Abstract The purpose of the study was to explore how students on two related work-based degree courses with limited opportunities for face to face interaction used social media platforms to support their experiences and learning. The students involved work as teaching assistants in a range of mainstream and special schools in the East Midlands and attend classes one day a week. It was noted by tutors that students made frequent references to using various social media platforms for sharing student-to-student information relating to the taught sessions or assignments in preference to the university’s virtual learning environment. To investigate this phenomenon, a case study approach, using focus groups and a paired interview, was adopted. The entire student population on the courses was invited to participate, so the sample was self-selecting and a total of 11% of the students volunteered, participating in either a focus group discussion or paired interview. The study found that students made extensive use of social media platforms, mainly Facebook and Whatsapp, for academic and affective support. Students found this to be an effective way to keep in touch with one another away from university, to share resources and experiences and felt that it helped with their identity as a higher education student.