A case study using Instagram to create an online learning environment

  • Sara Santarossa Henry Ford Health System
  • Paige Coyne
  • and Sarah J Woodruff
Keywords: social media, post-secondary education, learning communities, participatory learning


Although there is a high prevalence of personal distractions/distractors (e.g., social media) in higher education, only a few instructors are implementing them for educational purposes. The present case study explored how Instagram engaged first year students in a Kinesiology class by utilizing hashtag data. Results suggested that greater than half of the class engaged in the online learning environment. Text analysis revealed nearly half of the data was categorized as good feelings, and Instagram posts revealed that students applied course concepts and met learning outcomes.  Social network analysis revealed a lack of discussion/communication amongst students, however, conversation appeared to be centralized around the opinion leader (i.e., the instructor), and extended beyond those registered in the class. This case study provided an insight into how distractors, such as social media, may be used to elicit agency, deep learning, reflection, and critical thinking among students in higher education.