Social media’s support for creativity, innovation, and networked connections in higher education: A Thai perspective

Thapanee Seechaliao


Twenty-first century skills are connected to economic success. Although often equated with digital literacy, they are more than that; they are the synthesis of the essential abilities that students need to succeed in school, their future career, and life in general. These skills are imperative for the next generation to develop in order to thrive in a rapidly changing and complex world. Key 21st century skills include creativity, and innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration. Numerous educators and scholars in different countries have recognized the necessity of 21st century skills. Many countries have outlined the essential skills that their students need to acquire in the 21st century. For example, the American educational organization the Partnership for 21st Century Learning has developed a framework that future-ready students must master (The Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2018) and the New Zealand Ministry of Education has defined five key competencies for living and lifelong learning (Te Kete Ipurangi, 2016).

The Thailand Ministry of Education announced a 20-year (2017-2036) national education plan that aims to improve all learners’ characteristics and learning skills in the 21st century. It also revised the Higher Education Standards in 2018 and announced innovativeness as a learning outcome. The policy of Thailand Education 4.0, an economic model to increase Thai prosperity, aims to prepare learners to be creative and innovative. Thai undergraduate students are expected to possess the following competencies: 1) critical mind, 2) creative mind, 3) productive mind, and 4) responsible mind (Sinlarat et al., 2016). As a result of encouragement and efforts led by the Thai government, various curricula have been redesigned and developed to support these expectations.

Creativity and innovativeness have long been considered a weakness of the Thai people. Therefore, in response to the standards and policy, several courses and instructional strategies have been designed to enhance creativity and innovation. One such strategy' is the use of social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging, wikis, Google docs, and other social media technologies have beenextensively used to promote learning in higher education (O’Shea, 2013; Sitti-wong, 2015; Sarawanawong et al., 2017).

Social media and technology’ do not automatically improve learning. However, when appropriately designed and integrated into the teaching and learning environment, social media can be a beneficial educational tool. Social media by its nature is public, interactive, and mobile, and it can be used to engage students in learning, encourage information sharing and collaboration, as well as foster creativity and innovation (Corso & Robinson, 2013; Seechaliao, 2014).

This chapter reviews the literature on using social media to support creativity, innovation, and networked connections in higher education. It also presents examples of how social media is integrated into Thailand’s higher education system to facilitate this outcome.

Current higher education reform and policies in Thailand

In 2017, the Thailand Ministry of Education declared a 20-year (2017-2036) national education plan. This education plan specifies the characteristics and learning skills that Thai children need to have in 21st century', called 3Rs8Cs. The 3Rs refer to reading, writing, and arithmetic, whereas the 8Cs are (1) critical thinking and problem solving, (2) creativity and innovation, (3) cross-cultural understanding, (4) collaboration, teamwork, and leadership, (5) communication information and media literacy, (6) computing and media literacy, (7) career and learning skills, and (8) compassion.

In order to achieve the aforementioned education plan, Thai schools need better educational hardware and software. Both are the remit of the Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC). OHEC launched the Thailand Cyber University Project (TCU) on January' 12, 2005. This project allows Thai people and all students to have more access to technology' and more opportunity to learn via InterUniversity Networks (UniNet) anywhere, anytime. This project helps improve people’s ICT skills, communication, and lifelong education (TCU, 2019). Greater hardware access helps Thai Higher Education be ready for e-learning.

In terms of software, OHEC launched quality assurance systems. It announced the Thai Qualifications Framework (TQF) for higher education and encouraged all public and private higher education institutions to conduct quality assurance reviews. TQF provides policy guidelines and standards for institutions, which are used for accreditation and recognition of higher education qualifications. The TQF guidelines were implemented in July 2009 in order to improve the curriculum at all levels,. The focus was on improving student abilities in five areas, specifically: (1) ethics and moral development; (2) knowledge; (3) cognitive skills; (4) interpersonal skills and responsibility; and (5) numerical analysis, communication, and ICT skills. Higher education institutions have applied the TQF to programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels (OHEC, 2019).

The Thailand Ministry' of Education also revised the Higher Education Standard in 2018 and identified ‘innovative learners’ as a critical learning outcome.

Students are expected to develop the 21st century' skills that will support their ability’ to understand societal and global changes, collaborate across disciplines, and solve social problems. Through entrepreneurial activities, they should create opportunities that increase the value of themselves, their community, society, and the country. Moreover, the outcomes of research and innovation should have a high impact on developing learners, improving life quality', creating more opportunities, increasing the values, and increasing the country’s ability' to become one of the most competitive countries (Royal Thai Government Gazette, 2018).

Many' Thai educators and scholars recognized the importance of 21st century' learning and innovation skills and suggested some essential competencies that Thai college students should acquire. For example, Sinlarat et al. (2016) described the characteristics which Thai undergraduate students should develop as four ty'pes of minds, the Critical Mind, Creative Mind, Productive Mind, and Responsible Mind. Vongtathum (2015) also pointed out that higher education needs to consider the learning outcomes of undergraduate students to adapt to the changing world; therefore, they proposed that higher education needs to prepare students to have innovation competency.

Thai higher education faces many' challenges on the path to achieving its 21st century’ learning goals. Learning activities need to be shifted to emphasize student-centered learning. Most higher education institutions have established policies of using technology’ for education in line with the TQF. For example, the Executive Board of Education, Mahasarakham University', has enforced the Strategic Plan 2011-2020 to develop an e-learning system (Executive Board of Education, 2010). Instructional designers and instructors have integrated new technologies into their online courses. Students can use technology' to access content, complete assignments, and track their individual learning progress. Social media use has grown rapidly, making it easy for many people to access and connect to each other. Many curricula have been redesigned to produce quality' graduates in the digital learning society' via social media integration.

Social media in higher education

As the Internet and technology' become more affordable for students in countries like Thailand, more people can easily access social media. As a result, social media has become heavily used in recent years, not only' to stay' connected with friends and family' or for entertainment, but also for professional development, education, networking, and research. In recent years, social media has become increasingly popular and has been used widely' in higher education. Specifically, it has been used to increase communication and collaboration in higher education. It is a powerful educational instrument that unites learning activities, learning, and teaching resources (Gooke, 2017; Chugh and Ruhi, 2018). Social media is considered an appropriate learning technology when both staff and students are prepared to use it (Gooke, 2017). Talaue et al. (2018) explained that social media has had an impact on the academic performance of college students. Social networking has many' useful affordances to develop students’ competencies. For example, students can use social media to communicate with peers and even make new friends, and this helps them socialize and allows them to discuss issues related to academic subjects. In other words, social media has a dual impact on students’ achievement, on social interactions and learning skills.

Social media tools have mostly been integrated into the current educational system to support teaching and learning, especially for teacher/student engagement. However, each social media tool has its own unique features and functions, and these features are not always suited to educational purposes. Instructors need to understand the features of social media before using them to avoid unnecessary problems that might hinder student learning (Liu, 2010).

One of the top used social media tools in higher education is Facebook, because it is popular among students, which is believed to make adoption for learning and teaching activities easier (Cooke, 2017; Chugh and Ruhi, 2018). Chugh and Ruhi (2018) indicated that social media platforms, such as Facebook, work best for distance learning, and they promote student-centered learning. Facebook can be used as a complementary' and supplementary' platform in teaching and learning to enhance pedagogical outcomes and increase engagement for learning and teaching activities between face-to-face and online environment (Chugh and Ruhi, 2018). Chugh and Ruhi (2018) pointed out that Facebook can help deliver learning-related content and improve pedagogy by' encouraging collaboration and discussion; it can also enhance social interaction between teachers and students and among students. Cooke (2017) mentions that social media and networking sites, such as Facebook, can serve as a platform for students to increase engagement with subject matter. Thus it increases participation, engagement, and information sharing.

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