Using Social Media to Enhance Student Learning Opportunities in Social Work

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

As an increasingly popular communication method, this study examines the use of Facebook to enhance student learning in a blended undergraduate social work class.


Dr. Gainey is currently an Assistant Professor in the Social Work Department at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and has a small private practice in Laurinburg, North Carolina, where she resides with her two children. She is licensed in North Carolina as a Clinical Social Worker, School Social Worker, and School Administrator. She is currently serving as a board member of Scotland County Schools, and volunteers as the faculty advisor for the Phi Alpha Iota Iota Social Work Honor's Society at UNC Pembroke. She is interested in the use of social media to help students link course material to real life events, increase student involvement in face-to-face courses while they are outside of the classroom, bridge the divide between faculty and students outside of the classroom, and reinforce course concepts while assessing student learning.

Extended Abstract

Blended learning includes the integration of online and face-to-face learning environments to create a more effective learning experience than either setting can produce alone (Erdem and Kibar, 2014). Since today's students are often heavily engaged in using a variety of social media platforms (Erdem & Kibar), social media in blended learning environments has been found to be an effective way of facilitating educational activities for students (Ajjan & Hartshorne, 2008; Mason, 2006; Selwyn, 2007). As an increasingly popular communication method, this study specifically examines the use of the Facebook Groups service to enhance student learning in an Introduction to Social Work blended learning class.

This presentation will present the findings from a pilot study that examined the use of a blended learning approach that involved weekly face-to-face lecture with the use of an asynchronous online environment using social media. Specifically, this pilot project examined the use of the Facebook Groups service in one section of an undergraduate social work preparation course. The use of Facebook Groups with this course aimed to 1) Increase online interaction among students; 2) Improve ability of students to demonstrate they could link course material to "real world" issues; 3) Increase ability of professor to assess student knowledge as it related to specific course terminology; 4) Increase access to and interaction with professor during the course of the semester.

Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. Data was obtained by monitoring posts by students in the Facebook Group, as well as from a survey where students indicated their opinions and perceptions of the use of Facebook Groups versus the online Blackboard Discussion Board. Preliminary findings from student participation data and comments in class indicate positive outcomes related to learning due to the Facebook Groups modality.

As this is a work in progress, the presentation will seek to elicit further implementation and data collection ideas from peers.

Goals of the presentation are to:
1. Provide a logistical overview of a hybrid undergraduate social work preparation course that incorporated Facebook Groups instead of Blackboard Discussion board;
2. Provide preliminary findings of student learning outcomes related to using Facebook Groups instead of Blackboard Discussion Board to facilitate learning opportunities for students participating in a hybrid undergraduate social work preparation course;
3. Elicit peer feedback and ideas for further implementation and data collection ideas related to online learning with the use of social media.