Using social media and external channels to communicate with student groups

There’s no such thing as a perfect system, and from time to time, you may feel hampered by the constraints of Moodle and want to go out on your own and trail-blaze with an alternative way of connecting with your students. The easiest and most common options our educators are using seem to be Facebook, Twitter and similar tools online.

Monash doesn’t restrict educational technologies to university licensed/supported systems, just as staff can use their personal phones to access their Monash email account.

When it comes to communicating with our students, there are valid uses of outside channels, however, you need to weigh up the risks and benefits to make thoughtful, sustainable and cost-effective decisions, in university learning and teaching.

The benefits are:

  • Students are already connected and familiar with these platforms.
  • It’s easier to incorporate external voices in the conversation. ie: students from other units or institutions and experts in the field.

On the other hand there are quite a few issues:

  • It actually takes quite a lot of effort to use an external platform or system in a policy-compliant way, and keep in mind that the University can’t provide technical support in these instances.
  • Many of these platforms (such as Facebook) are commercial, and there are issues around expecting students to create accounts on platforms that don't comply with our privacy and equity policies, to complete their coursework.
  • Social media platforms are a student’s personal space and it can be intrusive to expect them to use for study. It's why I don't have my dad or boss on Facebook (Sorry Dad!).
  • Using external platforms does not allow the University to protect students from harassment by other students or staff and cannot protect staff from claims of inappropriate behaviour.
  • Using systems that aren't enterprise supported creates an inconsistent experience for students. Do they use Wechat/Viber/Facebook/Twitter/Hangouts/Moodle for this unit vs the next? Can some students get an unfair advantage by accessing premium functions some students can’t afford?
  • There’s an increased potential for fraud. We should not be communicating any personal/grade information to students where we can't verify they are the student. Even if these systems aren’t targets for hacking they are easily exploited to create fake profiles.
  • Digital white noise is much more prevalent on these platforms, meaning it may be easier for students to get distracted when they should be engaged with learning.

With that in mind, it may seem that current university systems don’t do what you need, but it’s always worth asking. Check our website in the first instance, reach out to your Faculty educational designer or contact us directly for help.

Trev Wood, Manager Educational Technologies