The Impact of Social Software in Product Design Higher Education

Karl Hurn
2012, Vol. 17, No. 2,


It is difficult to ignore the impact that Web 2.0 and the
subsequent social software revolution has had on society
in general, and young people in particular. Information
is exchanged and interpreted extremely quickly and in
ways that were not imagined 10 years ago. Universities
are struggling to keep up with this new technology, with
outdated intranet systems and limited research into its
application within the higher education sector.
The aim of this paper is to firstly develop a greater
understanding of the use of social software by students
in product design education and the impact of blogs,
wiki’s, Facebook groups, Flickr images, Myspace pages,
RSS feeds, Tweets and YouTube video posts on their
learning processes.
The research for the project involved a number of discrete
methods over a four year period, initially involving a review
of the technological platforms and the e-learning software
available to product design academic staff and students
and the effect this has had thus far on teaching practices.
Product design academic staff were then asked to rank
existing platforms against a number of criteria. This was
followed by the examination of case studies of successful
applications of social software within the writer’s institution
with a view to establishing if these technologies could
be better integrated into higher education and current
pedagogic practices in order to provide an enhanced
learning experience for the student product designer.
The first phase of the research culminated in a literature
review to establish the state of play in the wider academic
community and beyond.
This preliminary research fed into action research which
consisted of the formulation and design of a blog
and information website for the institutions product
design programmes. Semi-structured interviews were
then conducted to establish the views and opinions
of the blog from key stakeholders including university
marketing directors, academics and the student
cohort. Questionnaires followed so that qualitative and
quantitative data could be analysed.
The paper concludes with a description of the perceived
validity and possible future developments for the blog and
social software as a whole in the product design higher
education sector.


product design, social software, education, design and technology, web 2.0, design blog

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