Researchers in China and Hong Kong said the finding that such sites can benefit learning and academics is a novel one, and underscores the need for academic institutions to be creative and resourceful in how they utilize social networking sites.
In the study, authors found as many as 90 percent of college students use Facebook, with some universities now using it for orientation as well as encouraging students to develop new friends.
Moreover, researchers discovered some universities recommend social networking as a way for students to share information about particular courses.
Writing in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, study authors sought to dispel negative perceptions of social media.
Many previous studies of social networking have focused on identity presentation, privacy, and how social networks form. Much of the popular response to Web 2.0 tools is that they can have a detrimental effect on students by being nothing more than trivial distractions from serious study.
In the new study, college students were interviewed to understand current online social networking experiences, and attitudes towards using Facebook for education.
The investigators studied the influence of online social networking and how educational institutions might improve the way orientation and communication with students could be improved.
Use of social networking to communicate important university information or academic subject matter is a promising area of investigation 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 said. “Online social networking applications such as Facebook offer an efficient platform for college students’ socialization by expanding their network scope and maintaining close relationships.”
Researchers determined student use of Facebook revolved around two major themes: one social and one educational.
Such sites provide a convenient platform for students to enhance and maintain friendships, build social networks/establish virtual relationships , diminish barriers to making friends, follow peer trends, share photos, fun and leisure, and to keep in touch with family.
Educationally, students reported that Facebook allowed them to connect with faculty and other students, extending beyond friendship/social relationships.
The researchers conclude that Facebook is a large influence on students’ social life, helping them cope with the stressors and challenges that accompany young adulthood and higher education.
As the use of Facebook is so ubiquitous, “Educational institutions may need to adopt active (but somewhat restrained) actions to utilize existing social network applications such as Facebook for education,” the authors noted.
“Teaching activities will need to be appropriately designed for different target populations. The breakthrough point may start from students’ social learning.”
Source: Inderscience Publishers