Social networking: a collaborative open educational resource

Toetenel, Lisette (2014). Social networking: a collaborative open educational resource. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 27(2) pp. 149–162.




Studies undertaken since the introduction of Web 2.0 have focussed mainly on open educational resources (OERs) such as email, blogging and virtual learning environments. No consistent efforts have been undertaken to study the use of social networking sites as a tool for learning in the second language classroom. This study examined the use of social networking sites as a means of establishing an asynchronous online environment for use in language learning in a classroom setting. The findings described are based on the use of a social networking site called Ning in a classroom during a summer school project, which was conducted at a further education college in the UK. The project focussed in particular on informal language practice when using social networking sites. The paper then examines the effect the use of the social networking tool had on group cohesion and learner-to-learner interaction, and how these, in turn, enhanced informal language learning due to an increase in learner collaboration. The study found that the use of Ning enhanced group cohesion and that learners started working in different groups once Ning was introduced. Finally, it highlights the potential technical and administrative barriers that can impede an institution in implementing its educational strategy in regards to OERs – in this case, social networking sites in the classroom. The further education college in which this study took place had no policies in place in regards to the use of OERs in the classroom, thus the paper concludes with recommendations in regards to training and policies so that researchers and practitioners can learn from the project.

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