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Role of the educator in social software initiatives in further and higher education: A conceptualisation and research agenda


  • Shailey Minocha, PhD, is a Reader in Computing in the Centre for Research in Computing at The Open University, UK. The focus of her research is on understanding users' interactions with technology and investigating the socio-technical contexts in which computer systems operate. Shailey's research and consultancy activities have led to insights into factors that affect usability, user experience and user adoption of technology-enabled systems. Her recent research projects have involved investigating the role of social software and 3D virtual worlds in training and skills development with a particular attention to the collaborative learning and community-building capabilities of these tools. Shailey's website has details of her activities and publications Andreas Schroeder is a Lecturer of Information Systems at the Business School of the University of Buckingham, UK. After he received his PhD in Information Systems from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, in 2008, he worked as a research fellow at the Centre for Applied Knowledge and Innovation Management, City University of Hong Kong, and in the Computing Department of The Open University, UK. He joined the University of Buckingham in 2010. His research focuses on the management of organizational knowledge and the use and practices related to social software, especially wiki technology. Christoph Schneider is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Systems at City University of Hong Kong; he previously held a visiting faculty appointment at Boise State University. Christoph earned a BA in Hotel and Restaurant Administration and a PhD in Information Systems at Washington State University. Christoph's research interests include computer-mediated collaboration and human-computer interaction. His research has appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, Information Systems Research, Management Information Systems Quarterly, and Management Science, as well as at various international conferences; further, he is co-author of the widely adopted textbook Information Systems Today.

Dr Shailey Minocha, Department of Computing, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. Email:


Higher and further education institutions are increasingly using social software tools to support teaching and learning. A growing body of research investigates the diversity of tools and their range of contributions. However, little research has focused on investigating the role of the educator in the context of a social software initiative, even though the educator is critical for the introduction and successful use of social software in a course environment. Hence, we argue that research on social software should place greater emphasis on the educators, as their roles and activities (such as selecting the tools, developing the tasks and facilitating the students' interactions with these tools) are instrumental in a social software initiative. To address this gap, we have developed a research agenda on the role of the educator in a social software initiative. Drawing on role theory, both as the basis for a systematic conceptualization of the educator role and as a guiding framework, we have developed a series of concrete research questions that address core issues associated with the educator roles in a social software context. We have provided recommendations for further investigations. By developing a research agenda, we hope to stimulate research that creates a better understanding of the educator's situation and develops guidelines to help educators carry out their social software initiatives. Considering the significant role an educator plays in the initiation and conduct of a social software initiative, our research agenda ultimately seeks to contribute to the adoption and efficient use of social software in education.

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