To give you an overview of how social networks can be used in the educational setting, and to make you aware of some of the issues involved in using social networks in class.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this workshop, you should be able to
  1. Identify different models of educational social networks
  2. Assess the educational potential of using social networks in your course


  1. What is a wiki?
  2. Educational focus
  3. Analysis
  4. Three main models
  5. Ideas for practice
  6. Benefits
  7. Assessment and feedback
  8. Considerations
  9. Class plan
  10. Reflection
  11. Evaluation
  12. Useful links

1. What are social networking and social networks?

Visit the Web 2.0 survival guide page on social networks

Social networks can be group-based (e.g., Ning, Group.ps) or individual-based (e.g., Facebook, MySpace). This workshop deals only with group-based social networks. With a social network you can
  • Create sub-groups and discussion forums
  • Post events, notes, announcements
  • Share files, podcasts, videos, photos and more
  • View your network members' latest activity and profiles
  • Leave comments on members' 'comment walls'

2. Educational focus

  • Networking
  • Communication and knowledge sharing
  • Opinion
  • Object sharing
  • Presentation and dissemination
  • Feedback

3. Analysis

Go to Education Innovators and explore at least three ANU teachers' sites. Use the table below to help you compare the sites.

Site 1: _
Site 2: _
Site 3: _
How is the site being used in class? Class management? Learning focus? Communication (by whom and for what purpose)?

Who is contributing to the site? Teacher only? Or students, too?

What are the discussions about? What sorts of information is included?

Are discussions focused?

Are the students engaged? Why/why not?

What is the quality of the writing, thinking, discussions, etc., like?

What is the use of media (i.e., videos, images, slideshows, etc.) like?

Is the site easy to navigate? Any problems?

Why do you think the teacher has decided to use a soci network in class?

4. Main models

  1. Class communication (teacher-only site): communication tool, announcements, links, lecture notes and powerpoints, advice to students, resource repository.
  2. Educational: students collaborate in groups to create their own spaces around class themes or topics.

5. Ideas for practice

  • Ask students to form groups around class topics. Get them to post videos, audios, photos etc. and to comment on why they have posted them.
  • Get students to form sub-groups within the class network. They can then set up forums for their group and discuss privately upcoming group assessment items.
  • Use social networks to manage an off-campus group for placement or fieldwork students.
  • Set up a reading group using the discussion forums on a social network.
  • Give group feedback on assignments using an announcements tool.
  • Manage your class using a social networking site: post latest assignment information, announcements, topics for discussion, useful links and media, etc.

6. Benefits of social networks

  • Discussion of scholarly opinion, research, diverse perspectives
  • Creativity and sharing
  • Higher-order thinking especially critique and evaluation
  • Engagement with key course concepts and themes
  • Construction of knowledge
  • Assessment, synthesis, evaluation

  • Control and ownership
  • Organisation of scholarly opinion
  • Students try harder when others can see their work
  • Easy self-publication
  • Wider audience
  • More authentic
  • Common goal
  • Personally valuable

  • Community and socialisation
  • Connection with experts
  • Engagement with new audiences
  • Easy sharing of ideas
  • Appropriate online behaviour
  • Participation, communication, socialisation, teamwork, collaboration

  • Ease of feedback
  • Track student progress
  • Communication tool
  • Easy assignment submission
  • Formative and summative feedback
  • Accessible anywhere
  • Easy to use
  • Notifications of changes (RSS and email)

7. Assessment and feedback

What are you assessing?
Some suggestions
  • Intellectual engagement, comprehension
  • Focus
  • Relevance of information sharing and development
  • Development of understanding of a topic over time
  • Links to course themes
  • Usefulness of material added to the site
  • Frequency and quality of discussion posts
  • Relevance of media or links
  • Participation in community

Good assessment practice
  • Give clear assessment instructions and guidelines
  • Set clear goals
  • Set concrete tasks
  • Provide examples
  • Develop and distribute assessment rubrics
  • Make regular comments on student discussions
  • Allow room for questions/advice
  • Set community rules, if necessary

8. Considerations
  • Time and tech factors: assistance, moderation, implementation
  • Audience, expectations
  • Trust and appropriate online behaviour
  • Privacy
  • Legal compliance
  • Mitigating liability
  • Copyright and Intellectual Property
  • Institutional policy and guidelines

Sign up for the 'Online considerations' workshop before you use a blog in class.

9. Class plan
Make sure you have one!

10. Reflection
What do you think or know now? What is still confusing? What do you need to follow up on?

11. Evaluation
Helpful or not? Let us know your thoughts.

12. Useful links
Web 2.0 survival guide
Social networking basics