Social Networking and Higher Education Article 2

The Use of Alternative Social Networking Sites in Higher Educational Settings: A Case Study of the E-Learning Benefits of Ning in Education.

Kevin P. Brady, Lori B. Holcomb and Bethany V. Smith


Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Vol 9(2)

Summer 2010



Similar to the last article that I reviewed, this case study used university students who took part in an online class using the educational social networking site Ning. From 2006-2007 there was a 9.7% increase in the number of college students enrolled in at least one online class, (page 151) and with the steadily increasing use of social networking, it makes sense to merge these two aspects together. “Research has shown that distance education courses are often more successful when they develop communities of practice” (page 151).  This sense of community is important because often, learning takes place most effectively when one engages in social interaction. Social networking sites, or educational sites with a social networking type layout, better account for creating this sense of community between a group of students.

Course Management Systems such as Blackboard and Moodle are common sites that Universities use for their online courses, but these lack many aspects that social networking sites have such as media sharing, wiki, tagging, groups, friends, and profile pages which ultimately connect people together on a deeper level.  “Social networking sites created specifically for an educational audience provide a unique opportunity for educators to facilitate a strong sense of community among students and encourage personal interactions…” (page 153).

After a term of using Ning for their online courses, college students at College of Education at North Carolina State were surveyed about their experience. About 70% of those who participated felt that Ning allowed for more frequent collaboration with peers and colleagues compared to face-to-face interaction. Along with this, 82% agreed that it aided in communication outside the classroom.

With a majority of students who have used social networking sites as part of their classes, it is interesting to me that so many universities are still so hesitant to adopt this type of technology. Implementing social networking into college classrooms would be an example of multiple NETS standards. It would facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity by giving them the push to collaborate and learn from one another with the ability to share videos, websites, etc, the professor would be a role model digital age work and learning by being on track with new learning forums and it could be the start of engaging in professional growth and leadership for both the student and professor.


4 thoughts on “Social Networking and Higher Education Article 2

  1. At the school I work at we often frown upon social networking sites and comment on all of the problems associated with them, yet many staff members have Facebook pages. We act like it’s a dirty addiction that we are just too weak to break away from. I have actually thought about how useful this can be in online education however. I’m getting my MAT from WOU online right now and several of us students in the program have Facebook friends in the program. While it’s possible to get a hold of people via email if we have class-related questions it is often so much simpler to just send someone a message on Facebook. It gives us more of a sense of being in a classroom.

  2. I think that universities are probably hesitant because they don’t know what to do, not that they don’t think it is a good idea. This technology thing is something that is a intimidating thing to those of us that didn’t grow up with it. I was in high school when we got a microwave! It is hard to teach old dogs new tricks but it will happen eventually. I have just started taking another course through a different university online and I am seriously considering dropping it because I can’t figure out how to access and communicate like I am supposed to. To someone that has grown-up with this stuff more, it is much easier to understand. I am going to try to persevere but it is hard. As user-friendly as possible is what needs to happen for us old dogs.

  3. I agree with your response to the article topic on the collaboration of on line classes and social networking. As we take part in both of these technologies, at the university level, I can see that the exchange between receiving and giving information is suited for collaboration.This exchange of information, interactive learning, sharing ideas and making connections is the basis for communities of practice. If we used a social network site in addition to our on line course work, we could support one another in learning.
    I have not had many social networking experiences, but feel that the format of social networking on Ning would create a system for improved communication and the sharing of information. The National Writing Project lists Ning as a resource in their digital tool box for writing. They explain the advantages and options for a group based social network site. They can support group interests, conversations, writing, sharing multimedia, videos, audio presentations and images. I am wondering about creating a Ning site for my elementary students as a writing resource.

  4. Is social networking in the same category as blogging? For example in this course that we are taking the communication that is taking place is via our blogs. So, is that the same thing as social networking. But then, when I think of social networking, Facebook comes to mind. I think using blogging as a process of communicating with our collegues is very effective. I still think online courses should also incorporate face-to-face interactions at least a couple of times during the term; but I realize that online courses are much more convenient for adults.

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