The impact of social software in product design higher education
journal contributionposted on 01.05.2013, 10:11 by Karl Hurn
It is difficult to ignore the impact that Web 2.0 and the subsequent social software revolution has had on society in general, and young people in particular. Information is exchanged and interpreted extremely quickly and in ways that were not imagined 10 years ago. Universities are struggling to keep up with this new technology, with outdated intranet systems and limited research into its application within the higher education sector. The aim of this paper is to firstly develop a greater understanding of the use of social software by students in product design education and the impact of blogs, wiki’s, Facebook groups, Flickr images, Myspace pages, RSS feeds, Tweets and YouTube video posts on their learning processes. The research for the project involved a number of discrete methods over a four year period, initially involving a review of the technological platforms and the e-learning software available to product design academic staff and students and the effect this has had thus far on teaching practices. Product design academic staff were then asked to rank existing platforms against a number of criteria. This was followed by the examination of case studies of successful applications of social software within the writer’s institution with a view to establishing if these technologies could be better integrated into higher education and current pedagogic practices in order to provide an enhanced learning experience for the student product designer. The first phase of the research culminated in a literature review to establish the state of play in the wider academic community and beyond. This preliminary research fed into action research which consisted of the formulation and design of a blog and information website for the institutions product design programmes. Semi-structured interviews were then conducted to establish the views and opinions of the blog from key stakeholders including university marketing directors, academics and the student cohort. Questionnaires followed so that qualitative and quantitative data could be analysed. The paper concludes with a description of the perceived validity and possible future developments for the blog and social software as a whole in the product design higher education sector.