Recent Research on Online Social Communities

Earlier this year, I made a radical decision to cut off all social media from my life. I am grateful for the detox. I eventually returned to Twitter and LinkedIn, quietly, over the summer but now I am bit more active (let’s see how long that last). But I am not going to lie, one of the most difficult parts of that decision was leaving the groups and social communities to which I belonged that kept me informed or in which I could ask questions. These groups and social communities have also served as inspiration for my research on networked learning and informal learning in online social communities. So having said all of that, I want to share some of my most recent publications on online social communities in this post.

Publications

Romero-Hall, E.J. (2022). Supporting Instructional Design Graduate Education through Networked Learning and Institutional Social Media. In Stefaniak, J. & Reese, R. (Eds.), The Instructional Designer’s Training Guide: Authentic Practices and Considerations for Mentoring ID and Ed Tech Professionals. Routledge.

This chapter is really a self reflection on the work that independent study students, interns, and I did while working at The University of Tampa connecting the current students, alumni, and public to IDT program using institutional social media accounts. But in all honestly, those practices were highly influences by the practices of other IDT programs who run their own institutional social media and research on networked learning. Here is a short blurb from the abstract: “In this paper, it is argued that social media represents a convivial technology in which individuals are engaging in networked learning. A review of the literature yielded examples of how institutional social media is been used in teaching and learning specifically in instructional design and technology programs. Insights from a case study about an instructional design and technology program that has been actively using different institutional social media to enhance the networked learning experience of the graduate students (and other stakeholders) in the program is shared as a way to connect research with practice.”


Gomez-Vasquez, L., Romero-Hall, E., Jaramillo Cherrez, N., Ghani, S., Rodriguez, A. & Ripine, C. (2022). Keeping Citizens Informed and Engaged During the COVID-19 Pandemic Using #YoMeInformoPMA: A Case from Latin America. Health Communicationhttps://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2022.2035509

This paper is dedicated to my motherland, Panama! When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, I was on sabbatical in Panama. The days after a pandemic was declared were crazy. I have written a bit about it in this blog post. To keep myself informed of what was happening in Panama in response to the pandemic the Panamanian Health Ministry recommended that everyone use the hashtag #YoMeInformoPMA (which literally translated to: “I stay informed Panama”) in social media. As a researcher, it immediately triggered my desire to know: “What are people learning, discussing, and sharing using this hashtag?”. So I quickly emailed my collaborator Dr. Lina Gomez-Vasquez so that we could start tracking tweets with this hashtag. Huge thanks to Lina for leading the write up of this paper and co-authors for assisting with the analysis. Here is a short blurb from our abstract: “Using quantitative content, social network, and thematic analysis, this study examined 2,500 tweets from April to August 2020 that included the hashtag #YoMeInformoPMA. Panama’s Public Health Ministry created the #YoMeInformoPMA hashtag to keep citizens informed and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research on social media use and implementation in Latin America during the COVID-19 pandemic, to inform and engage the public, is limited. Therefore, the aim of this investigation was to analyze strategies, themes, multimedia formats, key actors, and overall communications patterns of a Latin American health community hashtag. Our results determined that actors using the hashtag #YoMeInformoPMA mainly used an interactive strategy, a message that aims to promote casual conversations, advice, and problem-solving.


Romero-Hall, E.J. (2021). Undergraduate students in online social communities: An exploratory investigation of deliberate informal learning practices. Journal of Applied Instructional Design, 10(3). https://dx.doi.org/10.51869/103/erh

We often do not realize that there are many instances of informal learning practices: implicit learning, reactive learning, and deliberate learning. In this paper, I focus on “deliberate learning refers to informal learning that occurs when an individual takes time to think about how and where to gather information.” This paper further analyses data that was collected as part of an internal grant sponsored by the University of Tampa on the use and participation of undergraduate students in social media (with a specific focus on teaching and learning). Here is a blurb from the abstract: “A total of 573 undergraduate students consented to participate in this investigation about deliberate informal learning practices using social media. Data analysis consisted of parametric and non-parametric statistical procedures. An analysis of the rankings provided by undergraduate students for the different deliberate informal learning activities performed in their most used social media (MUSM) showed that listening to podcasts related to their area of study, following/connecting with professional organizations, and connecting with leaders in their field of study were ranked higher than the other activities. The results also showed evidence of statistically significant differences in the ranking provided to the informal learning activities performed by undergraduate students in their least used social media (LUSM). Listening to podcasts related to their area of study, viewing videos that can assist with coursework, and following/connecting with professional organizations were ranked higher than the other deliberate informal learning activities.” This journal article is open access.


Guest Edited Special Issue

Romero-Hall, E.J. (2021). Informal Learning in Online Social Communities. Journal of Applied Instructional Design, 10(3), https://edtechbooks.org/jaid_10_3

First, huge thanks to all the amazing authors who submitted their work to this special issue and worked with me to make this a reality. Second, you should take the time to read these journal articles because each of them will enhance your teaching or advance your know of the learning design field. Last, this special issue includes an award winning article (AECT Culture, Learning, and Technology Division, McJulien Scholar Best Paper Award) published by Spencer P. Greenhalgh, Daniel G. Krutka, & Shannon M. Oltmann titled “Gab, Parler, and (Mis)educational Technologies: Reconsidering Informal Learning on Social Media Platforms“.

Spider web
A spider web

Sometimes in order to reconnect, you have to disconnect

A few weeks ago, all of a sudden, I just decided that I needed to take a social media break. I wanted to think about my use of social media and what I was truly getting from it. Also, what was I giving up in return. I wanted time to think about the relationships I had formed with others in the different social networks I use.

The time away from all the social network platforms, in all honesty, was great (thank you all for your text messages of care and concern). I was able to channel my energy on other activities and thoughts. Also, anyone that needed to get a hold of me was still able to reach out using email, text, or a phone call.

The time apart from the different social networks also truly allowed me to determine what I want to do moving forward. The reality is that some social networks no longer serve a purpose for me and I am completely fine letting them go. But for some reason my relationship with Twitter is just such a love/hate relationship that I find myself struggling with how to move forward. I think that for now I am going to focus more on blogging. Please consider this the “I am taking a social media break” formal announcement.

Writing during “Stay at Home” Orders

How much fun was it to write manuscripts during “Stay at Home” orders without childcare? Well if you have not experience this during the last year and half of the COVID-19 pandemic then consider yourself lucky! It is not fun at all. I wrote the following in a reflection I was putting together on what April 2020 was like:


Upon our return to the U.S. we were faced with the news that, due to the pandemic, our childcare center had closed indefinitely. My partner and I had to adjust to working from home while providing childcare for our 4-year-old son. I had to quickly realize that some of the projects that I was hoping to start before the end of my sabbatical were going to be delayed or canceled. The projects that I was planning to complete were going to require a massive amount of focus and dedication. In order to accomplish all our work requirements, my partner and I had to divide our days into three “shifts.” The morning shift (8 am to 1 pm) in which I worked and he would care for our son. The afternoon shift (1 pm – 6 pm) in which my partner worked and I would provide care for our son. The evening shift (6 pm until midnight) in which were are exhausted but aimed to spend time together as a family.”


In April 2020 during a three week period during my “morning shift” I wrote a manuscript for a special issue that was published in the Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D) journal. The realization that I was going to have less than the estimated amount of time to write this paper stressed me so much. But I had to channel that stress into getting the work done. During the process of writing the proposal I had gathered and read most of the literature and had put together an outline. Having this things done was a lifesaver! During the three weeks of writing I had to buckle down and eloquently put the literature and my ideas into a document.

I should give a little bit of context: I initially thought I was going to have a month of full-time work hours during a term in which I was on sabbatical. But because of the lack of childcare (due to COVID-19) I actually had three weeks with 4-hours per day (during week days) to write the paper. I do not know how fast others are at writing papers but gosh I am such a tortoise. To make it more interesting, this was a solo-authored publication.

Kind of funny, I can write without problem in a busy cafe with all sorts of background noise. I pretty much wrote all of my dissertation in a Panera a few blocks from my apartment when I lived in Norfolk, VA. But it was so hard to write this paper from home while having my family members’ voices in the background. I remember putting on my headphones and close the door and still every now and then I would still hear their voices and conversations in the background.

I think that been really passionate about the topic I was writing about made a huge difference on how I approached this writing project, despite the hardship endured in the process. I am grateful for Reviewer # 1 and the editors of the special issue for such wonderful and detailed feedback. I truly helped me improve the paper during the R&R submit process. The manuscript was published “online first” this January 2021 and is titled: Current initiatives, barriers, and opportunities for networked learning in Latin America .

This was the first of many experiences like this. Our son stayed home for 6 months while we worked from home without childcare. And, even after he went back to the childcare center, there were other instances in which he has stayed home and we had to maneuver the same dynamics of still completing our work. Having the deadline of special issue submission did add more pressure in this specific instance (shared in this post)! It made it hard for me commit to any special issue submissions for almost a year (hence why I missed out on so many opportunities to submit for COVID-19 related special issues in 2020, sadly)!

Happy Monday everyone!

“Impact Learning” Podcast Episode

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join Dr. Maria Xenidou as a guest in the podcast that she hosts called “Impact Learning.” I truly enjoyed our conversation. We covered so many different topics. We talked about my educational and professional background. Life as a faculty member and eventually transitions to discussing topics related to instructional design and technology (online learning, research methods, motivation, and others). If you have an hour to spare above is the podcast player and below are the notes from the episode.

EPISODE NOTES

Production team:
Host : Maria Xenidou
Producer: Julie-Roxane Krikorian
Introduction Voice: David Bourne

Contact us:
impactlearningpodcast(at)gmail.com

Music credits:
Like Lee performed by The Mini Vandals
Transition sounds: Swamp Walks performed by Jingle Punks

Where to find more about Enilda Romera-Hall:
LinkedIn
Her page on the University of Tampa website
The masters she teaches in Instructional Design and Technology
Personal Website
The different courses she teaches
Her publications

Mentioned in this episode:
Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá
Centennial College
Emporia State University
Programs in Instructional Design & Technology at Old Dominion University
University of Tampa
Dr. Jozenia Colorado-Resa 
Dr. Ginger Watson
Dr. Thomas Reeves

Listen to this episode and explore:
Enilda’s interest in various topics at a bilingual school in Panama City (3:03)
Moving to Canada and studying computer programming (7:56)
Getting a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (9:54)
Why she chose to study Instructional Design for her Masters (10:32)
Enilda’s decision to pursue a PhD in Education and the impact of her mentors during this time (12:46)
How she combines teaching, mentoring and researching in her current role as Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at Tampa University (16:50)
Enilda’s thoughts on the biggest advancements in Instructional Design since she started working in the field (20:34)
Improving Instructional Design: learning how to apply the research findings to the practical field (23:18)
Enilda’s book: a collaborative project designed to bring theory to practice (25:49)
The trends that Enilda sees in the future of instructional design and technology (30:09)
Enilda’s work in online social communities (32:01)
How to use social media to advance higher education and career development (33:16)
How COVID has affected the digital learning experience (38:08)
What demotivates students in an online course (41:32)
How to make synchronous meetings attractive to students through active learning experiences and games (45:12)
How Enilda builds the courses she teaches (47:49)
Sharing her work openly to help others learn from it (50:22)
What keeps Enilda up at night or what she thinks of first thing in the morning (54:14)
What Enilda wants to leave her mark on during her lifetime (54:58)
How her 4-year-old son has influenced her creativity during the pandemic (57:24)

The hashtag #BlackInTheIvory

A few weeks ago, I checked my Twitter stream and found the hashtag #BlackInTheIvory trending. If you have not read the tweets shared by Black academics using #BlackInTheIvory, I strongly recommend that you take the time to read them. The tweets shared were raw, vulnerable, and the reality for many Black academics. Several tweets were a call to action to white colleagues and administrators to consider racial injustices and inequalities that are perpetuated in academic culture.

 

#COVID19 briefs via Instagram

I arrived in Panama at the end of February, a week before the first COVID-19 case in the country was announced by government officials. Of course, COVID-19 had been an issue in many other countries so there was plenty of news coverage in the Panamanian news outlets and different media outlets on the Internet. However, after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Panama the Ministry of Health became the main source of information and updates regarding the government’s response.

The social media accounts, and in particular, the Instagram account (@minsapma) for the Ministry of Health provided all the necessary information related to new cases, new policies, and public health campaign. The updates would include press conferences, twice a day, that were shared via Instagram live.

Probably one of my favorite elements of the use of Instagram to keep a country inform were the public health educational campaign. I am an instructional design faculty and teach multimedia design so I was impressed with the infographics and visual representation of the content shared (example of Instagram post below). Of course, I was also impressed with the rapid response that was taken to try to contain the spread of the virus. New measures were taken quickly. In a three-week period Panama went from business as usual to a country under a major lockdown (that is still in place today). 

I want to acknowledge that I appreciate the efforts made by the Panamanian Ministry of Health to use these medium to keep the citizens inform and educated. I know that other traditional outlets are been used to disseminate the message to Panamanian citizens such as the radio and television; however, this is great because I know that there are folks who spend more time on social media than watching TV or listening to the radio.

Instructional Design Practitioners, Students, and Faculty: Social Media Groups

I am putting together a list of social media groups, specifically Facebook and LinkedIn groups, to share with the students in the UT IDT program. I thought it would be a nice resource that would allow them to be expose to diverse groups of instructional designers in different settings, levels of experience, and locations. I remember when I first started my IDT master program it seemed like there was hardly anyone else who knew what was instructional design. In any case, I know it can feel like just you and your classmates are learning about instructional design. In reality, we have large communities of instructional design practitioners, students, and faculty. This is a work in progress list, I will add more groups as I come across them.

Podcast Episode (@VisionOfEd): #SocialMedia in #HigherEducation

This past week, I was invited as a guest speaker in the Visions of Education podcast series. I am sharing it here for anyone who is in the education field and wants to subscribe to the podcast. Also, I want to share the link to the podcast episode. I discussed SocialMedia in HigherEducation:

You can click on this link to access a full list of resources (articles, books, and videos) mentioned in podcast episode: https://visionsofed.com/2019/03/10/episode-108-social-media-in-higher-education-with-enilda-romero-hall/

This is a one of five podcast episodes that focus on #SocialMediaEd discussions leading up to the SITE conference next week in Las Vegas, NV.

Making #SocialMedia Work to Your Educational Advantage | Enilda Romero-Hall | #TEDxUTampa [video]

Almost exactly two-months ago I gave this talk at the TEDxUTampa event hosted and organized by undergraduate University of Tampa students. The video is now uploaded to the TEDx Talks YouTube channel. I am excited to share this in my blog and I welcome constructive feedback (keyword: “constructive”). Also, please feel free to share it with others if you believe in my message:

“Instead of solely focusing on the ‘bad’ or ‘thinking of social media as a waste of time’  it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”

If you have 13 minutes to spare, here is the video:

 

Thoughts on Facebook.

Last week we all learned about Facebook breach of data. It sucked. But to be honest, it was not surprising to me at all as a user. I never really had expectations that Facebook would keep our data safe, protected, that they would use it ethically, or that they were really thinking about providing us healthy ways to use the platform. I wish they did. But they are greedy. 

Many friends, family, and colleagues have discussed their discontent and are considering doing without a Facebook account. I am not here to encourage you to continue using Facebook. I think it is a personal decision. I have quit Facebook in the past (I do not mean deactivated my account. I mean, that I took the time to delete every single post and photo, unfriend every single person, wipe my account clean, and made the request to Facebook to completely delete my account) and it was hard. Three years of “social connections from my undergraduate years” gone! However, at the same time it was exactly what I needed to do then.

I returned to Facebook two and half years after my hiatus with a completely different mindset. That time apart (from Facebook) really made me realize the benefits and disadvantages it has. I should also say that the context of my situation made it very unique: during the time I quit Facebook I ended a five year romantic relationship, moved from my little college town in Kansas to a city where I knew no one, and started a doctoral program (I talk a bit about this in my TEDxUTampa talk). Last, I should add, this all happened before “smartphones” and apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, and others where a thing.

Again, I am really not here to convince anyone to keep their Facebook account or to delete it. I am here to say that for me it would be difficult to quit again. I was born and raised in Panama. I did all of my elementary, middle, and secondary school there. Unlike most people who attend different school during the K-12 years, I spend most of my years (since grade 4th) in the same institution with the same classmates (yes, there are people that I know since I was in 4th grade). I am connected with most of them through Facebook, which in Panama is almost the equivalent of text messaging (the only App that is more popular in Panama is probably WhatsApp). No one really writes emails there anymore. Seriously, I cannot even remember the last time anyone from Panama wrote me an email (now that I think about it).

I have lived in three different countries: Panama, Canada, and the United States (six different cities total). Ain’t nobody got time to be emailing to keep up with people (I already have enough with all the emails I get and have to send for work). 

Another reason it would be difficult to quit, is my constant connection to professional organizations and support groups. Connections to the groups that are created as part of my professional organizations, truly helps me stay connect to colleagues throughout the year. It helps me know what they are up to professionally. Also, sometimes there are beneficial conversations that occur (in professional circles and support groups). I may not be a participant in the conversation (just a lurker) but the resources that are shared help me in one way or another. Sometimes I participate, if I know something about a topic or have resources to share. This is something I learned during my time away from Facebook: use the platform to your advantage.  

I know some people are thinking: it is an echo chamber, people just use it to post their perfect pictures, others are just nosy about your business, all those political post are annoying, etc. Maybe it is because I am at different point in my life, but I enjoy seeing updates from my FB friends (no I do not get offended because I did not get a personalized text message from them letting me know about something special that happened to them). Also, I am very intentional about who I connect with. If I cannot be “me” with you, then I will not accept your request OR I will simply delete you as a friend. If I feel that what you post is toxic, then “delete.” BTW, I am also like this offline. This is who I am, you can take it or leave.  

During my time away from Facebook, I learned that it is really hard to keep up with people. Relationships require time and it is easy to neglect them. Again, this was all before smartphones and the development of all those other social platforms. I know what you are thinking: a centralized friendship “hub” is evil. Yes, it sucks that in order to keep up we have use this evil thing call Facebook but I personally do not have time to do it differently. 

That is all I have for now. BTW, I am human. I may have a different opinion tomorrow. I also want to leave you with three personal quotes:

“So to some extend it is true. Social media can be harmful (and affect our mental well being), difficult to manage and overwhelming, too public, distracting, and influence and miss inform us.” 

“Instead of solely focusing on the “bad” or “thinking of social media as a waste of time”  it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”

“I am also not saying that we need to overlook the challenges that social media present for our social, mental, and physical well-being. We absolutely need to find ways to deal with this challenges.”