Hollyhead, Andrew, Edwards, David J. and Holt, Gary David
The use of virtual learning environment (VLE) and social network site (SNS) hosted forums in higher education<BR> A preliminary examination.
Industry and Higher Education, 26
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5367/ihe.2012.0115
Grounded theory is used to examine the role and application of both educator-led and student-led forums within a virtual learning environment (VLE) of a higher education institution (HEI). The study reports experiences and perceptions of academics in two faculties (business and technology) in the HEI who use both asynchronous VLE forums and social network sites (SNSs) such as Facebook. Interview data were transcribed, coded and analysed to identify emergent themes and patterns of commonality. Differences between faculties are identified, including those relating to the type, frequency and breadth of forum usage. The results suggest that students' voluntary use of SNSs as a complement to formal learning is culturally embedded in the HEI and constitutes a widely accepted 'integral' part of the learning experience. Such rapidly evolving usage could present future challenges for educators, not least because SNS-hosted learning materials and patterns of SNS use may be obscured from them. There are also challenges relating to educators' duty of care, surreptitious exchange of information (for example, assessment information) and unhelpful criticism of HEIs.
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