Academic and Social Integration in Cyberspace: A Qualitative Study

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Date

1998-03-06

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Virginia Tech

Abstract

This study was designed to gain a better understanding of whether electronic mail (email) was replacing traditional behaviors in which college students engage to achieve academic and social integration. Data consisted of printouts of email records, and corresponding logsheets detailing the relationship of the participant to the sender/receiver of each message and the general nature of the message. Additional data included answers to email survey questions and lists of traditional academic and social integration behaviors against which the email behavior categories were compared.

Specifically, this study was designed to explore the following research questions:

  1. For what purpose do students use email?
  2. Do college students use email in lieu of traditional behaviors that lead to social integration?
  3. Do college students use email in lieu of traditional behaviors that lead to academic integration?
  4. Does students' use of email differ by gender?

Two samples were selected for this study. The first consisted of a comprehensive list, compiled from nationally normed survey instruments, of traditional behaviors that students use to achieve academic and social integration. The second sample consisted of 23 traditional-aged freshmen who used email (11 males and 12 females).

Results were based on an analysis of 4,603 messages sent or received by the participants and revealed several important findings. First, while the participants did use email for some academic and social integration purposes, the bulk of their email activity did not relate to either form of integration. Second, participants seemed to be using email to communicate extensively with family members and high school friends. Third, there were no major differences in either the extent of email use or the nature of that use by gender. Finally, the participants spent a considerable amount of time every day checking, writing, composing and sending email messages. These trends suggest that email has become an integral part of college student life and that college administrators need to explore new and effective ways to ensure that the use of email is beneficial, not detrimental, to the overall development of college students.

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Keywords

electronic mail, Technology, academic integration, social integration, Gender

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