Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Using Facebook to Enhance Independent Student Engagement: A Case Study of First-Year Undergraduates

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Using Facebook to Enhance Independent Student Engagement: A Case Study of First-Year Undergraduates

Article excerpt


A case study was conducted to assess the efficacy of online communication tools for enhancing independent student engagement in a first-year undergraduate class. Material relevant to course topics was shared with students through three communication platforms and data were extracted to measure student engagement. A questionnaire was also used to validate online data and determine why students chose a particular platform. Online results revealed that more than half of the students engaged with at least one post to some degree through one or more communication platforms. Facebook was the primary platform for student engagement. Students primarily engaged with material on Facebook by "liking" posts and used Facebook to share relevant material that they came across personally. There was no significant difference in student engagement with shared material between instructor-shared and student-shared posts, although Facebook engagement was 29% higher when the instructor commented and/or liked a post 1 day after sharing. Questionnaire results suggested that 90% of all students engaged with material to some extent. Most students engaged with between 3 and 10 posts by seeing a post, clicking the associated link, and reading the material. The majority of students engaged through Facebook and felt most comfortable with this platform. Of those engaging at the highest level, 66% used Facebook. Convenience appeared to be the dominant reason for engaged students choosing a particular platform. Weakly positive relationships between academic performance vs. overall engagement and engagement level were apparent. This study suggests that Facebook can be used to enhance independent student engagement.

Keywords: education, Facebook, social media, student engagement, technology

1. Introduction

Student engagement is critical for reaching a maximum educational experience at various educational levels (Sharan & Tan, 2008), as engagement creates a pathway by which student motivation contributes to learning and development (Wellborn, 1991). Generally, three aspects accompany engagement: behaviour, emotion, and cognition. While behavioural engagement is primarily about participation, emotional behaviour relates to the attitudes, values, and interests of students and cognitive behaviour is associated with student goals and student driven learning (Sharan & Tan, 2008). Consequently, the depth of engagement and the associated impact on learning are a function of the degree that each of the aforementioned aspects of engagement is incorporated by a student.

The application of independent student engagement (defined here as extra-curricular student engagement with material beyond that mandatory for course requirements) has received relatively little attention in higher education. This may be because getting students independently engaged with material can be quite difficult and is often ignored for various reasons, including, but not limited to, student apathy and increased instructor workload. However, with modern advances in technology, such engagement outside of core course requirements can be attained far more easily. Ultimately, using such technology to elevate student engagement can foster positive intellectual and emotional learning attitudes, potentially enhance academic achievement and critical thinking skills (Carini, Kuh, & Klein, 2006), and have a lasting impression on students' academic experience beyond the scope of achievement scores (Fredricks, Blumenfield, & Paris, 2004).

Engaging with material and discussions through online tools can aid in the development of student reflection and critical thinking (Burge, 1994; Whipp, 2003; Barnett-Queen, Blair, & Merrik, 2005; Chang, 2006). Furthermore, online communication tools allow for expedited and easy communication between educators and students, with students relying heavily on online tools both personally and professionally (Mori, 2007; Jones & Fox, 2009). …

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