Mullen, Jane and Hatton, Jean (2012) Scaffolding and supporting virtual communities. In: 9th ALDinHE Conference Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) Conference:learning Development in a Digital Age., 2nd-4th April 2012, Leeds University, UK. (Unpublished)

Taking three different degree courses, two of which are professionally focussed, we have been exploring the differing use of social networks to support students’ communication and the development of communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991).
First year teacher training students have been encouraged to use Facebook whilst on placement, with third year students acting as mentors. First year youth and community work students have used Facebook to support their early academic and professional development. First Year childhood studies students set up their own Facebook page before the course started to get to know and support each other during the first weeks and months of their studies.
These projects call for ‘a paradigm shift in shaping student learning to take account of peer- peer and teacher peer partnerships beyond those owned, supervised and instigated by institutions’ ( Cousin and Brett, 2011, p16). Although tutors have had a presence in 2 of the 3 Facebook pages, students have chosen their own speed and style of communication with no guidance and little or no involvement from tutors. Initial sessions with students on teacher training and youth work courses focussed on the professional use of the media and for the teacher training mentors there was a clear discussion of appropriate boundaries.
Mueller (2004) examined how social networking can be used effectively for one to one relationships, whereas we have used it as a tool to facilitate different virtual communities with different aims. With this emphasis on ‘community’ this paper will be presented by members of these communities.

Cousin and Brett (2011) ‘Students as partners in blending learning’ Journal of Learning and Development in Higher Education, (3)
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning. Cambridge: University Press
Mueller (1991) ‘E-mentoring as an example for the use of information and communication technology in engineering education. European Journal of Engineering Education 29, pp 53-63 cited in Cothran, McCaughtry, Faust, Garn, Kulinna and Martin (2009) ‘E-mentoring in Physical Education: promises and pitfalls’ Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 80, (3), pp 552-562

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