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"Exploring the Use of Social Bookmarking Technology in Education" An analysis of Students' experiences using a Course-specific Delicious.

com Account

Description This study was conducted at a large Southeastern University in 2010 using Solely the Web 2.0 tool: delicious.com social bookmarking account. The participants in the study were limited to the 59 students enrolled in a "Social Media Public Relations" course. Of these students, many came from varying academic backgrounds and various levels of experience with social bookmarking prior to the course. The selected focus groups were composed of 14 graduate students (eight females, six males) and 45 undergraduates (32 females, 13 males). Approximately half of the students were public relations students, one quarter were students from other communicationrelated topics and the remaining one-third of the students came from education, business, and sports management departments at the University. The purpose of this study was to answer three key questions regarding the use of social bookmarking. 1. How aware were the students of social bookmarking? 2. How did the students describe their experiences using a centralized social bookmarking account instead of a course packet? 3. What were the biggest advantages and disadvantages of using the social bookmarking site in higher education, from the students' perspective? The objective of the "Social Media and Public Relations course was for learners to obtain knowledge on how different social media applications could be used in organizational communication and public relations campaigns. The Web 2.0 tool selected for the course was a delicious.com social bookmarking account. Students were assigned weekly readings from both traditional textbooks as well as bookmarked websites. Each week students would be assigned one or two chapters from their textbook as well as readings from 8 to 10 articles or websites bookmarked in the delicious.com site. Key findings Question 1

Of the 59 students in the class only three students had heard of social bookmarking prior to the course. Two students reported that they had heard of delicious.com but had never explored the website or what it had to offer. Only one male graduate student reported that he knew of delicious.com site and regularly used it (Farwell & Waters, 2010).

Question 2

The responses in favor of having a social bookmarking account rather than traditional materials was reported as "overwhelming in favor" although no specific percentage data was presented.

Question 3

Students reported mixed feelings on the availability of the social bookmarking account readings being only available online. Most students reported their pleasure in having a paperless "go green" attitude for learning, while several reported that they preferred to have something in their hands to refer to. Most students were pleased with the up-to date information that instructors had taken the time to gather through the delicious.com account and preferred it to out-of date information typically obtained through textbooks, especially in this area of study.

Other Critical Information

The social bookmarking site delicious.com was used in the following ways in the "Social Media and Public Relations" course: o The delicious.com account was set up as a centralized place where students enrolled in the course could go and get weekly readings. The Tags used to organize the topics for reading were separated by topics making it easy for the students to find the necessary reading. o One login was given to the students and there was no need for them to register or have their own separate login for this course. o Some students did create their own logins in order to save the selected resources that were tagged by the professor.

Case Evaluation: Strengths/ weaknesses of instructional methods and strategies used

Strengths of Instructional methods and strategies: The learner-centered instructional approach of using a delicious.com account was an effective tool for this particular group of individuals in the "Social Media and Public Relations course. Results from students responses to questionnaires showed that the students believed that using the delicious.com account was beneficial in obtaining up-to-date information as well as current events relating the teacher's lectures. Weaknesses of Instructional strategies: There were few strategies used in this case. In addition to the learner centered strategy used for accessing the delicious.com account, a lecture-discussion strategy was used for question and answer sessions. This can typically be a weaker strategy if the participants are not fully involved or afraid to post their opinions.

Suggestions for Improvement

The instructional methods used could have been more learner-centered as far as the interaction amongst peers. For example, if additional articles dealing with each particular subject area were selected by the students for future reading it may have engaged the students more in the learning process. The delicious.com service, although very useful for simply gathering articles and distributing them, there are more features such as tagging and annotating the websites with additional descriptions that can also prove as useful tools.

References

Farwell, T. M., & Waters, R. D. (2010). "Exploring the Use of Social Bookmarking Technology in Education". MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching , 6, 398408 Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no2/waters_0610.pdf.