Social media and student outcomes: teacher, student and employer views
Accessing and posting on social media has become a daily habit for many Australians. Social media is used by individuals to keep in touch with friends and family, by groups to inform their members of relevant information and by organisations to market their services and products. However, is there a role for social media in vocational education and training (VET)?
This report looks at how social media is being used within the VET sector as a tool in teaching and learning. The researchers conducted interviews with teachers, students and employers across three different registered training organisations (RTOs) to determine the types of social media most useful in teaching and learning, how they are being used, and whether the outcomes for students are being improved.
- Given the scope and purpose of this study, it appears that there are currently only a limited number of Australian VET institutions actively using social media in their teaching. These institutions all had clear guidelines and technological mechanisms for the positive use of social media in teaching. A larger study, one involving a more representative sample, is required to fully understand the uptake of social media in VET courses and its impact on outcomes.
- The main types of social media currently used in VET are Facebook and YouTube. Facebook is used for its group functionality and its capacity to make announcements, while YouTube is used to enable students to upload videos of themselves performing tasks, and teachers to share relevant content with students.
- Students prefer to use the form of social media that will be of most relevance to their future roles. For example, marketing students like to use Facebook and Twitter because these tools are widely used for promoting products and events.
- The use of social media in courses encourages greater engagement in learning in some students and, based on the anecdotal evidence presented, may result in higher completions than in those courses not using social media.
- In order to present evidence for audits of teaching and assessment that utilises social media, teachers are having to transfer exemplar information from the social media platform to the institute’s learning management system rather than presenting it as is, thus double-handling information. Clarification from institutes and regulators on the forms of technologically enabled assessment that are acceptable as evidence for audits is needed.
- Another practical consideration for VET teachers and institutions is that students do not necessarily understand the privacy issues surrounding social media in the classroom context. Teachers find they first need to teach students about the relevant privacy options to ensure that posts remain out of the general public eye. This is important as RTOs are obliged to comply with the Australian Privacy Principles.
- Employers found social media prompted them to be more connected to the theory side of the student’s learning. They also believed social media helped to smooth the transitions between the learning and work environments and they emphasised the benefits of Facebook as they affected the administration of training.