Exploring Learner-Content Interactions in University Courses Through Social Media Use

Andrews, Christianna, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Youngs, Peter, CU-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia

A growing body of literature shows that, when meaningfully integrated into a university course, social networking tools can enhance learner-content interactions (Buzzetto-More, 2012; Ozturk, 2015; Shih, 2011; Webb, 2009). While there is a literature base that demonstrates the benefits and uses of social media in online learning, little empirical research details how these tools are meaningfully integrated in support of content interactions in university courses. Using Moore (1997)’s Transactional Distance framework and Pinch and Bijker (1984)’s Social Construction of Technology model, this study explores how social media is adopted and adapted by learners in university courses in service of learner-content interactions. Using site observations, survey data, and interviews, the researcher explored how the tools were purposefully integrated and modified by the instructor and learners throughout a semester-long course in order to develop learners’ understanding of and engagement with the material. The findings showed that the social media tools were employed by the instructor in service of learners’ professional development, but modified by the learners to emphasize their understanding of the course content. The disconnect between the intentions for and outcomes of the tools’ uses suggest a need for purposeful instructional design around how the tools are integrated into a semester-long course, and an understanding of the learners’ needs for the technology prior to the tools’ implementation into the instructional experience.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
social media, transactional distance, social construction of technology, instructional design
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