Social Media

Will social media replace face-to-face interaction in higher education?

This blog post is one of a series for the student engagement project LSE2020. It is written by Emma Wilson, Graduate Intern for LTI. You can find her on Twitter (@MindfulEm).

The online world is changing the way we receive, perceive and process information. We are living in a digital age of 24/7 connectivity and this undoubtedly has an impact on today’s teaching and learning experience in higher education. As discussed in our previous blog, students have spoken of the impact social media might have on our emotional wellbeing but what place do they think it should have in the classroom?

Whilst electronic forms of communication are an ever-increasing feature in the workplace, one must not forget or undervalue the importance of interpersonal skills. But what are the expectations of students in the way that classes are delivered? Do they see a decreasing importance in the traditional ways of learning such as office hours, study groups and seminars? Would they prefer to see a shift towards distance learning, Skype meetings and debates over social media?

With this in mind, it is important to consider the following:

Is social media eroding the need for face-to-face communication at university?

In addressing this question, our enquiry can be divided into two:

  1. How are students using social media, and are they expressing themselves online?
  2. When asked more specifically about seeking information relating to their course, which resources do they most value?

A key principle of LSE 2020 is its emphasis on an individual’s voice and their story. Analysis of student comments has enabled us to draw some interesting interpretations based on the data.

Based on the findings of 352 students who responded to our online survey, 41% of students told us they rarely express their opinion on social media. Students are active users of social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram, and one in three students have a Twitter account. Is it therefore possible that students are passive users of social media, whereby they use social media to take in information, rather than create original content that is then shared within their local and wider networks? Or perhaps they actually are active users of social media but it has become a way of life and they don’t realise this would be defined as expressing oneself..?

Scroll through the comments below to read what students have told us…



Having considered the idea that students are cautious about sharing their opinions on a public social networking platform, there are three further questions to consider:

  1. If a private, LSE-managed forum similar to Facebook or Twitter could be developed, would students feel more confident in sharing their opinion in a safer environment? Or;
  2. Would students prefer to avoid social media altogether and use ‘real-life’ platforms such as interactive debate in the classroom?
  3. If students are keen to see social media greater incorporated into their learning, do they have any suggestions on how this could be best achieved?
*NB. LSE Source includes: Library resources, Moodle, lecture recordings, and other facilities managed by LSE on and off campus.

Despite constituting 38% of responses, 62% of students cited LSE-related sources when asked about where they access information relating to their course. Whilst, realistically, 100% of students will use the internet at some point for matters relating to their course, this data is interesting because it represents those answers that students first considered. Our data has also found that students attach some caution to searching for information online due to issues of reliability. It has also been found that students are comfortable searching the internet for quick reference (such as an unknown term during a lecture, for example), but that they would prefer to speak with their teachers or peers if they have a more complex query.

Finally, students have given some suggestions about how social media could enhance but not replace traditional methods of teaching. A selection of ideas can be found below:

“Encourage lecturers to set up module-specific Facebook pages/groups and have weekly/fortnightly Q&A sessions”

“Creating communication groups for each class either through Moodle or a separate messenger – not just a forum for the entire module group. Therefore, we can continue class discussions with the teacher & classmates after classes.”

“Blog discussions (for students) on specific parts of modules on Moodle- replica or extension of in-class discussions”

“Live questions from audience shown up on screen during bigger lectures so everyone can read them and submit them to the professor live.”

“Live stream lectures”

“More interactive polls/questions in lectures and classes”

“Maybe a social media where, a Facebook for LSE where you can turn files that would be like helpful to group, to share information. We use that now as a Facebook group for the whole generation of my classmates and every time that we want to share a book we have to put the link and make the link bespoke so in terms of sharing information or files, it could be like easier.”

“Skype meetings as part of an academic’s office hours, whether delivered individually or as a group. It would be great if the most frequently discussed topics of conversation could be added as a page on Moodle, kind of like an FAQ list.”

To conclude, social media is undoubtedly changing the manner in which students communicate and collect information in their personal, professional and academic lives. It is a way to connect but they have made it clear that social media should not replace face-to-face contact altogether. From live stream lectures to Q&A sessions on Facebook, students are citing opportunities to enhance what is already taking place in the classroom. Rather than fear the world of social media, there is potential to supplement and extend the teaching which is already deeply valued by students.

October 3rd, 2017|LSE 2020, Social Media|Comments Off on Will social media replace face-to-face interaction in higher education?|

The student voice on technology, wellbeing and society.

This blog post is one of a series on phase two of LSE 2020, a student-focused project that has engaged with 440 students in 2017. It is written by Emma Wilson, Graduate Intern for LTI. You can find her on Twitter (@MindfulEm).

In this post, we discuss an issue that was frequently brought up by students: the impact of technology on society and our emotional wellbeing in an era of ever-increasing interconnectivity. The issues raised provide context into how today’s students navigate the digital age. This will, undoubtedly, have an impact on student expectations about the teaching and learning experience. It also highlights some of the challenges that need to be addressed if we are to support the mental health and wellbeing of our students.

Digital capability includes self-care, and that self-care requires a critical awareness of how digital technologies act on us and sometimes against us. (Beetham, 2016)

Students raised concerns about the impact of technology on our mental wellbeing and our ability to form and maintain relationships. They spoke about digital identity, and how our online activity influences a person’s place in society.

Concern for student mental health has been of increasing importance in recent years. A 2016 YouGov survey of Britain’s students found that 27% reported having a mental health problem, with 63% feeling they had levels of stress significant enough to interfere with daily life. There is the fear that technology (especially social networking and the need for instant gratification) may impact an adolescent’s neurobiology and exacerbate symptoms of stress, anxiety and social isolation. [1][2]

In both the face-to-face interviews and the online survey carried out for LSE 2020, students frequently raised concerns about the impact that technology can have in other areas of life. These concerns have been represented in an infographic and divided into four areas:

  1. Addiction to our devices and social media
  2. Distraction and instant gratification
  3. The distortion of reality and sense of self, and its impact on our self-esteem
  4. The social impact and the changing nature of our relationships

Firstly, students have raised concerns about the impact of technology on our attention spans. With the temptation of constant distraction – from Facebook to checking our phones – this poses the risk that traditional ways of teaching and learning might prove more challenging for today’s student. Given these concerns, it may be more appropriate to use diverse methods to cater for learning preferences. For example, changing the format of a two-hour lecture by interspersing it with interactive elements such as group exercises, short videos or encouraging audience participation.

It is also important to consider the mental health impact from social media and online communication. Whilst students spoke of a world that is becoming more integrated, they were also aware about the distorted reality of a person’s online persona. Despite this self-awareness, it was felt that students were struggling to manage the amount of time spent online.

This highlights the importance of continuing to fund and run wellbeing weeks and self-management course for students, such as those previously conducted by Student Wellbeing Services or the Student Union. The mental wellbeing of students will undoubtedly impact performance and overall satisfaction of the LSE experience.

Finally, students raised concerns about the impact that virtual communication might have upon our face-to-face communication skills.

‘…some people are substituting online interaction for real life meetings’

‘Generally social media has had a detrimental effect on our social lives by increasing social anxiety and limiting real human contact’

Such concerns emphasise the importance of including face-to-face interaction and interactivity during lectures, seminars and group projects. It may also partly explain why students frequently commented on the value they ascribe to discussion and debate within their course. Whilst the online world has become an integral part of the student journey, students are concerned about its social implications and do not want to see the total replacement of human interaction at university.

Moving forward, there is a growing importance for equipping students with the tools needed to manage their wellbeing in the 21st century. This could be facilitated through a whole-university approach between teachers, staff, Student Unions and student wellbeing services.

The mental wellbeing of students will undoubtedly impact performance and overall satisfaction of the LSE experience. We need to work together to ensure that tomorrow’s student is well-equipped for the rigour of higher education.



[1] ANDERSON, J. & RAINIE, L. 2012. Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives. Pew Internet and American Life Project.

[2] GIEDD, J. N. 2012. The Digital Revolution and Adolescent Brain Evolution. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 101-105.

From interviews to Instagram, how did we engage students in the evaluation of Clement House?

This article is one of three blog posts on the newly refurbished learning spaces in Clement House. It is written by Emma Wilson, Graduate Intern for LTI. You can find her on Twitter (@MindfulEm). For more information about the Clement House evaluation, please take a look at our final report.

Working with students as partners in the development of their university experience should form an integral part of any institution’s set of policies. However, securing a sufficient level of student engagement, which is also meaningful, poses a challenge across the sector.

Within the evaluation process for Clement House, we have been keen to utilise a wide array of communication channels – including some innovative new approaches which have involved social media. By complimenting the old and new, our mixed method approach to data collection has secured the involvement of 196 students. In addition, we carried out 67 non-participant observation; as such, the Clement House evaluation benefited from 263 pieces of data for analysis.

How did we publicise the work and recruit volunteers?

Put simply: targeted and personalised communications. Which departments are the most active users of Clement House? Where are students most likely to pay attention to posters on the wall? What incentives would attract students to participate? If students want to get involved, how would they like to do so? With the never-ending stream of emails, how do we know which will be paid most attention by students, and what are the alternative channels of communication?

By taking the time to consider the above, it is far more probable that students will show a willingness to engage themselves in a project evaluation.

The use of visual communications has been a core component of this project evaluation. Posters were visible in strategic locations throughout the project, whereby a QR code and bespoke hashtag was used (where applicable). These posters were displayed across all floors of the Student Union’s building, and electronic versions were broadcast in the library and Clement House (including the International Relations Department which is based there).

Poster One: Seeking student engagement in an online survey
Poster Two: Seeking student engagement in a social media competition


Findings based on method of engagement

We created an online and paper version of a survey. The questions were identical although the online survey provided space to make any additional comments. We received 55 responses to the survey in paper format, and 45 via the online survey. The social media campaign ran outside of term time, for a shorter period of time (2.5 weeks), and received 12 responses. This data was supplemented by 74 structured interviews of 1-3 minutes that were carried out during the non-participant observations (of which 67 were carried out across 4 weeks).

Key findings from the evaluation can be found in our report and in our other blog posts (see links). We have also drawn together a selection of Tweets and Instagram responses and displayed them as a collection on StorifyA sample of Tweets and Instagram posts can also be viewed in the slideshow below.

Sample of Tweets and Instagram posts 

What lessons have we learned?

A mixed approach to data collection enabled us to find a balance between a purely qualitative or quantitative approach. Whilst interviews provide an opportunity to understand how and why a student feels a certain way, the use of close-ended survey questions ensures a certain amount of objectivity in particular instances. For example, in the survey it was useful to provide students with four options when asked about the purpose of their visit to the learning space. This allowed comparability across floors. However, it was the richness of data collected from the subsequent open-ended questions (whether in the interview or survey) that enabled us to fully understand the reason why a student feels a certain way.

With a mixed method approach, it is important to ensure consistency of methodology across data collection methods. Do you have the same questions for the paper and online versions of the survey? If not, why not? How can any differences be taken into account?

Looking ahead, I would be keen to encourage the future use of a mixed methods approach to data collection. If carrying out a social media campaign, it is important to consider the time of year in which the campaign in launched; if it’s outside of academic teaching, many students will not be on campus, and you will have to place a greater reliance on online promotion. It is also useful to check whether the university is conducting any other surveys – such as the NSS or end-of-year departmental feedback questionnaires – to ensure that students are not overwhelmed by the number of surveys they are being asked to complete.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to successful student engagement and it is important to consider the following:

  1. Know your audience
    • Who are you trying to secure engagement from? (Students? If so, are you seeking feedback from those in a particular department or academic year?)
    • When might they be most willing to get involved? (Whilst waiting for their next class? As a break or distraction from revision? During a particular event?)
    • What are the incentives for them to get involved? (Focus on your language – emphasise the power of the student voice in contributing towards policy change; offer students the chance to win a voucher; if running a workshop, say that it’s an opportunity to network with peers and even make new friends)
  2. Think about how the ways in which they can get involved
    • Will canvassing a busy student before class necessarily be more effective than a survey that can be filled out in their own time?
    • Is the university keen to promote engagement through Instagram or Snapchat? Can your project also utilise these platforms?
  3. Connect with colleagues across departments and student groups or societies
    • Partnerships and collaborative working are great ways to contact groups of students who might be harder to reach.
    • Think about your audience – who are they likely to be in contact with? If students, do they have a student representative for their academic course?
    • Make contact with the university’s Student Union (SU); for example, their student engagement and communications officer. Getting some publicity on their website, social media feeds and newsletters is great for exposure. Asking to place posters around the SU building is a good way to reach more students.

Ultimately, this project unveiled a positive message: students are keen to get involved in sharing their views on the teaching and learning experience at LSE. 

Don’t be scared to pilot a new approach to student engagement. Understand your audience, think about how they interact in the university community, and take advantage of the new channels of communication. Over the next few years, we are likely to witness a changing landscape in higher education as Generation Z bring to their university a whole set of new expectations, skills and approaches to life in an ever-evolving digital environment. It is an exciting time for universities to engage with students and discuss the potential and opportunities for the future of higher education.  By approaching engagement in a creative way, we are more likely to kickstart a widespread conversation across the entire learning community.



Other blogs in the LSE 2020 series: (see here and here)

July 25th, 2017|Clement House, Learning Spaces, Social Media, Student projects, Surveys|Comments Off on From interviews to Instagram, how did we engage students in the evaluation of Clement House?|

Technology and the student journey: introducing phase two of LSE 2020

Written by Emma Wilson (@MindfulEm), Research and Evaluation Graduate Intern for LTI.

This blog post is one in a series of articles that will catalogue the process of, and findings from, phase two of our student-centred project, LSE 2020.

About LSE 2020

Launched in 2016, the LSE 2020 project seeks to discuss, debate and engage with students about what teaching and learning with technology could look like at LSE in 2020. Phase one used a multi-methodological approach that began to uncover the views, experiences and expectations of students. Building upon this work, phase two aims to look more closely at how students use specific pieces of technology in their personal, educational and working lives. From smartphones to iPads, phase two aims to fully investigate the relationship of technology as it integrates itself into all aspects of a student’s journey. By better understanding how students currently view and use technology, future policy can be guided by the voice of the student.

As a recent MSc graduate at LSE, I have experienced first-hand the important role of technology in teaching and learning. Having undertaken an undergraduate degree in 2010-2013, I have already seen how much has changed in a relatively short period of time. This project provided an exciting opportunity to gain a better understanding into how today’s students navigate our technology-rich world, and the beliefs and values in which they hold around its use.

What have we done so far? 

LSE 2020 places the student voice at its heart and several interesting findings have been uncovered so far. Data collection has involved interviews around campus with 88 studentsan interactive workshop and an online survey which has collected the views of over 350 students. So far, three short videos have been developed and a report is due for release later this year. We have presented early findings to delegates at the Change Agents’ Network (CAN) Conference 2017; the PowerPoint presentation can be found here.

Finally, we are going to work with two filmmakers in designing a creative interpretation of the findings that will truly document what it is like to be a student living in the digital age.

What are students telling us about their use of technology..?

We have divided our research findings into three categories:

  1. Digital Ownership, Collaboration, Communication and Usage
  2. Digital Wellbeing and Identity
  3. Digital Literacy

The following videos provide an initial insight into some of the views held by those students who took part in the 88 interviews around campus.

Ultimately, technology is not going to disappear any time soon. Rather than resisting the changing landscape in which we live, study and work, it is an exciting opportunity to embrace the many opportunities that technology affords us in teaching and learning. It is hoped that LSE 2020 will bring to light an insight into students of today, and we can continue to have these conversations in years to come.

Further analysis, theories and conclusions will be presented in future blog posts. Stay tuned for our next blog post, where we will begin to look at the emerging findings in more detail and discuss what this will mean for Higher Education.

May 12th, 2017|innovation, LSE 2020, Projects, Social Media, Surveys|Comments Off on Technology and the student journey: introducing phase two of LSE 2020|

Mapping learning and teaching

Death Star Logo - No ChalkOur next NetworkED seminar is with James Clay,
on 23 November 14:30-15:30

book a place online

James is a Jisc project manager and was previously the Group Director of IT and Learning Technologies at Activate Learning which incorporates City of Oxford College, Banbury & Bicester College and Reading College, where he was responsible for ILT, IT Services, Business Systems and Learning Resources.

We asked James to tell us more about his upcoming seminar on Mapping the teaching and learning

“Mapping is an useful exercise in uncertain times to think about practice and though any such map may not be accurate or complete, it does allow you to consider and think about actions and training required to change behaviours or how spaces and tools are used.

Over the last few years we have seen considerable use made of mapping the use of social networking tools using the concept of Visitors and Residendirection-by-23am-com-on-flickrts. This was developed by Dave White, Donna Lanclos and Lawrie Phipps into an exercise that could be used to think about a current snapshot of their practice.

The mapping exercise makes you consider how you are using various tools and what needs to happen to change that map, how do you become more resident when using a tool such as Twitter for example.  Or how do you start using a tool which is currently not on your map, such as a professional blog?

The key thing I like to remind people about when using the mapping that this is a continuum and not a distinction between two groups.  Your personal Visitors and Residents map is not, and should not be a static thing.  The mapping changes as new tools are introduced, old ones retire and your role and behaviours change.  The Visitor and Resident mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation.

This session discovers if we could we use a similar concept to map teaching practice, curriculum design and learner practices? Sometimes it’s not just about knowing where you are, and where you need to be, but how you get there”.



Clay, James (2016) Mapping the learning and teaching

Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu. First Monday, Volume 16, Number 9 – 5 September 2011

White, David (2016) Visitors & Residents – navigate the mapping

Lanclos, Donna (2016) Ta Dah! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Doing a Visitors and Residents Workshop

Phipps, Lawrie (2016) Mapping for Change


Michaelmas Term Training Opportunities

Now that term has started and you have (hopefully) settled down, why not take this opportunity to refresh or develop new skills?

Michaelmas Term workshops

Check out our programme of workshops around digital literacy and teaching with technology

On Demand and bespoke

Workshops listed below will run on an on-demand basis when at least three people have expressed their interest via LSE’s training system.

On-demand training

We also offer bespoke training to groups of academics and departments to meet specific requirements. Just choose which one(s) you are interested in from both scheduled and on-demand and contact to arrange for sessions.

And much more!

Stay tuned for more information on our upcoming exciting event on gamification and playful learning in November!

Edtech: The student view on educational technology

Given the limited amount of innovative tools used in their studies, it is hard for students to actually know how technology could better their education.

Having reviewed all the interviews from our Student Voice project, we created a video highlighting a few of our key findings.

As the video suggests, a majority of students stated that PowerPoints are the main “technology” used in the classroom. Many added that, given the limited amount of innovative tools used in their studies, it was hard for them to actually know how technology could better their education.

That being said, students believed that technology – if used correctly – could challenge the current “one to many [educative] system”. The expression “one-to-many” refers to lectures where teachers talk and students listen, often giving the impression of a unidirectional information flow. Students stated that technology could be implemented to make lectures and classes more interactive, to foster teacher-students and student-student collaboration.

The video also suggests that students expect an increase in online pedagogical content. This includes more online courses and online exercises but also online exams. Students suggested that, to prepare them for the use of technology in their future career, more tasks should be carried out on line.

All findings are currently being written up and the full report will be available shortly!

The previous post can be found here

Students’ Expectations for the Future of Technology in Education

Last term, Learning Technology and Innovation (LTI) started a project involving three days of interviewing all over campus. We asked 100 students questions designed to gather their insight about what teaching, learning and technology could look like at LSE in 2020. The three-minute interviews, whether filmed or just audio recorded, have helped us start a conversation from the grassroots up about the future of innovation and education at the school.

We are currently reviewing the hours of footage gathered to create a short video and a report relaying the students’ voices about the future of technology in education. In the meantime, we have designed the following teaser to give you some insight into the project. This teaser is a compilation of the answers given to a single question: if you could describe, in one word, what you would expect from technology in the future what would it be?

I would like to end this post by thanking all the students that accepted to be interviewed, your feedback is tremendously helpful. Stay tuned for more updates and videos!

‘Capturing the Student Voice’

For the last two weeks, Helen, Maik (our cameraman) and I have been interviewing students all over campus. We asked 70 students a couple of questions designed to gather their insight about what teaching, learning and technology could look like at LSE in 2020. The three-minute interviews, whether filmed or just audio recorded, will help us start a conversation from the grassroots up about the future of innovation and education at the school.Student Voice

We aim to create, out of the many hours of footage we gathered, a short film relaying the students’ insight about the future of education at LSE. The video will also be accompanied by a report summarizing all the quotes and opinions we collected during our interviews. Our findings – both film and report – will be circulated internally to the heads of the different professional services.

I would like to end this post by thanking all the students that accepted to be interviewed, your feedback is and will be tremendously helpful! We are planning on carrying 30 extra interviews next week so if you or anyone you know wants to share their insight about the future of LSE, get in touch at:

– Laurent

Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black

Bletchley Park takes its place in history, such history that cannot sue black buckingham palacebe disputed by anyone. Without the codebreaking and the world’s first computer the outcome of the Second World War may have been very different and yet this historically signification site was at risk of destruction.

Dr Sue Black, a champion in computer science, a leading advocate for Women in Technology and the driving force behind the saving of Bletchley Park, started a social media campaign that has helped secure Bletchley’s future as a world class heritage site and education centre.

Saving Bletchley Park campaign, backed by thousands, built a community via social media to generate funds to enable Bletchley to continue its story for future generations.

Stemmed from email discussions ending with a letter to The Times, the disrepair of Bletchley was picked by the media, donations were made and a petition signed. This book by Black shares the significance of Bletchley Park focusing on the 10,000 people who worked there, half of those women, and how it has been saved by 20years of campaigning.

A Triumph … Dr Black writes with disarming modesty and great flair


LSE LTI recently hosted a panel of leading women in technology with Sue Black being one of the panelists. This topical discussion looked at encouraging women to work in technology through education as it gives you the ability to understand digital literacy. “For women a career in technology needs to mean something”. This can certainly be said for Black! The NetworkEDGE discussion is available on our Youtube page.

The Saving Bletchley Park book can currently be purchased from unbound until the end of March with 10% of all profits going to Bletchley Park. From April the book will be available on Amazon. Black will be doing a book tour across the UK this year with talks already planned for Oxford, Bath and other literacy festivals.

To see what events are coming up at LTI click here

January 21st, 2016|innovation, NetworkEDGE, Reports & Papers, Social Media, Tools & Technologies|Comments Off on Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black|