Social learning: Can Facebook and related tools improve educational outcomes?

May 09, 2011

Online social networking sites, such as Facebook, can help students become academically and socially integrated as well as improving learning outcomes, according to a study by researchers in China and Hong Kong. Writing in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, explain that Facebook usage is around 90% across campuses and many educational institutions offer new students orientation on how to capitalize on social networking to improve their experience of their course and their final results.

Many previous studies of social networking have focused on identity presentation, privacy, and how social networks form. Much of the popular response to the advent of web 2.0 tools is that they can have a detrimental effect on by being nothing more than trivial distractions from serious study. However, Stella Wen Tian of the University of Science & Technology of China (Suzhou Campus) and Angela Yan Yu, Douglas Vogel and Ron Chi-Wai Kwok of City University of Hong Kong, suggest that students' online social networking directly influences social learning and can positively influence academic learning.

The team carried out discussions with college students to understand current online social networking experience and attitude towards using Facebook for education. They hoped to understand the influence of online and how educational institutions might improve pedagogical orientation and practices, especially given that peer pressure has been recognized in various studies as one of the most important influences on student life.

"The typical social network pattern on Facebook is often in a core-periphery mode: an individual has close relationships with core friends and weak relationships with many others," the team says. "Online applications such as Facebook offer an efficient platform for college students' socialization by expanding their network scope and maintaining close relationships."

There were two main aspects of student Facebook use, the team found: one social and one educational. Students reported that it could enhance and maintain friendships, build social networks/establish virtual relationships , diminish barriers to making friends, follow peer trends, share photos, for fun and leisure and to keep in touch with family. In terms of learning, students reported that Facebook allowed them to connect with the faculty and other students in term of friendship/social relationship, provide comments to peers/share knowledge, share feelings with peers, join Groups established for subjects, collaboration: notification, discussion, course schedule, project management calendar and to use educational applications for organizing learning activities.

The team says that, "Facebook greatly influences college students' social life and shows good potential in coping with the challenges that students face." They conclude that, "Educational institutions may need to adopt active (but somewhat restrained) actions to utilize existing social network applications such as Facebook for education. Teaching activities will need to be appropriately designed for different target populations. The breakthrough point may start from students' social learning."

Explore further: Revealing political partisanship a bad idea on resumes

More information: "The impact of online social networking on learning: a social integration perspective" in Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, 2011, 8, 264-280.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Face-to-face or Facebook?

May 12, 2008

Can online networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, help new students settle into university social and academic life and minimise the chance of them withdrawing from their courses?

Facebook is 'social glue' for university freshers

Oct 14, 2008

The first few weeks at university can be a difficult time for freshers as they attempt to settle in to their new academic and social life. Researchers at the University of Leicester have found that a high proportion of freshers ...

New study examines use of social media in the classroom

May 05, 2010

A recent study by the Lab for Social Computing at Rochester Institute of Technology indicates that the use of social media in classroom settings has little effect on building connections or social capital among students.

Recommended for you

Study identifies why re-educating torturers may not work

2 hours ago

Many human rights educators assume – incorrectly, as it turns out – that police and military officers in India who support the torture of suspects do so because they are either immoral or ignorant. This ...

Research helps raise awareness of human trafficking

3 hours ago

Human trafficking –– or the control, ownership and sale of another human being for monetary gain –– was a common occurrence centuries ago, but many believe it doesn't exist in this day and age and not in this country.

Researchers explore future of 'postdigital' textbook

4 hours ago

An interdisciplinary team at Arizona State University has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation's Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies program to conduct research on the future ...

Revealing political partisanship a bad idea on resumes

22 hours ago

Displaced political aides looking for a new, nonpartisan job in the wake of the midterm power shuffle may fare better if they tone down any political references on their resumes, finds a new study from Duke University.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.