What is it about?

In theory, low-cost, digital communication technologies have greatly increased opportunities for people to become online content creators (OCC). By contrast, very few internet users actually become content producers in practice. This article addresses a gap concerning OCC in the everyday lives of African university students. The stories of three students who are online creators of content are described. The paper covers the social media used by the students; their trajectories; their linkages with career interests and the types of online presences the students created, maintained or discontinued into their university lives. Connected Learning proved an appropriate educational lens for describing case studies that spanned digital practices that were informal and extracurricular yet peer-supported as well as interest-driven and academically oriented. The study shows that being a digital creator gives students a competitive edge in our globally competitive society.

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Why is it important?

An analysis of both the formal and informal ICT practices of 23 first year students at four South African universities revealed that the use of online networks was pervasive. However, just three undergraduates described developing and/or using online presences to pursue interest-based activities. The case studies for "Jake", "Vince" and "Odette" are a novel contribution to research in describing how online content creation has become part of African university students everyday lives. A second contribution is to expand the Connected Learning literature's common focus on secondary school youth, aged 12 to 18, to university students. We show how African students are likewise engaged in forming new interests and emergent social identities. The paper also suggests that Media Studies students who compliment their formal production interests with rare OCC practices seem to be gaining an edge in our globally competitive society as digital creators.

Perspectives

This article developed from a conference paper 'Students as Creative Producers' that we presented at the 8th International Conference on E-learning in 2013. As a new research assistant, I was fortunate to learn a great deal about educational research from the project's two investigators, Dr Cheryl Brown and Professor Laura Czerniewicz. I learnt a great deal about the high standards demanded in academic writing for prestigious journals whilst following their exchange of edits and critical commentary. Having an opportunity to contribute with both authors to the few case studies for African digital creative students in the literature was an amazing experience, as was the positive feedback to our article.

Dr Travis M Noakes
Cape Peninsula University of Technology

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This page is a summary of: Online content creation: looking at students’ social media practices through a Connected Learning lens †, September 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.4324/9781315121697-7.
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