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Instructor experiences with a social networking site in a higher education setting: expectations, frustrations, appropriation, and compartmentalization


Researchers and practitioners have suggested that the use of social networking sites in formal education may be a worthwhile endeavor. Toward this goal, emerging learning platforms have included social networking features. Nevertheless, empirical literature examining user experiences, and more specifically instructor experiences, with these tools is limited. In this qualitative study, we address this gap in the literature by reporting the experiences of five instructors who used a social networking platform in their courses. We find that instructors (a) had expectations of Elgg that stemmed from numerous sources, (b) used Elgg in heterogeneous ways and for varied purposes, (c) compartmentalized Elgg and used it in familiar ways, and (d) faced frustrations stemming from numerous sources. We note that the ways Elgg came to be used “on the ground” is contested and contrasts starkly with the narrative of how social software might contribute benefits to educational practice. In addition, we note that learning management systems may frame the ways through which other tools, such as social media and Elgg, are understood, used, and experienced.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    It is important to note that this particular pedagogical perspective permeates the culture of the teacher education program in which this study occurred, and as such was not surprising that all participants shared this perspective.


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Correspondence to George Veletsianos.


Appendix 1: Interview protocol

  • Tell me about your experience in the Elgg course environment.

  • How do you use Elgg?

  • What worked well with using Elgg as a tool to deliver the course?

  • What has not worked well?

  • What does Elgg add to your teaching, if anything?

  • What does Elgg add to student learning, if anything?

  • How do you feel Elgg could be used to improve learning in your content area?

  • How has the [faculty technology support office] worked with you in using and implementing Elgg in your course?

  • How has the process of implementing Elgg in your course been?

  • Has Elgg allowed you to do anything new in your course?

  • What was your perception of the students’ professional identities as seen in their Elgg profiling?

  • How did you address the students personal profile design?

  • What would you do differently in helping student develop social presence or personal profile on the Elgg platform?

  • Is there anything else about your experience with Elgg that you would like to share?

Appendix 2: Preliminary concepts describing instructor experiences

  1. 1.

    Instructors seem to have different perceptions of what Elgg is, what it does, and how is should be used.

  2. 2.

    Instructor experiences seem to be related to the way instructors view education.

  3. 3.

    Instructors have different experiences, different expectations, and face different outcomes. One size does not fit all.

  4. 4.

    Lack of community development. Potential reasons: did not use Elgg enough, learn how to use it well enough, or did not use the social networking features.

  5. 5.

    Concept #4 appears to stem from a variety of reasons like beliefs about learning and education, time, familiarity, etc.

  6. 6.

    Insufficient time to explore social capabilities.

  7. 7.

    Elgg changed the social role of the instructor and his/her relationship to students.

  8. 8.

    Elgg problematized previous modes of teaching (e.g., student-instructor relationship).

  9. 9.

    Egg did not problematize previous modes of teaching (e.g., being used in a manner similar to other tools).

  10. 10.

    Pedagogical needs appear to lead to rejection or underuse of technology/Elgg.

  11. 11.

    Frustrating experience.

  12. 12.

    Instructors have expectations of Elgg.

  13. 13.

    Instructors perceptions of the tool appear to have been formed outside of the institutional setting → Elgg is not a neutral space.

  14. 14.

    Instructors have perceptions of what their role is or should be and how that is or is not compatible with Elgg.

  15. 15.

    How does the introduction of these tools (from an office like the technology support office) impact the experience?

  16. 16.

    Elgg (a learning technology) is compared to Facebook (a non-learning technology).

  17. 17.

    Elgg has limitations, leading instructors to become frustrated and question the applicability of the tool for education.

  18. 18.

    The use of Elgg is more similar to an LMS than to an online social network.

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Veletsianos, G., Kimmons, R. & French, K.D. Instructor experiences with a social networking site in a higher education setting: expectations, frustrations, appropriation, and compartmentalization. Education Tech Research Dev 61, 255–278 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-012-9284-z

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  • Online social network
  • Learning management system
  • Elgg
  • Instructor experiences
  • Technology integration
  • Higher education
  • Social networking sites