An empirically-grounded study on the effective use of social software in education

Minocha, Shailey (2009). An empirically-grounded study on the effective use of social software in education. Education and Training, 51(5/6) pp. 381–394.



Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the results of an empirical investigation of the effective use of social software in further and higher education. The aims of the research are to: identify situations where social software tools had been employed in learning and teaching; elicit the experiences of the staff and students; and to draw out the benefits, challenges and issues (and their resolutions) associated with the use of social software.

Design/methodology/approach – In the empirical study, data from 26 initiatives, where social software tools have been employed, were collected, analysed and synthesised. A case study methodology was followed and both educators and students were interviewed to find out what they had done, how well it had worked, and what they had learned from the experiences.

Findings – This study provides insights about the benefits to the students, educators and institutions; challenges that may influence a social software initiative; and issues that need to be considered in a social software initiative.

Research limitations/implications – The data analysis in this project has been qualitative. In future research, it would be useful to obtain quantitative evidence relating to the effectiveness of the use of social software. Such evidence would be of considerable assistance to institutional policy makers. The case studies in the project are snapshots of the current situation. It would be useful to carry out longitudinal studies over a period of time to investigate the sustainability of the individual initiatives.

Practical implications – It is hoped that the lessons captured in this paper will inform the learning and teaching strategies in higher and further education – specifically, assisting the institutions and educators who are considering the use of social software, or more generally, people or organisations undertaking technology-enabled learning and teaching initiatives.

Originality/value – The published research so far has tended to focus on the use of forums, blogs and wikis, rather than extending to encompass other social software. Furthermore, the literature discusses experiences of individual educators and with a small set of students. The project reported in this paper examined data from 26 initiatives from a varierty of institutions, involving a wide range of social software tools, and in diverse contexts.

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