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Using Social Media and Smartphones in the Hospitality Undergraduate Curriculum

Ruth A. Smith, Director of Education, SECSA Federation

The extensive use of social media and smartphones by undergraduate students call for curriculum changes in hospitality programs globally. This article discusses opportunities for hospitality educators to innovatively integrate social media and smartphones into the hospitality management curriculum within the context of tools of engagement that enhance learning. With the increasingly easier access to technology and social media over the past decade, higher education students are using social media and smartphones at extremely high rates for multiple reasons (Abe & Jordan, 2013). For example, students currently use smartphones to access Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and other forms of social media to communicate with family, friends, and associates, as well as to socialize and share opinions with others. According to Pew Research (2010), ninety-two percent of 18 to 29-year-olds own a smartphone and 81 percent of young adults age 18-24 utilized social media daily. Additionally, 93 percent of young adults use the internet on a regular basis (Pew Research Center, 2010).  Undergraduate college students are predominantly the largest digital users of the ‘net’ generation seeking rapid information and active learning opportunities that are more engaging than traditional educational offerings and methods of course delivery (Berk, 2009). According to Berk, they are technology-savvy and are good at multitasking.  Given the smartphones ownership rate of college-age students, their high rate of social media and internet usage, their technology skills, and their ability to multitask, smartphones and social media offer excellent opportunities for hospitality educators to innovatively increase student engagement.

Abe and Jordan (2013) remarked that using social media tools as channels of teaching and learning yield significant educational benefits considering they promote innovative forms of interactive and collaborative learning experiences. For example, instructors can ‘tweet’ pictures of resort destinations to spark discussions on tourism, students can tweet’ answers to questions about wine regions, students and instructors can blog about socio-political issues impacting the hospitality industry, and students and instructors can use ‘hashtag’ keywords to prompt others to view their responses. Students can use their smartphones during lectures, labs, or group meetings to, (a) quickly research conference venues across the globe, (b) snap, view, share pictures of dishes prepared in a food preparation class, (c) research vendors for an event, (d) research theme ideas for an event, (e) conduct group meetings remotely, (f) create videos and blogs of a major projects and events, and (f) broadcast live on Facebook and Snapchat during class events. Instructors can engage groups of students and individual students in regular dialogue concerning current and relevant course issues using several social media such as GroupMe, Messenger, Google Hangouts, and Skype.

The boundaries of using smartphones and social media within hospitality management learning spaces are extensive. However, students must be guided in using social media purposefully to optimize learning outcomes. Given that the use of smartphones and social media among the ‘net’ generation is a fast-moving and trending phenomenon, it is imperative that hospitality educators respond to changing times and trends by embracing social media and smartphone usage as tools of engagement that support learning.

References
Abe, P. & Jordan, N.A., (2013). Integrating social media into the classroom curriculum. About Campus 18 (1), 16-20. DOI: 10.1002/abc.21107.
Berk, R. A. (2009). Teaching strategies for the net generation. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching and Learning Journal, Vol. 3, issue 2.
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. (2010). Millennials: A portrait of generation next: Confident. Connected. Open to change. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-tochange.pdf

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