yaksmallWe have just received funding from the Edinburgh Principal’s Award Scheme to research Yik Yak for understanding teaching, learning and assessment at the University of Edinburgh.

Yik Yak is a location-based social media app, launched in 2013, which has quickly become ubiquitously adopted by students on university and college campuses in the US and, increasingly, the UK. It allows users located within the same geographical area to create and respond to short, anonymous posts, and is emerging as an often-controversial space in which candid, dynamic and sometimes taboo issues are raised and discussed by young users. Yik Yak is widely used at Edinburgh: in early 2015 approximately 30% of undergraduates were active users and in 2016 the figure is likely to be higher: scoping work done by this project team shows approximately 100 original ‘yaks’ being posted in the George Square area every three hours. This same scoping work revealed that students use this platform to talk openly about many issues, including teaching, assessment and student support.

The gritty immediacy, anonymity and informality of comments posted on Yik Yak make it an ideal space in which to build an understanding of our students’ perspectives on learning, teaching and assessment. This project – working within the university’s agenda to prioritise teaching, and undertaken by a team spanning the three Colleges – will conduct mixed-methods research drawing on data generated in Yik Yak over academic year 2016-17. In doing so, we aim to build a better understanding of the teaching, learning and assessment priorities and concerns of Edinburgh students, and to inform the university’s future planning for teaching innovation, assessment and support.

The researchers on this project are Sian Bayne (School of Education), Nicola Osborne (EDINA), Louise Connelly (Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies), Bea Alex (School of Informatics) and Claire Grover (School of Informatics). The project starts September 2016.