My Sabbatical Leave Project: Social Media in Higher Education

I am not certain if I have mentioned this in any of my previous posts, but I am currently on a 6-month sabbatical leave. During the next months, I am planning to improve my knowledge and skills in the use and integration of social media in undergraduate courses. So, let me tell you a little bit more about my project and why I believe social media is an excellent tool to improve both learning and engagement in higher education.

Social Media in Higher Education

Learning, retention, and attainment in universities and colleges are consistently associated with students’ being actively engaged with faculty and staff, with other students, and with the subject matter they are studying. Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Unfortunately, engaging students is one of the most challenging things we do as university instructors.

As the popularity of social media platforms continues to grow, it becomes clear that if used effectively, these internet-based tools may have the ability to increase student engagement, improve learning and promote collaboration. Regrettably, the successful integration of these tools in the classroom is not that simple.

Over the last two years, I have spent a little bit of time exploring ways to integrate social media in my courses. Overall, I have had a lot of success with these "experiments". In my courses, students have been allowed to use facebook, Google+, blogs and other similar tools for projects specifically created for these experiments. Clearly, if used properly social media could be an excellent tool to improve both individual and collaborative learning as well as to increase the interest on the topics discussed in class. 

My 6-Month Sabbatical Leave 

The more that I use social media in my courses, the more I realize how much is there to learn about it. Thus, for my sabbatical leave, I am planning to investigate and explore different creative ways that social media platforms are used to increase engagement, improve learning and promote collaboration in the classroom. Specifically, I am interested in identifying creative, innovative and effective uses of social media that can be integrated in undergraduate science courses.

I recognize that there is no single tip, technique, or strategy that offers a magic formula or blueprint for student engagement. But, I believe that if used properly, the integration of social media in undergraduate courses can help faculty to be more successful in our way to enhance learning and engage students.

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