Facebook and Higher Edcuation

Social networking sites have become a major part of young people’s lives.  Many professors are angered when students will check their Facebook feeds while attending class while others are embracing the technology and incorporating it into their teaching.  They posit that the interactive nature of Facebook allows students to collaborate and share information.  While many studies have done on the effectiveness of using Facebook in education, the conclusions vary.

In his 2009 paper Neil Selwyn found that students use Facebook to:

(1) recounting and reflecting on the university experience

(2) exchange of practical information

(3) exchange of academic information

(4) displays of supplication and/or disengagement

(5) ‘banter’ (i.e. exchanges of humour and nonsense) (Selwyn, N. 2009. p.161)

He found that students saw Facebook as being part of ‘their’ internet and resented its appropriation by the hierarchal university and suggested that his data showed that Facebook as a “backstage space” that augmented their university education.

One way that Facebook has found to be effective is when it uses Facebook pages to form online study groups.  An example of this is the School of Instructor Education Facebook page allows students to share information that they have found on the internet.  This allows students to access a portal that has much relevant information to their studies rather than tedious searches through a search engine.

Dr. Nisha Malhotra at the University of British Columbia uses Facebook groups to answer student questions, post relevant articles and engender online discussions.  Dr Leah Donlan in her 2012 paper concludes that students are happy using Facebook for academic purposes when it is on their terms as they wish to keep their private and academic lives separate.  This suggests to me that any teacher that wishes to use Facebook in their courses might want to have the students collaborate in designing and defining the Facebook group and how it is to be used.

The use of Facebook and other social media in a formal institutional environment is still in its infancy and much study still needs to be done to assess their effectiveness.  Searching the anecdotal information available one finds many successes and failures, but we have to realize that Facebook is a vital part of student’s lives and it is where they spend much of their time.  As Susan Erdman writes “Perhaps the bruising immediacy and startling intimacy of Facebook will indeed offer a way out of the ritualized

Donlan, L. (2012). Exploring the views of students on the use of Facebook in university teaching and learning. Journal of Further and Higher Education, (ahead-of-print), 1-17.

Erdmann, S. (2013). Facebook Goes to College; Recent Research on Educational Uses of Social Networks. Nordic Journal of Modern Language Methodology, 2(1).

Selwyn, Neil. “Faceworking: exploring students’ education‐related use of Facebook.” Learning, Media and Technology 34.2 (2009): 157-174.

Selwyn, N. (2012). Social media in higher education. The Europa World of Learning 2012.

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