New University Social Media tool furthers engagement

July 11 / 64

University researchers have created a new social media tool, eBreep, to help students further engage with their peers and lecturers during class.

eBreep is part of a teaching and learning project being conducted at the University to better understand how mobile technology can be used in the classroom to improve teaching and learning.

Project leader Dr Brent Coker said because eBreep had a PowerPoint plugin that displayed messages and questions over the top of a PowerPoint presentation, lecturers could address questions as they were asked, without closing their slides.

eBreep also uses a ‘Like’ button system, similar to Facebook, so students can ‘like’ questions their classmates ask. Dr Coker said this feature was particularly useful, because lecturers could see what most students found interesting and wanted to learn more about. It also let lecturers reply to individual questions, instead of to the whole group.

Dr Coker said building eBreep had presented the development team with two main challenges. “University Network security presented a big challenge, because universities have some of the strictest firewalls and network security systems in the world, and building a system that could pass messages between outside servers, the Wifi network and mobile phones was tricky,” he said. 

“The PowerPoint plugin was also a challenge, because I had to find a way to make the ebreep message pop-up over the top of PowerPoint when it was in Slideshow mode.”

Dr Coker said because eBreep was a closed system, only those registered in each class could see the messages, and its advanced privacy functions meant users had a far greater degree of privacy than was the norm for social networking sites. 

He said the students, especially the international ones,  really liked eBreep. 

“Many students are very shy about asking questions in large groups, but with eBreep they have no problem ‘breeping’ out questions and comments.

“We’re coming up with new ways to use ebreep all the time. The other thing students like about it is they can ask a question any time of the day, not just during the lecture, and they can see what other students are asking. 

“The ‘Like’ button is also very popular. It creates competition between the students to ask the most meaningful and interesting questions, so they can earn the most ‘likes’ from others in the class. It really gets them thinking carefully about what they are learning.”


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