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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

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Conference Poster - Biteable animation

Conference Poster - Biteable animation

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