Social Networking and Education (Undergraduate Students)

Education Use of Social Networking Technology in Higher Education

Hsiu-Ting Hung and Steve Chin-Yin Yuen

Teaching in Higher Education Vol. 15, No. 6

December, 2010

 In today’s world, social networking is as common as watching television. Web 2.0 is a new generation that supports social interaction and is a simple way for people to exchange information and share their interests and passions. Examples of these sites include posting videos to YouTube, photos to Flickr, and everyday thoughts to Twitter and Facebook. In recent years, the internet has changed the way people interact in day-to-day life.

 Many educators believe that social networking has the potential to make a huge impact on the way people learn. “Educators should make instructional use of the social nature of Web 2.0 social networking tool as an alternative supplement to traditional classroom learning”, (page 703).

 The focus of this study was to investigate how social networking can be used to help facilitate courses taking place in the classroom and to help “enhance the students’ sense of community and, thus, to promote classroom communities of practice in the context on higher education”, (page 703). It has been argued that learning emerges from the presence of social interaction. This is an example of Situated Learning Theory which “significantly shifts the view of learning from a cognitive process to a process of participation in the social world”, (page 704). Hung and Yuen use community of practice as their primary area of impact when it comes to social networking in the classroom. It is argued that if online students feel a sense of community and social support, it is possible that this emotional connectedness could provide the extra support for one to, not only complete the course successfully, but also to learn more during the course.

 Ning was the social network of choice for this study. It includes aspects such as text searching, media sharing, peer interaction, and content delivery. Students were able to access course material and exchange ideas and opinions anytime and anywhere. Students were asked to create their own profiles and encouraged to share interests (whether related to the class or not) and get to know one another as well as participate in required discussion forums.

 Undergraduate students at two public universities were surveyed after participating in these classes. Over 90% of the students agreed that the social networking site allowed them to 1. Share their personal interests, 2. Find and share educational resources, 3. Communicate easier about course topics, 4. Take place in learner-centered activities and 5. Promote knowledge sharing. Along with this, 100% of the students agreed that they had obtained personal and professional growth after completing the course and 73% felt a stronger sense of social connectedness.

The overall implications of this study were that students had a huge positive response towards Ning and although research on this area is still new, social networking seems to have a positive impact on students of high education and can impact learning by creating a greater sense of community within the class. The NETS standards that this article addressed were numbers 1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and creativity by creating a more profound sense of community with the students in the class and allowing them to create and share their own profiles and personal interests along with class material and 2. Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments by implementing the new idea of adding social networking in the classroom. I do not have my own classroom, nor want to become a teacher but this information is interesting to me because many college courses are starting to implement the idea of social networking (example would be WOU using Moodle) and it is nice to know that this type of learning seems to be making a positive impact on students and the amount of information they are gaining from the course.

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5 thoughts on “Social Networking and Education (Undergraduate Students)

  1. Ashley ~ I too reviewed an article about social networking; however, mine was regarding middle school-aged students. The sense of community and collaboration with such tools is a wonderful benefit for our students. The tool used in my article was mostly Wiki-based, and what I really enjoyed about it was the fact that EVERYONE gets to participate and be heard. The students really seemed to respond positively to the activity. One big difference I noticed in the article I read for this grade level – which was probably not as necessary for older students – was a concern for appropriate use of the internet and the Wiki site(s). With younger students, it is important to model the appropriate use of the tools, giving concrete examples of appropriate entries in order to have a positive and successful learning experience.

  2. Social Networking in the classroom is very interesting to me. I have never really thought about being able to use social networking in a positive way before this class. Being able to collaborate with other students in the class in this easy effective way can lead to many positive things. I really enjoyed your review Ashley!

  3. Hi Ashley, the article that you reviewed was very interesting I am looking forward to researching social networking as a theme in the coming weeks. I think that social networking can be a great tool for the classroom for either face-to-face or online classrooms. It is important for students to gain a sense of community in their learning environment in order to feel comfortable sharing their ideas. From my own experience, online classrooms are the hardest to build a community do to the distance and the absence of face-to-face communication. The study that you reviewed shows that social networking can be a way to build this sense of community in an online classroom. I think that having students create personal profiles and encouraging the sharing of interest was a great way to make social networking tools work for the classroom.

  4. Ashley, I hadn’t thought of applying a learning theory to social networking! You’re absolutely right that it’s based on situative theory, since learning occurs in the context of the digital world. I’d be up to trying out Ning in my classroom. I’ve heard of other social networking sites that can be useful for teaching, such as Edmodo. Moodle is great too, but many instructors don’t utilize the full array of features that it provides, which is a shame. Anyway, as far as social networks, I think they really help students develop a sense of community quickly, particularly if they are in an online-only delivered class.

  5. Ashley, social networking is a topic that has the potential to be very controversial. I did this topic as well and it seems that the view point of, instructors liking it and not liking it, are strong on both sides. I agree that social networking can play a positive roll in the class but I do think that the type of social networking needs to be easy and accessible to use. The easier it is to navigate and use the more the students are going to be able to read and write their comments allowing them to be more involved. Social networking does have a strong potential to be very favorable in the classroom in the future.

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