This study investigated the effective use of social software by Further and Higher Education in the UK to support student learning and engagement. The main deliverables of the study was 26 case studies and a final report with recommendations, intended to inform staff delivering higher education to students in Higher Education institutions or Further Education Colleges and the JISC executive.

Study of the effective use of social software to support student learning and engagement

This study has now completed. See the final report and case studies

The term ‘social software’ covers a range of software tools which allow users to interact and share data with other users, primarily via the web. Social networking web sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube are examples of some of the tools that are being used to share and collaborate for a variety of educational, social and other communicative purposes. Educational institutions are increasingly making use of social software tools. Studies are needed of: how activities can be designed to include such tools; what are the benefits and problems associated with their use; and the role of these tools in enhancing the learning and teaching experience. Therefore, in this project, our aim is to collate data for 8-12 case studies from higher and further education institutions where social software tools have been employed. 

Aims and objectives 

The goal of this study is to produce a report with 8-12 case studies which have used social software to support and engage learners, or have embedded the social software within the pedagogy of a course or a programme. The study will involve identifying suitable case studies in the UK Higher and Further Education (HE and FE) sectors and collecting evidence of the effective use of social software in supporting and enhancing student learning and engagement, and disadvantages, if any, of using such software.

Project methodology

The project will use the case study methodology: the data elicitation and analysis will be guided by a case study template. During the development of the case studies, the team will focus on: benefits that the learners and educators perceive with these tools; design of activities and the challenges involved to situate the tool(s) in the context and learning outcomes; experiences of the educators: obstacles faced by students and educators; and accessibility issues and how they are being (or have been) addressed. The findings from these case studies will be consolidated in a report, together with recommendations. 

Anticipated outputs and outcomes

The key deliverables of this project are the report and the case studies. The case studies will be available online and in the Appendix of the report. The report will focus on synthesising the findings from the case studies, and drawing conclusions for future practice. It will also include commentary on the methodology used for the study. The lessons, as captured in the report, will influence the learning and teaching strategies in higher and further education – specifically, the institutions and educators who are considering the use of social software, or in general, undertaking technology-enabled learning and teaching initiatives. 


Project Staff

Project Team
  • Dr. Shailey Minocha [principal investigator] Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK
  • Dr. Karen Kear [co-investigator] Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

Documents & Multimedia

Start date
14 July 2008
End date
30 January 2009
Project website