A case study-based investigation of students' experiences with social software tools.
New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 15(3),
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The term 'social software' covers a range of tools which allow users to interact and share data with other users, primarily via the web. Blogs, wikis, podcasts and social networking websites are some of the tools that are being used in educational, social and business contexts. We have examined the use of social software in the UK further and higher education to collect evidence of the effective use of social software in student learning and engagement. We applied case study methodology involving educators and students from 26 initiatives. In this paper, we focus on the student experience: educational goals of using social software; benefits to the students; and the challenges they experience. Our investigations have shown that social software supports a variety of ways of learning: sharing of resources; collaborative learning; problem-based and inquiry-based learning; and reflective learning. Students gain transferable skills of team working, negotiation, communication and managing digital identities. Although these tools enhance a student's sense of community, the need to share and collaborate brings in additional responsibility and workload, which some students find inflexible and 'forced'. Our findings show that students have concerns about usability, privacy and the public nature of social software tools for academic activities.
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