The academic journey of university students on Facebook: an analysis of informal academic-related activity over a semester

Rebecca Vivian, Alan Barnes, Ruth Geer, Denise Wood

Abstract

This paper reports on an observation of 70 university students’ use of their personal social network site (SNS), Facebook, over a 22-week university study period. The study sought to determine the extent that university students use their personal SNSs to support learning by exploring frequencies of academic-related content and topics being discussed. The findings reported in the paper reveal that students used their personal SNSs to discuss academic-related topics, particularly to share experiences about doing work or procrastinating, course content and grades. Mapping academic-related activity frequencies over the 22 weeks illustrated that around certain points in the academic calendar, particularly times when students’ assignments or exams were nearing, academic activity increased, suggesting that SNSs may play an important role in a students’ academic experience.

The findings suggest that many students today may be leaving traces of their academic journey online and that academics should be aware that these interactions may also exist in their own students’ online social spaces. This study offers opportunities for future research, particularly research which seeks to determine differences between individuals’ academic activity, the extent that intensive SNSs use supports or distracts students from learning, as well as the extent to which universities should or can harness SNSs to improve the student experience.

Keywords: informal learning; social networking; Facebook; university students; social network sites

(Published: 28 August 2014)

Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2014, 22: 24681 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v22.24681

Keywords

informalLearning; changingLearnerJourney; socialNetworking; facebook; university

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