Academic journal article International Advances in Economic Research

Online Discussion and Learning Outcomes

Academic journal article International Advances in Economic Research

Online Discussion and Learning Outcomes

Article excerpt

Introduction

As online delivery formats grow in popularity, so does online class size and/or the number of sections per course. The problems of keeping track of the students and the challenges of conducting meaningful discussions seem to increase rapidly with class size. The widely used Learning Management Systems (LMS) have tools for email and discussion boards but their power and accessibility pale in comparison to the tools of social media. Many of these social media have the consequential advantage of students' everyday use; hence their use in the classroom does not force students into an additional electronic portal that they would not naturally use.

Facebook has much to recommend it as an instructional tool for student/faculty communication Bosch (2009). First, for almost all students there is no learning curve. Students, with few exceptions, know how to use Facebook and have an account. Thus there is no need for the instructor to write up an instruction sheet. Students already book mark these sites, or have applications (apps) installed on their mobile devices. Instructors, however, may experience a learning curve. Our paper seeks to make that curve less steep. Second, the messages, once sent, are read and responded to in a timely manner. This result is facilitated by the student behavior of constantly checking their Facebook accounts, and because notification of posts are pushed to their email accounts. This is not a behavior usually attributed to the standard LMS.

When using Facebook for instructional purposes, thought should be given to the settings of the privacy controls. This includes informing users of the optimal privacy settings, as students tend to overlook these settings. On the instructor side we recommend creating a group as a secret Facebook group, which adds a protective layer approaching that of the standard LM system. Also we recommend adding students to the group as "members," not as "friends,". In this way the student privacy settings restrict the instructor to the student profile to the more restrictive "public" instead of the less restrictive "friend,". This approach addresses the "creepy tree house" downside of using social media in an instructional setting described by (McBride 2008).

Studies of the use of Facebook in an educational setting report mixed results. (Kirschner and Karpinski 2010) and (Junco 2012) report that increased time spent on Facebook is associated with reduced learning outcomes. On the other hand, (Pellizzari 2012) reports a positive association of Facebook usage and learning outcomes.

Using Facebook (FB) as a Discussion Forum

In this study, weekly discussion and class Q/A is conducted in a secret Facebook group for each section with students added as group members (not as friends). A discussion thread is initiated each week and a portion of the student grade is based on weekly contributions to the thread. The contributions could be in the form of posing a course related question, responding to a posted question, posting and describing a link to relevant material, or commenting on the linked material. The mobile app feature of Facebook facilitates a 24/7 lively and productive discussion, and helps create a shared community experience of helpful assistance and a thoughtful exchange of viewpoints for the participants.

Privacy Settings

As we become more integrated via the social electronic media, so does the importance of our identity on the Internet. In a social networking site there is a very obvious portrayal of self and users should perform "hygiene" over their medium identity as they do on their person. Because their identity in the form of a Facebook profile is out for the world to see, students need to be cognizant that various employers, teachers, colleagues, etc. could examine the identity. While there is not anything necessarily wrong with not keeping one's personal information privy, it does potentially expose one to issues down the road, namely decisions by a future boss (Chang 2008). …

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