Thursday 26 November 2015

Online Content Creation. Looking at students' social media practices through a #ConnectedLearning lens.

Written for researchers interested in students' social media practices, creative content production and how both can reflect indicators of the Connected Learning educational framework.

Cheryl BrownLaura Czerniewicz and I wrote 'Online content creation. Looking at students' social media practices through a Connected Learning lens' for the Learning, Media and Technology journal. Our paper contributes to closing research gaps concerning: the Online Content Creation (OCC) practices of African university students; how indicators of the Connected Learning (CL) pedagogical framework are present in university students' non-formal creative productions; and the potential benefits that becoming digital creators might have for supporting students' social trajectories.

While previous studies have addressed creative production by university students for specific purposes, there is a research gap concerning OCC in the everyday lives of African university students. In analysing both the formal and informal ICT practices of 23 first year students at four South African universities, the use of online networks was pervasive. However, just three undergraduates described developing and/or using online presences to pursue interest-based activities.

We followed "Jake", "Vince" and "Odette" into their third year and learnt about: the social media they utilised; their trajectories; their linkages with career interests; and the types of online presences they created, maintained or discontinued. The pedagogical framework of CL proved an appropriate heuristic since all case studies spanned digital practices that, although non-formal, were: peer-supported (PS), interest-driven (ID) and academically oriented (AO). The cases also demonstrated the production-centred (PC) and shared-purpose (SP) of using openly networked (ON) new media for self-expression. PS, ID, AO, PC, SP and ON are all important indicators for CL.

There has been a tendency in CL literature to focus on secondary school youth, aged 12 to 18. We show how this emphasis can be extended to university, as students are likewise engaged in forming new interests and emergent social identities. By engaging in OCC, Jake, Vince and Odette could expand on the academic creative production interests they were formally taught. We describe how each student leveraged non-formal OCC practices for orientating towards new learning opportunities and social trajectories. Complementing these three student's formal production interests with rare OCC practices, seemed likely to give them an edge in our globally competitive society, as digital creators:

Jake used his productions as a student journalist, editor, poet and book writer to develop an online presence as a writer. He currently works as a communications trainee for a state agency. Vince's successful video production in an extra-curricular, online Ghetto Film School of LA course resulted in him being sponsored to present his short at the Sundance Film Festival Showcase. He currently works in multimedia and directs video-productions. Odette strategically developed separate online presences to promote her availability as an actor/model and scriptwriter. She also shares productions as a fiction writer, poet and personal journal diarist.

For more on African students' online content creation and social media use and how both reflected Connected Learning indicators, click on

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