Utilising a Social Networking Site as an academic tool in an Academic Environment: Student Development from Information-Sharing to Collaboration and Innovation (ICI)

Orna O'Brien, Matt Glowatz

Abstract


There is a scarcity of research regarding the possible academic uses of Social Networking Sites (SNSs), such as Facebook (FB). Much research focuses on the social or information student use.  This paper demonstrates how a SNS, in this case Facebook, can help increase a student’s academic engagement and develop synergistic knowledge. Engagement is understood as the effort and time a student invests in educational activities in or out of class, which are empirically related to college outcomes (Kuh, 2009). Engagement encompasses various aspects including interactions with faculty, involvement in co-curricular activities and peer interaction.

 

Building Pollara and Zhu’s (2011) observations that students believe online collaboration assists learning, this paper demonstrates synergistic knowledge development by students as a result of Facebook use on UCD’s ‘Business Information Systems Management’ module during one semester. Data was collected using student surveys, archival Facebook information and interviews with students. This student group are a less researched cohort regarding SNS usage: they are post-experience, part-time postgraduates. This study’s findings support Junco’s (2012) observation that some Facebook usage can be academically advantageous to students. The benefits here to using Facebook in teaching and learning also included the development of educational micro-communities as suggested by Bosch (2009). In our study, Facebook stimulated critical thinking and engagement in academic debate regarding the module material. The evidence here suggests that this SNS can allow for student engagement in a way that traditional educational environment cannot. This module promoted student engagement beyond just information-sharing, demonstrating high levels of student collaboration and synergistic knowledge development, and ultimately theoretical innovation with the module concepts. It also provides an insight into post-experience, postgraduate usage of SNSs.  The research questions were:

-       Can Facebook be used as a learning tool to academically engage student?

-       Can Facebook as an eLearning tool improve students’ learning experience?


Keywords


Student Engagement, Social Networking sites

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