Monthly Archives: November 2013

WIP 26.11.2013

Research topic: Can Facebook help engage young people in online learning?

Research questions

  1. Is there a link between student interaction in a Facebook group and time spent on Moodle?
  2. Is there a link between student interaction in a Facebook group and academic achievement?
  3. Is there a link between student interaction in a Facebook group and student satisfaction with the iScoil?
  4. Is there a link between student interaction in a Facebook group and  student retention?


Why is this important?

It is the weakest factor in iScoil’s teaching model and one that could result in a very positive outcomes in terms of student accreditation and student retention.

Why not use Moodle?

Short bit of iScoil history.

Notschool Ireland -> iScoil

Firstclass -> Moodle

There have been efforts to engage students through student forums, online chats, group projects and face to face workshops, but there has been little success.

Moodle does not provide the intuitive and highly interactive space that other social network sites do.

In the past we have focused resources into changing Moodle to more closely resemble Facebook but with no noticeable success.

Organisational lock-in has resulted in a situation where changing the course layout and student enrollments to facilitate student interaction is very difficult.

Ethical considerations had made using Facebook an unpopular move amongst management but it was eventually deemed worthy of investigation. I took this opportunity to use this as a research project in my MSc studies.

Why Facebook?

In a recent student survey, 90% of student said they mainly use Facebook!

It provides closed groups which satisfy ethical considerations and the students have a safe space to communicate and provide a lot of functionality.

It is a neutral space unlike our VLE which is managed by iScoil so more negotiation between instructor and student on how it is used.

It’s free and easy to use.

Screen shot 2013-11-26 at 16.13.35

Project Plan

Offer students membership to closed Facebook group.

Provide students with a short online survey asking them:

  1. Do you interact with other iScoil students online? Yes / No
  2. If yes how often? Daily, weekly, monthly
  3. Do you use iScoil to interact or some other website?
  4. Do you think it is easy to contact other students on iScoil? Yes / NoScreen shot 2013-11-26 at 14.53.02

This will be hosted on Surveymonkey.

As group moderator I will try to promote student interaction based on student interests  using action research methodology and create a safe space where students can interact with each other.

On completion of study, provide students with exit survey asking the same questions as initial questionnaire.

Collect data and write up resulting paper.

Ethics Considerations

All students are under 18 and can be classified as vulnerable. I am awaiting feedback from the Ethics Commitee.

Target Journal

My target journal for submission is Interactive Learning Environments
Requires 2,000 and 6,000 words.

Individual learning

  • Innovative learning situations, including adaptive systems, intelligent tutoring, conversational and advisory systems
  • Tools to aid learning and tools for studying and modelling learners
  • Cognitive, social, developmental and motivational aspects of how learning comes about
  • Principles of course design for effective learning, authoring tools
  • Self-organised learning and learning to learn

Group Activity

  • Informal knowledge exchange networks
  • Participation in on-line discussion
  • Computer supported teamwork projects
  • Collaborative learning processes
  • Peer tutoring and mentoring in computer mediated learning
  • Self assessment and peer assessment in virtual classrooms
  • Interactive video and audio technologies

Social and organisational issues

  • Facilitating and managing organisational change
  • Integrating e-learning with other business processes
  • The interface between e-learning and knowledge management


In the context of student learning, Astin (1984) defined engagement as “the amount of

physical and psychological energy that the students devote to the academic experience”
(p. 297). Today, engagement refers to the amount of time and effort that students spend
on educational activities that are related to college academic work (Kuh, 2009).
Chickering and Gamson (1987) offer 7 principles for improving undergraduate education
based on research on exemplary teaching and learning in colleges and universities. All of
these are related to student engagement, including:

  1.  encourages contact between students and faculty,
  2.  develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  3.  encourages active learning,
  4.  provides prompt feedback,
  5.  emphasizes time on task,
  6.  communicates high expectations,
  7.  respects diverse talents and ways of learning (Washington Center News, 1987).A closed Facebook group made up of myself and other students can provide an environment where these conditions could be met.

    Cite:Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE January 2013 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 14 Number: 1 Article 26

  8. Wang, Jenny; Lin, Chun-Fu C.; Yu, Wei-Chieh W.; Wu, Emily
    Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, v14 n1 p302-322 Jan 2013


“We don’t Twitter, we Facebook”: An alternative pedagogical space that enables critical practices in relation to writing

This paper studies how Facebook closed-groups were used in a first year literacy course for students in a BEd Course in a University in South Africa. This mandatory course is designed to provide students with literacy skills they’ll need in their own studies and as teachers.

This study focused on the digital domain of literacy, one such domain covered by the literary course. There were two facets to this domain; a course blog where students had to use communicate formal academic language and a closed Facebook group where informal language, colloquialisms and other social identifiers would be used. Learning to negotiate meaning and develop relationships using informal languages was seen as an important skill for an educator.

Students were encouraged to use their own “txt-speech” and debate the validity of this form of language.

The design of the research is similar to my own in that the tutor will play a member of the group, acting as a moderator and providing a sense of safety for the other members. The author also addresses a concern about using a social media tool popular with students. The association with academic use might reduce it’s appeal. The author concludes that closed Facebook  groups provide “a way of networking with peer groups in spaces where it is safe enough to let your voice be heard.”

English Teaching: Practice and Critique, Jean Reid
May, 2011, Volume 10, Number 1, pp. 58-80

Hello newbie! **big welcome hugs** hope u like it here as much as i do!

This chapter looks at how communities of practice develop online. The author analyses online activity of two online communities and how they have both developed communities of practice as outlined by Wenger in Communities of practice : learning, meaning, and identity (1999). This chapter is older than most of my reading material but it does provide some interesting insights into community formation and how identity can be built through membership of a community. The example communities are an online wiccan group made up primarily of teenage girls and a group set up for young ME sufferers. Both groups have a “strong identity of who they are and who they are not”. The success of these communities may be a result of how the community negotiated these parameters.

If my Facebook group is to succeed in creating a genuine community the members of that group will have to negotiate what it is to be and how they are to interact with it. Providing them with this space will be my role as a supervisor but it will ultimately be decided by the students themselves.

Davies, J. `”Hello newbie! **big welcome hugs** hope u like it here as much as i do! ” An exploration of teenagers´ informal on-line learning´. In Buckingham, D. and Willett, R. (Eds.) Digital Generations. New York: Lawrence Ehrlbaum. (Pp 211 – 228)

Social Media for Teaching and Learning

A survey of social media use by faculty at third level institutions revealed that wikis and blogs are much more likely to be used for teaching than Facebook or Twitter. This may be in some way connected to the result of 48% of the third level faculty surveyed who felt that the the increase in digital communication between staff and students had led to an increase in stress and over 60% said that their work hours had increased. It could be that third level faculty prefer to use social media sites less popular with their students to reduce the amount of time they need to spend monitoring and responding to posts on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.,0

Social Software To Support Distance Education Learners

This is a chapter from the second edition of The Theory and Practice of Online Learning edited by Terry Anderson (p. 221 – 241). In it Anderson looks at the problem of providing online distance learners to pace their own learning and work to their own schedule but also provide learners with opportunities to work cooperatively with others online.

Anderson focuses his study on distance learners enrolled in self-paced online courses. He describes this as being “perceived and often experienced as a lonely way to learn”. It is true that online learning, particularly distance learning can be perceived as isolating. It is difficult for students particularly of a young age and for whom classroom education has been a negative experience to interact with a new and unknown online community. For this reason it is important that an online tool that has a proven record in facilitating interaction amongst this cohort is chosen and resourced. In the student survey iScoil took,  90% of students responded that they had a Facebook account. This is my reasoning for choosing Facebook as the social network site for improving student engagement.

Digital Distance Learning Communities: Teachers’ Beliefs about Community in K-12 Online Education

Digital Distance Learning Communities: Teachers’ Beliefs about Community in K-12 Online Education

Comprehensive overview of the history and rapid growth of online learning in the K-12 sector in the US with a prediction that by 2019 50% of courses will be online.

Advantages of online are:

  • ” it offers students  opportunities for personalized learning, advanced placement work, access to qualified teachers and credit restoration potential” (p.3)
  • It removes geographic, economic and social barriers to specialised instructors and online courses.

This report claims that there is a lack of research into online research in the K-12 sector with most studies of online education focusing on their level. This study researches the practices and strategies of successful online teaching from k-12 online practitioners .

The importance of the online community and social learning has been established in theird level research but there much more research is need in the k-12 . This study has three problem questions:

1. What are instructor beliefs about the role that community plays in online learning and
what are the challenges to forming those communities?
2. Which methodologies and technologies do instructors use to promote a feeling of
community for their online students?
3. Which artifacts of teaching provide evidence of the formation and continuation of digital
distance education communities?


Digital Distance Learning Communities: Teachers’ Beliefs about Community in K-12 Online Education

Pope, Cynthia