The aims of the study were firstly to examine the forms of social media used to assist students to engage with and to complete their vocational education and training (VET) programs, and secondly to investigate the outcomes from the use of social media, including the benefits associated with increased levels of collaboration, increased engagement by students with an education or training program and, ideally, higher rates of completion. Finally, the study examined how social media is integrated into VET assessment, and how these forms of assessment are accommodated by the audits that determine whether the training organisation is meeting the required national standards. In summary, this study is designed to extend understanding of and in turn to improve the practices associated with, the use and opportunities for social media in VET programs. To date, very few studies have investigated the use and impacts of social media in the VET sector, with the majority focused upon the higher education sector.
These three aims and the associated research questions were addressed through interviews and small group discussions with 32 VET teachers and 70 students; six employers were also interviewed. The sample came from three training organisations: Federation Training of TAFE Victoria; the Open Training and Education Network (OTEN) of TAFE NSW; and TAFE Queensland. These institutes were identified through an initial search of the websites of registered training organisations (RTOs) to reveal the prevalence of social media and other new technologies in VET. Gaining samples of VET teachers, students and employers allowed a 360-degree view of the perceived advantages and disadvantages of the use of numerous forms of social media.
This study is part of an increasing number of investigations into how social media might be used to promote greater levels of interest, engagement and collaboration among learners. However, like much of the research to date, this study is small and exploratory. VET researchers can play an important role in contributing to this debate by completing larger-scale and more longitudinal projects into the impacts of social media upon VET learners, where it is used in their training.
The current study reveals that future VET research needs to investigate further the advantages and disadvantages of different types of social media, its impacts across different types of VET students, by delivery mode (for example, traditional delivery versus online and distance learning), and by levels of teacher input and support. Furthermore, as numerous forms of social media are being used in the same VET qualification, we need to better understand how the combination of different social media might have different types of impacts.