FRI: Can Social Media Promote Inclusion In Education? (Sioban James)

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Sioban James
10 January 2019

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Conferene Abstract:

‘Can social medial promote inclusion in education?’

Sioban James

The Open University is so called because it is ‘open to people, places, methods and ideas’ (Open University, 2019), this enables access to study often without the formal academic qualifications required by traditional universities (ibid). Whilst this creates greater equality of access, it can mean students embark on an undergraduate degree course without the necessary literacy and numeracy skills required for study at this level.  As an Open University tutor with the Business School, I see how this can manifest; students unable to fully engage with course content due to gaps in prior learning become disaffected, fall behind and may disengage entirely.

Sfard’s (1998) metaphors of acquisition and participation explain why a lack of prior learning may exclude students from aspects of study.  Without prior acquisition of required units of knowledge, students may, in effect, be excluded from participation, for example, a student with poor numeracy skills cannot analyse financial statements. Wherestudents are knowledge-poor, lacking prior numeracy schemata, how information is presented is of much greater significance (Salomon, 1997); although‘toolkits’ exist to support students, these require a level of skill to access, are not course specific and cannot always meet student needs.  My project aims to address this, to develop accessible, course specific resources, units of knowledge that once acquired will foster participation and inclusion.

“If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain"

(Turkish proverb, retold by Francis Bacon)

Social media is ubiquitous, 65% of the UK population have a social media account (Ofcom, 2018) and it is now recognised as part of the pattern of daily life (Selwyn and Stirling, 2015) with users spending an average of 1 hour and 54 minutes daily accessing such platforms (Black Dog New Media, 2018). Many students today are digital natives who expect interaction via social media (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2016), this expectation is demonstrated by Open University students who create student-mediated social media spaces – most popularly, course wide Facebook pages.  Seeing how readily students interact on Facebook, engage with WhatsApp chats, even at the expense of designated course forums, encouraged me to consider how the ubiquity of such platforms could be a vehicle for my project outputs, an accessible way to disseminate resources to students.

My conference presentation will introduce the resources I am developing and a plan for dissemination of these using social media.  In the first instance these will be short video presentations introducing students to important aspects of study, such as referencing and the importance of using models to help structure academic writing.  The idea for this type of output has been informed by my experience of the Open University’s management of their social media presence and their use of Facebook and Twitter to engage followers in leaning.  For example, their January ‘Brainteaser’ activities that attract many thousands of views (Open University, 2019).  Although I cannot expect to replicate such a level of interaction, my presentation will also discuss how I plan to assess the success of my project.


Black Dog New Media (2019) Digital in 2018 – UK social media stats[Online]. Available at 28 December 2018)

Ofcom (2018) Adults' media use and attitudes report 2018 [Online]. Available at 2 January 2019)

Salomon, G. (1997) ‘Of mind and media’, Phi Delta Kappan, vol.78, no.5, pp.375–80. Available at 2 January 2019).

Selwyn, N. and Stirling E. (2015). Social media and education ... now the dust has settled. Learning Media and Technology, [Online]. Vol. 41, issue 1, p1-5. Available at: 17 December 2018).

Sfard, A. (1998) ‘On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one’, Educational Researcher, [Online]. vol.27, no.2, pp.4–13.  Available at 2 January 2019).

The Open University (2019) [Online] Available at (Accessed 5 January 2019). 

The Open University (2019) 2 January. Available at 5 January 2019)

Sioban James
10:33 on 10 January 2019

Embedded Content

Conference Poster - Biteable animation

Conference Poster - Biteable animation

added by Sioban James


Annette Hendley
9:34pm 17 January 2019

Your poster is so engaging. Really well done. I am wondering if the more instant replies on WhatsApp and Facebook make it more user friendly and it is less formal than the forums. While I enjoy the interaction on the forums there is a long timelapse and you seldom have a conversation. I think people check they their social media more and the notifications are instant. 

Will you just distribute the information on social media or are you planning to be actively involved with the group?

Sioban James
10:43am 18 January 2019

'I am wondering if the more instant replies on WhatsApp and Facebook make it more user friendly and it is less formal than the forums.'

Yes!  This is in some ways exaclty what I am hopng to get across - having a few problems trying to convey this in an academic sesne - it's tending to be a hunch rather than anything I can fully support - but you are the second person this week to get this so that's me happy!  (The other person was a friend - an RE teacher.)

It's not informal learning, what I want to help with, the topics I cover, are very much scaffolding for formal study, but the setting is more on the lines of where infomral learning takes place, i'm struggling with the academic bits of the assingmnts but the doing stuff is far more enjoyable.

patrick shearer
10:50pm 21 January 2019

How good is this poster Sioban! Really engaging - congratulations. 

I agree with Annette regarding the forums - especially with so many of them. The problem is underpinning the academic stuff with the design tasks. So many of the good posters eg yours, Annette's and Kelly's to name a few - are creative and unique - things like critically reviewing sources sometimes doesnt seem to sit well alongside the creation of this kind of work. 


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