The impact of social media in higher education

Wendy Sinclair
Wendy Sinclair

You may well be wondering why a nurse has been invited to blog for Salford Business School, I asked the same question until I recognised that using social media in nurse education is part of our business. As a lecturer in children’s nursing, I am also part of the fitness for professional practice team and a few years ago I noticed an increase in referrals of student misconduct using social media platforms.

At the same time I was seeing a decrease in student communication via more traditional channels of email, telephone and the virtual learning environment and instead I was being asked by some students to use social media.

In an attempt to try something different, I began in 2012 with a personal twitter account (@wlasinclair) wondering if anyone was even interested in my posts. I had incorrectly presumed that all of our students would use twitter and even more inaccurately believed that they would communicate with me via twitter.

The impact of social media in nurse education

What I found was that not all students were using social media, and if they were, they didn’t necessarily want to communicate with their lecturers in this way. It was the serendipitous connection with Teresa Chinn MBE and her voluntary organisation @WeNurses that I began to realise the huge potential of the online nurse community.

Teresa was holding regular weekly chats for nurses and I thought this would be ideal for students who would be able to connect and learn, and in turn improve their chances of employment and career development. I asked Teresa if we could hold a ‘Student Night’ and of course she agreed.

The first chat was a great success, we published our findings and we presented the paper at an international nurse education conference in Amsterdam (you can request the paper here. We’ve since presented at several conferences including a very successful event here at Salford #SUSoMe. Slowly but surely my followers increased to the 4k followers I have today.

The impact of social media on student’s CVs

In January 2014 a small team came together (Wendy Sinclair, Moira McLoughlin, Neil Withnell) and revamped the original School of Nursing twitter account (@nursingSUni) with a view to developing a partnership module of curation. We hoped that the account would be curated jointly by staff and students and within a matter of weeks, we had our first student nurse curators.

Each volunteer student nurses curates the account for 1 week at a time and then writes a blog to summarise their experience (you can read the blogs here). Students use the experience to enhance their CV’s through seeking out opportunities to learn via the large number of 4.5k followers and the massive online nurse community.

The impact of social media inside and outside the classroom

The use of social media for teaching and learning in nurse education here at Salford has taken the time and energy of a dedicated team with a vision of creating a different platform to teach, connect, and communicate with our students. We use module hashtags and encourage tweeting in class, to breakdown the classroom walls and discuss contact with people outside of the classroom.

It honestly has been time consuming and hard work and much of the work takes place outside of office hours to maximise the impact by connecting with people at peak times online.

We have however reaped the rewards through developing different working relationships between academics and students, students becoming much more in touch with wider political and global issues and demonstrating a greater understanding of being professional online.

If I was to offer any advice, it would be:

  • to be yourself
  • find like-minded people online
  • connect with them
  • reciprocate with help, advice and information,
  • and above all, be transparent, open and honest.

How social media can positively impact the learning experience?

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