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Journal Article

Exploring a ‘middle ground’: engagement with students in a social learning environment.  pp342-350

Anne MJ Smith, Sonya Campbell

© Aug 2012 Volume 10 Issue 3, Special ECEL issue, Editor: Sue Greener and Asher Rospigliosi, pp257 - 379

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Abstract: The twenty first century student demands more from universities in terms of engagement that is flexible, accessible and immediate. This means universities revisiting their engagement agenda at a time when financial constraints can least afford expensive technologies and resource dependent engagement solutions. Solutions are likely to be varied however they must fundamentally deliver what students expect in terms of engagement. Engagement requires a partnership between academe and student body, but often this relationship is a tension between what universities want to deliver, and what students expect to receive. This complex environment of constraint, tension and expectation means that solutions will be tested by both parties on those variables. In pursuit of solutions it is presumed that there could be a ‘middle ground’ that would be acceptable to both parties. The aim of this paper is to present the concept of ‘middle ground’ engagement, where parties engage in learning using a simple, cost effective and easily accessible communication tool. ‘Middle ground’ is an emerging concept informed by results from a study of student communication, interaction and social learning. It enables freedom of movement for the user to communicate, engage and participate with others. The tool tested in the study is not a formal learning space such as a VLE, or a branded social space such as facebook, but rather a flexible, social learning environment allowing simultaneous access to social networking sites and formal academic space. The subsequent challenge is to shape and roll out a communication tool that is ‘middle ground’.


Keywords: engagement, participation, formal/informal learning, social learning, collaborative learning, social interaction


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