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Students’ Perceptions and Use of Social Media Sites and Learning Management Systems in Higher Education

As I traverse the literature review process for the second chapter of my dissertation on the use of social media and learning in higher education, the results to date are a bit more complex than I had initially expected. For the sake of clarity here, I will use Pechenkina and Aeschliman’s (2017) definition of social media as: “a generic, all-encompassing term for a range of digital tools and platforms used for networking, sharing, commenting and collaborating online” (p. 29). This includes, but not limited to sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Wikis, social bookmarks, and blogs. While there is a vast amount of literature on the benefits of social media in the learning and teaching process, (Kent, 2016; Mcloughlin & Lee, 2016; Tananuraksakul, 2014; Kalelioğlu, 2017), some recent studies have revealed that while there are significant potential for integrating social media in the teaching and learning process in higher education, the issue is much more complex. Some recent studies on students’ perceptions of using social media in higher education contexts (Pechenkina & Aeschliman, 2017; Ciampa, Thrasher, & Revels, 2016) have shown that while students generally have a positive attitude toward social media for communicating with their peers, they also are less likely to use social media in terms of learning, with the most common issue being that social media is viewed as primarily designed for communicating with peers. Similar results have also been shown for some faculty perspective on the viability of social media as a means for learning or as a LMS, highlighting faculty’s concern over issues of privacy for both themselves, as well as their students Seaman & Tinti-Kane, 2013).

Social Media and Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Social media sites are usually independent of LMSs, but can be used integratively with LMS or separately in classrooms (Pechenkina & Aeschliman, 2017). It is my view that an integrative approach is ideal in higher education contexts as research has shown that students tend to prefer the structure of LMSs, particularly with regard to submission of assignments and assessment (Ciampa, Thrasher, & Revels, 2016). In my own teaching context of an intensive English program for prospective undergraduate and graduate university students, I recently adopted Google Classroom as a LMS for a research writing class. I recently completed my third cohort, and the students have expressed a preference for using Google Classroom over the institutionally adopted LMS. When pressed as to why they preferred to use Google Classroom, the students mentioned the following:

  • It is more convenient
  • Easier to access and,
  • There is a mobile app, which allows them access from any portable device.

Based on my brief experience with using social media in a higher education context, and a brief review of the relevant literature, here is what I have learned:

  1. Social media can, and should be considered as a viable means of learning in higher education contexts
  2. In order to maximize the potential of social media, teachers will need to be intentional, purposeful, and strategic when integrating social media in the teaching and learning process
  3. The needs of the learners, program, and institution (in that order) should dictate when, how, and the extent to which social media is used in higher education contexts
  4. Social media provides the opportunity for formal and informal learning
  5. Accessibility, flexibility, self-regulation, and enhanced engagement and collaboration are some of the affordances of social media

I would like to end with my personal experience with social media as a means of learning as a doctoral student. Initially, I was reluctant, skeptical, and even somewhat resistant to the notion of using social media; however, after taking a class with Dr. Darci J. Harland titled Innovative Curriculum, the experience has opened up a new world of possibilities in terms of facilitating teaching and learning.

Denzil Barnett


Ciampa, M., Thrasher, E. H. & Revels, M. A. (2016). Social Media Use in Academics: Undergraduate Perceptions and Practices. I-Manager’s Journal of Educational Technology, 12(4), 10-19.

Kalelioğlu, F. (2017). Using Facebook as a LMS: Experiences of preservice teachers. Informatics in Education, 16(1), 86-101.

Kent, M. (2016). What’s on your mind? Facebook as a forum for learning and teaching in higher education. In M. Kent & T. Leaver(eds.). An education in Facebook? Higher education and the world’s largest social network. New Your, NY: Routledge.

McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M. J. W. (2016). Beyond friending: Psychosocial engagement on Facebook and its implications for academic success. In M. Kent & T. Leaver (eds.) An education in facebook? Higher education and the world’s largest social network. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pechenkina, E. & Aeschliman, C. (2017). What Do Students Want? Making Sense of Student Preferences in Technology-enhanced Learning. Contemporary Educational Technology, 8(1), 26-39.

Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2013). Social media for teaching and learning. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions. Retrieved on June 21st, 2017from

Tananuraksakul, N. (2014). Use of Facebook group as blended learning and learning management system in writing. Teaching English with Technology, 14(3), 3-15.





Using Google Hangouts

I recently tried using Google Hangouts for the first time and found it to be a great way for students and teachers to engage and collaborate on course related topics.  I teach ESL in an intensive English Program (IEP) at a private university in southern California. The students are predominantly from northeast Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. In a course on Personal Leadership Development, the students  wanted to spend some time reviewing key concepts and ideas in preparation for and upcoming quiz; however, due to the tight schedule, we were unable to meet face to face, so I decided to try Google Hangouts for the first time. There are a host of ways teachers can use Google Hangouts, from being a forum for virtual book clubs, to collaborating  with other students & teachers across the globe7 Ways to use Google Hangouts in the classroom. It so happened that the same students enrolled in the Personal Leadership Development class were also enrolled in a Research Project writing class in which I used Google Classroom as the learning management system (LMS). I mention this because students were able to easily add the Google Hangouts app to all their devices(laptops and smartphones).

Because we were strapped for time in terms of meeting face to face for a review, I invited the students to connect via Google Hangouts.  After deciding on a mutually convenient time, we met on Google Hangouts, with the intention of spending an hour in which I would answer their questions as they prepared for the upcoming quiz. After a few minor connection glitches, all 5 of the students and myself were able to connect. The review went very well, and the students seemed a bit less stressed about the upcoming quiz, and even more confident in terms of their preparation. The students used the opportunity to not only inquire about concepts related to the Personal Leadership Development class, but also to ask questions related to upcoming assignments for the Research Project class as well.

As I reflect on my experience of using Google Hangouts for the first time, I think its potential use can serve to foster engagement, and collaborative learning. In my case, I found it helpful as a medium for review and helping students prepare for a quiz. Based on my initial experience with Google Hangouts, conducting virtual office hours with my students is one additional way I plan to use it is in the future.

Denzil Barnett