Scenario: Teaching and Learning

In this scenario, Yammer was adopted by the graduate program in the College of Education to foster opportunities for collaboration across the various departments, such as instructional systems, workforce education, and curriculum and instruction. In fall 2010, the college created a network in Yammer, Ed.psu, and enrolled all faculty, staff, and students into the network. Each department was encouraged to create a group, or groups, to meet their various communication and project needs. Instructors were encouraged to use Yammer as a working area for their classes, and students were encouraged to create groups around their various interests and needs. The college would also use Yammer for program-wide communications.

Yammer group page screenshot with search, collaborative document area, real-time communication channel, and group link areas of the page highlighted

Use of Yammer

Jay is a new doctoral student in the INSYS program. He was told about Yammer during the new student orientation prior to the start of classes. It is also where he found about the picnic the college hosts every fall to bring everyone together.

Event Announcements for Graduate Program: Socialization

Prior to the picnic, Jay creates his profile on Yammer. It is sparse and he feels a bit insecure about his place. He also RSVPs to the invitation indicating he will be there at the picnic. Inside the “Party Time” group, he goes over the list of others who will be attending. Looking over the profiles, he finds a lot of interesting people in the program from all over the world with so much experience. He also sees that there is going to be a lot of good food and he figures he better bring something to contribute.

After meeting a lot of people at the picnic, Jay feels a lot better as classes begin. Walking the halls of the Education building, he sees Xi Ya, a fellow newbie and an instructor on leave from her university in China. Hi also finds Husro, an instructional technologist for an elementary school system in Pakistan. He is into cricket and soccer. He and Jay spent some time at the picnic talking about the English Premier League standings. Husro successfully completed his comprehensive examination in the spring and was telling people at the picnic his strategy for preparing for the two-day ordeal.

Yammer for Course Materials and Conversations

The professor in his Learning Theory class created a group in Yammer where she posts the reading materials. She also posts questions to the class, questions the students are supposed to work out based on the material covered. She also encouraged her students to post their thoughts and questions. In fact, the professors in two of Jay’s three classes are using Yammer in various ways this semester.

Academic Advising

His advisor, Dr. Lynn, is using Yammer as well. She created a private group for all of her advisees including Jay and Xi Ya and they used the space to keep her updated on their progress. They would post things like the classes they were taking, how they were doing, and where their research interests lie. Dr. Lynn used this information to make suggestions on additional classes that might help and to point them toward other students further along in the program who could possibly team up and mentor them.

Research Groups and Personal Networking

A research method that really caught Jay’s eye was ethnography. Jay considered himself more of a people person and wanted to test his theories in the field. He thought research in the lab was fine in its own way, but he much preferred to see what happened when things were tested in the wild, like a classroom of students. Catching on to this interest, Dr. Lynn pointed Jay to Dr. Nasir in the Adult Education department. Dr. Nasir had done a lot of work around adults who wanted to return to school but were facing challenges like having to work full-time to support a family and who lived in rural areas where it was not always easy to get a strong Internet connection.

Halfway through the semester, Jay made an appointment to see Dr. Nasir to learn more about his work. Dr. Nasir was also interested in Jay’s opinion and invited Jay to join his informal ethnographer’s group on Yammer. Soon Jay was conversing with and learning from students and researchers from all over the world. It was also in this group where he learned about an underground film club, a group of students in the doctoral program who were also interested in making short horror films to scare their friends. Being a movie buff, Jay soon joined and was pleasantly surprised to see Husro was already a member. He told Xi Ya about it over coffee and she also joined.

Cocurricular Activities

It was near the end of the semester, when the club was filming in a closed off wing of the old school theater that Jay got to talking with Chloe, a graduate student in Curriculum and Instruction. Chloe was born in the Bahamas but grew up in Arizona where her parents were teachers. When Chloe heard Jay and Xi Ya talking about how difficult it was to keep track of all the reading materials needed for future reference she told them about several citation tools that were available to help collect, format, and organize these materials. This was a valuable piece of information and Jay spent the entire next weekend cataloguing all the material from his classes. He then asked his fellow new students if they wanted to collaborate and create a group catalogue of resources they could all contribute to and share from. He quickly got several members from across the program and they were off and running.

By the time his first semester came to an end Jay had made all sorts of great connections. He was beginning to feel his feet underneath him while developing an eye toward the future he wanted to create. As he read the Yammer announcement about the college holiday party, he felt a lot better about his place in the program.

Conclusion

Yammer’s ability to reach beyond a single course enabled Jay to make connections beyond his individual field of study. He was able to make connections both socially and academically that afforded him a fuller experience and, hopefully, made him better because of it.

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