects.
• Students felt the use of social media heightened
their project presentations. In particular, they I had to learn how to set up and effectively use sev-
cited RSS and social bookmarking as helping eral social media approaches.6 Equally important,
them collect current information easily on their students grew from being passive to active learners.
topics. Audio/video casting also allowed them Lessons learned from these early attempts
to distribute their presentations via the Internet include the following:
to interested members of the local sections of
• Instructors must design time and opportuni-
professional societies.
ties for the use of social media activities into
• Students felt the inclusion of the professionals
their course syllabi. Though this may initially
as blogs and wikis members added real-world
be viewed as taking time away from important
knowledge to their learning and the course in
course topics, these opportunities are alter-
native ways to cover these topics and even a
• Students said that using and somewhat master- means for introducing additional topics.
ing a variety of social media approaches helped
• Both instructors and students need to realize
them better prepare for a career in business
their roles in the course and behavior in the
classroom will change significantly. The com-
• Students liked the inclusion of social media plexity and number of student questions rose
in the course and recommended using it in all significantly, resulting in a much more dynamic
higher-level business courses. learning environment.
The overall favorable acceptance of using social • Both instructors and students must be open
media in this initial course has motivated me to to learning and using new social media class-
incorporate it in an upcoming business capstone room approaches that extend and enhance
course that will be taught over a span of six weeks. instructor-student interactions.
Faculty Experience • Instructors must realize that not all students
This early use of social media approaches in a will embrace every element of all social media
traditional college course changed the classroom approaches. Some students will initially feel more
behavior of both the instructor and students. I comfortable using just one or two approaches
noticed that my role evolved from primarily a pre- and will need time to expand their skill set.
senter of knowledge to more of a facilitator and • Incorporating social media approaches allows
mentor. This role change was also accompanied by guest lecturers to participate remotely if neces-
changes in the pedagogy followed in the course as sary. Also, it allows instructors to incorporate

10 Quality Approaches in Higher Education Vol. 3, No. 1

many free weblogs, thus exposing students to References
new and different professional opinions. 1. Charles Wankel, “Management Education Using Social
Media,” Organization Management Journal, Vol. 6, No. 4,
• Student presentations distributed via the Internet
Winter 2009, pp. 251-262, http://www.palgrave-journals.
can be viewed by a much wider audience on an
on-demand basis.
2. Aditi Grover and David W. Steward, Defining Interactive
• Incorporating social media approaches in the
Social Media in an Educational Context, Cutting-Edge Social
course contributed to extending student learn- Media Approaches to Business Education, Information Age
ing to outside the classroom, as it was especially Publishing, 2010.
easy for students to form study groups.
3. Walkyria Goode and Guido Caicedo, Social Media
• Many ideas for group projects come from stu- Overload: What Works Best? Cutting-Edge Social Media
dents having contact with members of local Approaches to Business Education, Information Age
sections of professional societies like ASQ and Publishing, 2010.
APICS. This helps keep the group projects 4. Will Richardson, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful
relevant to current issues and often provides Tools for the Classroom, Corwin, a Sage Company, 2010.
welcoming venues for student presentations. 5. Andreas M. Kaplan and Michael Haenlein, “Users of the
• Students have different academic strengths and World Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social
skill sets, and working together allows students Media,” Business Horizons, Vol. 53, No. 1, 2010, pp. 59-68.
opportunities to develop them to their project’s 6. Rachel Reuben, “The Use of Social Media in Higher
advantage. Education for Marketing and Communications: A Guide
• Smaller in size and/or scope group projects are for Professionals in Higher Education,” http://doteduguru.
best, as social media allows students to receive com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/social-media-in-higher-
timely feedback from a number of sources.
Students need to experience the beginning, 7. Doug Rushkoff, “Renaissance Prospectives,” Pop!Tech
middle, and end of a project. 2004, Camden, ME, Oct. 2004, http://www.itconversations.
• Class size needs to be limited to a reasonable
number. If no graduate assistants are available, 8. NetDay News, “NetDay’s 2004 Survey Shows 58
Percent of Students Have Cell Phones, 60 Percent E-mail
this experience suggests no more than 20 stu-
or IM Adults on a Weekly Basis,” March 8, 2005,
dents in the course.
• Instructors must be prepared to allocate more
time to supporting courses with social media
These findings support the argument that uti-
lizing social media in business courses is critical
because every person with access to the Internet
has the ability to contribute ideas and experiences James A. Griesemer
to the larger body of business knowledge.7 Social
Dr. James A. Griesemer is an associate professor of business
learning is becoming an indispensable tool in the
at Mount Saint Mary College located in Newburgh, NY.
educating today’s students.8
Griesemer teaches courses in quality assurance, production
Conclusion systems, operations management, and management science.
The use of social media approaches enhanced His research interests include the use of mathematical
the learning experiences of undergraduate business models and software applications to solve complex business-
students. Their use caused both the instructor and related problems. Prior to becoming a professor he worked in
students to realize their roles in the course and research and development for International Paper Company.
behavior in the classroom had to change signifi- Griesemer holds a doctorate in management from Pace
cantly. Although some may feel that incorporating University, a master’s in financial management from Long
social media approaches takes time away from Island University, a master’s degree in materials science
important course topics, they should see these from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and a bachelor’s degree
as alternative ways to cover topics and even as a in engineering from SUNY College of Environmental Science
means for introducing additional topics. and Forestry. Contact him at 11