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Mobile Social Learning 2.0 in an Online Course: What about Google+?
Association for Educational Communications and Technology Convention (2012)
  • Yu-Chang Hsu, Boise State University
  • Yu-Hui Ching, Boise State University
Keywords: mobile learning, social learning, Google+, online course, sense of community Introduction: Mobile devices such as smartphones or iPod touches are vastly gaining popularity (Johnson, Levine, Smith, & Stone, 2010) due to their relative strong computing capability built in the small sizes, Internet connectivity, and the availability of various types and easy-to-use mobile software applications (“mobile apps” hereafter). The affordance of smartphones or similar devices help translate/transform machine portability to user mobility, which unleashes huge possibility of various uses, including innovative uses in education. While not designed originally for education, the powerful mobile technologies are now gaining increasing attention and popularity in higher education settings, which led to innovation in mobile app development, such as University of Utah’s iPhone the Body Electric app for displaying and rotating 3D medical images for learning purposes (Johnson et al., 2010). In addition, there is also advancement and innovation in app design tool and instruction, such as Boise State University’s offering of Mobile App Design for Teaching that helped empowered adult learners without programming experiences to design Android apps using the web-based visual programming tool, App Inventor (Hsu, Rice, & Dawley, 2012). Mobile social learning On the other hand, the booming Web 2.0 tools designed for communication, creation, sharing, (Hsu, Ching, & Grabowski, 2009), presented unprecedented opportunities for educators and learners to harness the power of social networking for learning. According to Vygotsky’ sociocultural theory, social environment plays a critical role of in facilitating individuals’ development and learning (Tudge & Scrimsher, 2003). Considering the nature and purpose of Web 2.0 tools (i.e., participation, creation, & sharing), they are ideal mediators to help achieve social presence (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009) and social learning (Gunawardena, et al., 2009), increase motivation (Pauschenwein & Sfiri, 2010), and create relatedness and sense of community (Wright, 2010). Because of the portability and Internet connectivity of mobile devices, users of mobile devices can take social networking and learning to the next level—mobile social learning. Namely, the social learning can go with learners truly anytime, anywhere, with ease, thanks to the mobility afforded by the mobile devices. Now, creating, sharing, and communication can be more real-time and in context. For example, learners who find good examples related to their learning can create a “sample” through the camera, share it with peers using the mobile apps of social networking sites (e.g., Google+ or Facebook), and communicate one’s thoughts via short messages. Past research has used Twitter apps and/or mobile devices to help promoted social learning. For example, Hsu and Ching (under review) found that students could spend relatively little time and get connected with peers in class. In addition, Twitter’ posting limit per entry (i.e., 140 characters) did not require much input so learners might not feel the pressure of posting substantial content. They argued that the portability and accessibility of mobile devices could make it more likely for users to check Twitter messages frequently. On the other hand, Hsu and Ching (2011) found some leaners disliked the character limit because this constraint prevented them from expressing what they wanted to say in one posting. Considering the shortcoming of Twitter for social learning, Google+ (G+ hereafter) could be a good alternative because it also has mobile apps available on various mobile operating systems without the character constraint. Compared to Twitter, G+ also has the advantage of allowing sharing only certain information to designated group of individuals through one account. With Twitter, one would need to send direct messages separately to individuals or create several accounts for different groups and purposes. While sharing information with different groups is possible on Facebook, this can be organized much easier on G+ through its Circles function that allows using drag-and-drop to create groups (i.e., “Circles” on G+). Compared to Facebook, G+ also has easier settings in terms of privacy and sharing, and has not resulted in user concern about issues of changing those settings without notifying users (The Associated Press, 2011). Purpose: This research investigated the impact of integrating mobile technology and social learning through Google+ on students’ sense of community and participation level of major course activities. Through this study, the authors expect to: 1) provide useful design suggestions for educators to incorporate mobile and social tools in online learning in meaningful and engaging way; 2) explore challenges in design and implementation to inform design decisions. Method: Study Context This study, implemented in a mid-size state university in Western United States, provides an in-depth analysis of the mobile social learning component in a fully online course on graphic design for learning at the graduate level. The goal of this course is for students to learn to apply learning and design theories and principles, so they can select and combine visuals to effectively communicate instructional information. The twenty students enrolled in this course included K-12 teachers, school technology specialists, and corporate personnel. The mobile social learning component is designed to enrich and deepen students’ learning experience, by taking advantage of 1) mobile technology affordance on mobility (Brown, 2009), immediacy, and various data collection capability; 2) social web tools’ affordance on strengthening communication and building community. In the social learning activities, students were asked to collect authentic graphic design examples in their daily life and share the examples with classmates via G+. Students also needed to critique the design examples posted by themselves and others. The students in this course were strongly encouraged to engage in the social learning activities with their mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices with Internet and camera capability (e.g., the 4th generation iPod Touch). However, to reflect the real context where not all learners might own a mobile device, students were allowed to engage in social learning activities through a combination of technologies including digital cameras (for collecting design examples) and laptops/desktops (for posting design examples on G+). Research Design: This study applied a mixed-method design. The researchers collected both quantitative and qualitative data to depict the picture of mobile and social learning in this online course. First, a presurvey was implemented one week before the beginning of mobile social learning activities. The survey collected students’ brief demographics information, and their responses on usage of G+ through mobile devices (e.g., frequency, time spent weekly), sense of community (Rovai, 2002), and participation level of major course activities. During the week after concluding the mobile social learning activities, a postsurvey will be administered to collect open-ended responses on students’ comments on G+ social learning activities, in addition to the responses to same questions in the presurvey. Students’ original postings and replies on G+ will also be examined and interpreted as the quantitative indicator of participation in mobile social learning. Students’ change in responses from the presurvey and postsurvey will be used to examine the difference in sense of community and participation level of course activities. Student perceptions of the social learning activity, collected through administering open-ended questions, will provide rich qualitative data for triangulating with the quantitative data, which can help depict a complete picture of mobile social learning in the context of this online course. Results: This study and preliminary analysis on collected data is currently in progress. The final results, discussion, and design suggestions will be shared during the presentation. Interactivity with Audience: During the presentation, a hashtag for this presentation (#msocialAECT12) will be shared during the presentation to encourage and engage the audience using Twitter for conversation between presenters and audiences as well as back-channel chat among audiences. The Twitter hashtag created for this AECT presentation will remain active for participants and other interested colleagues to engage in continuous conversation on mobile social learning, which can also help create opportunities for future collaboration via this professional social networking mechanism. References: ● Brown, I. (2009). Art on the move: Mobility – a way of life. In J. Herrington, A. Herrington, J. Mantei, I. Olney, & B. Ferry (Eds.), New technologies, new pedagogies: Mobile learning in higher education (pp. 120-128). Wollongong: University of Wollongong. Retrieved from ● Dunlap, J. C. & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 129-135. ● Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2009). A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, 46(1), 3-16. ● Hsu, Y. -C., & Ching, Y. -H. (2011). Microblogging for strengthening a virtual learning community in an online course. Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, 3(4), 375-388. ● Hsu, Y. -C., & Ching, Y. -H. (under review). Mobile microblogging: Using Twitter to promote situated social learning in an online graduate course. ● Hsu, Y. -C., Ching, Y. -H., & Grabowski, B. (2009). Web 2.0 technologies as cognitive tools of the new media age. In T. WHL & R. Subramaniam (Eds.), Handbook of research on new media literacy at the K-12 level: Issues and challenges (pp. 353-371). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. ● Hsu, Y. -C., Rice, K., & Dawley, L. (2012). Empowering educators with Google’s Android App Inventor: An online workshop in mobile app design. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1), E1-E5. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01241.x ● Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S. (2010). The 2010 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. ● Pauschenwein, J. & Sfiri, A. (2010). Adult learner’s motivation for the use of micro-blogging during online training courses. International Journal of Engineering and Technology, 5(1), 22-25. ● Rovai, A.P. (2002). Development of an instrument to measure classroom community. The Internet and Higher Education, 5, 197-211. ● The Associated Press (2011). Facebook changes privacy policies to settle U.S. charges. Retrieved December 26, 2011 from ● Tudge, J, & Scrimsher, S. (2003). Lev S. Vygotsky on education: A cultural-historical, interpersonal, and individual approach to development. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Educational psychology: A century of contributions (pp. 207-228). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ● Wright, N. (2010). Twittering in teacher education: Reflecting on practicum experiences. Open Learning, 25(3), 259-265.
Publication Date
November 2, 2012
Citation Information
Yu-Chang Hsu and Yu-Hui Ching. "Mobile Social Learning 2.0 in an Online Course: What about Google+?" Association for Educational Communications and Technology Convention (2012)
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