Blended learning environments: Using social networking sites to enhance the first year experience
AbstractThis study explores blending virtual and physical learning environments to enhance the experience of first year by immersing students into university culture through social and academic interaction between peers. It reports on the progress made from 2008 to 2009 using an existing academic platform, the first year design elective course Imaging Our World, in the School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Adelaide. Over one semester, 120 design students, including 27 internationals, engaged with their peers through an online forum within the host site Facebook, in addition to the traditional teaching mechanisms of lectures and tutorials. Students were required to submit work online to Facebook and provide critiques of peers' submissions. Resulting discussions were then transferred into the physical classroom with the aim of building meaningful relationships between peers based on the embryonic online connections. The evaluation process involved pre and post semester questionnaires, weekly feedback from students and project-specific reflections at the completion of the semester. The findings are discussed in light of the conflicting attitudes and assumptions regarding the 'digital native' student cohort, and the use of social media to support learning and teaching in higher education.
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