Social Media as Connected Learning Technology: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Facebook for Undergraduate Education
Won, Samantha Gwai Lan
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Social media technologies are networked technological tools that can provide opportunities for productive socialization and collaboration. While social media are being incorporated increasingly into formal classroom settings, there is very little research available providing specific evidence for the affordances and limitations of social media as educational tools. It is also unclear whether undergraduates are open to, or already using social media for educational purposes. The current study explores Facebook as a collaborative and participatory learning tool to provide information on sex-related topics to undergraduate students. Connected learning was used as the guiding framework for exploring the ways that social media blend peer culture, academics, and learner interests to promote learning through interactions with a learning community. Results of the study indicate that undergraduate students were open and willing to using social media in academic contexts. However, students did not contribute comments directly to the study page resulting in a lack of evidence confirming whether connected learning occurred. Based on student responses, instructors hoping to integrate social media into their courses would do well to focus on maintaining responsiveness to students, promoting the development of a learning community, and varying the style and format of posts. It was determined that social media sites such as Facebook would serve best as supplemental, but intentional educational technologies rather than the basis for creating entire courses. Further research should center on understanding the participation and lurking patterns of students in educational social media environments, as well as the driving factors behind these participation patterns.
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