Wednesday, 20 March 2013





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The reality is social networking is very much part of our students’ lives it provides them with the mechanism to be part of a collective community of self esteem, Gangadharbatla (2008), typically students have Facebook accounts.   In our previous research students highlighted that Facebook app on their mobile devices is an important to supporting organisation and communication in group-work learning, Nortcliffe and Middleton (2013).  Facebook supports their learning immediacy, "the right here right now", as shown by the following student conversation as to why they use Facebook for learning;

"I use [Facebook] chat over email, for someone's opinion, to ask someone something,  you know you will get a response instantly",  student A, "Plus you know  that people will be looking at their Facebook whereas you don't know if people are looking at their emails", Student B, "[quicker response as] most people have got a smartphone now a days, you get the pop up on your phone" student A

I have had a Facebook account for few years it was very much dormant, that is until Sept’12.   After the ice-breaker session with my first year cohort of students, one member announced we should have a first year course Facebook site, he volunteered to set it up.  I asked the class if  wanted me to be part of the group, as I highlighted  in the past the students implied it was their space, consequently I had respected their wishes and stayed away.  However, this year the group unanimous said yes I was to join the party.

Six months down the line, I have to admit it has been a positive experience; the tool has been an appropriate, timely, effective and targeted communication tool.   With the added benefit of being able to keep a respective unobtrusive eye on the cohort and course, for example if the Facebook chatter increases if students are struggling in a modules, therefore I am able to discretely alert the module leader to the areas where students may need more explanation, but also I can inject myself signposting where the students can access more support.   

In terms of course leadership the reality is I only teach the students one hour every fortnight, a very desperate experience, Facebook has enabled the students and myself to create, maintain a collegiate relationship.   I agree with Ahne el (2007) it is easier to maintain a social network relationship than real-life relationship, particularly when the latter involves logistics, space and time, in the case of students working around students’ work, study and extra curriculum commitments.   

Equally students have used the app to communicate with myself; to ask course related questions, as a feedback mechanism on events, to organise course socials, to notify them their absence due to ill-health or family issues.   The cohort also use the mobile Facebook app to manage themselves, organise themselves to classes, share learning resources, to work together in study groups, to support one another’s personal learning, to group assessments, to socialise.    As shown by the following student’s comments:

Not only can Facebook be used as a tool for sharing learning resources but it can also be used as a place for course mates to wind down and share information relating to their interests”


Ahn, Y. Y., Han, S., Kwak, H., Moon, S., and Jeong, H. (2007, May). Analysis of topological characteristics of huge online social networking services. In Proceedings of the 16th international conference on World Wide Web, 835-844

Gangadharbatla, H. (2008). Facebook me: Collective self-esteem, need to belong, and internet self-efficacy as predictors of the iGeneration's attitudes toward social networking sites. Journal of interactive advertising, 8(2), 5-15.

Nortcliffe, A.  and Middlleton, A. (2013) The innovative use of personal smart devices by students to support their learning, In Increasing Student Engagement and Retention using Mobile Applications: Smartphones, Skype and Texting Technologies, (Eds) Wankel, L. and Blessinger, P. (eds), (Cutting Edge Technologies in Higher Education). 175-210, 2013, Emerald, Bingley, UK

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