Reynolds, Cheryl and Bennett, Elizabeth (2009) Learning and teaching in a social network. In: The seventh annual e-learning@greenwich conference: Making It Personal, 8th July 2009, University of Greenwich, London, UK. (Unpublished)

Educators are increasingly using social networks and exploiting their affordances as a mode of delivery. There is a consequent need to evaluate teaching strategies within this new context, uncovering important caveats and promoting the most effective approaches.

Masters students at the University of Huddersfield had expressed dissatisfaction with Blackboard, perceiving it to lack the personalisation and community feeling associated with social networks like FaceBook and Ning. Consequently, a Ning network was created to support a single, Masters level module. This study explored how best to use the platform to promote interaction and improve learning outcomes.

Tutors gathered ethnomethodological data, documenting the seemingly trivial interactions between members of the network in order to uncover the social processes at work and shed light on the meaning which members attach to this behaviour. The case study was conducted over 3 months, involving twenty students and two tutors.

Learners were polled at the end of this period with over ninety percent preferring Ning to Blackboard. Some clear indicators for what they expected of a tutor in this kind of environment were also uncovered.

The findings endorse the use of social networks in educational contexts and inform optimal teaching strategies in future iterations. Where the results concur with wider studies of learner perceptions of e-learning, they are potentially generalisable to similar contexts.

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