Engaging Students with Social Media  

Jeff Clements, Ph.D. candidate and stipend biology instructor at UNB Saint John, is choosing to embrace social media as a teaching tool. Recently Clements created a ‘closed Facebook group’ for his Introduction to Marine Science course. Students were not only actively engaging with the supplementary materials that he posted, but also with the content that other students had shared themselves.

“Many students will engage with extra material on Facebook even when the material has no reflection on their grade. This can have pronounced effects on students’ learning beyond the scope of course grades and GPA.”

Clements believes that social media can be used to enhance self-driven learning and engagement. “Many students, particularly first and second year students, appreciate the idea of embracing social media in higher education,” Jeff Clements says Clements. “The vast majority of students are already using social media, and so it is convenient for them to access information through an outlet in which they want to be using and are familiar with.” 

From Clements’ experience, the ‘student-familiar’ nature of social media also creates an environment that fosters peer discussion. “The Facebook group allowed for students to get answers to questions almost instantly - students who posted questions to the group often had answers from their peers within one minute of posting.”

Not all students are social media savvy, and some may choose not to engage with posted material. To address this Clements uses at least one other communication platform like D2L Brightspace or e-mail to reach students. However, providing the option of a social media platform can be an excellent way to encourage students to engage with class material.

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