Social Networking in Undergraduate Education

By Buzzetto-More, Nicole A. | Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Social Networking in Undergraduate Education


Buzzetto-More, Nicole A., Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management


Introduction

Web-based communication technologies have collided during the past decade resulting in a meteoric paradigm shift that has permanently altered human discourse (Turkle, 2008). Previously held concepts of personal expression, privacy, and interpersonal relationships have been replaced by re-envisioned Web 2.0 conceptualizations. At the nucleus of this transformation are social networking technologies such as Facebook and Twitter, which are blurring the lines between our professional, personal, and academic lives.

Today's learners have had their world defined by Web 2.0 technologies. As digital natives, they are permanently tethered to ubiquitous, highly accessible, ever evolving technologies that transform users from passive consumers to prosumers (creators) of user-generated content exchanged through a host of networked communities. Empowered by technology, the current generation of students yearns for new means for self-expression and information sharing.

Educators seek ways to bridge the perceived technological chasm between tutor and tutee. The extent to which this chasm actually exists and the role of social networking technologies as part of a possible solution remain under exploration. Further, the degree to which students expect to see social networking technologies integrated into the learning process remains unclear. The following paper attempts to explore this issue by presenting the results of a study that examined the perceptions of management students who completed courses at a U.S. Mid-Atlantic minority-serving university during the spring of 2010 and throughout the 2011 academic year that used Facebook as an instructional tool. A survey of participating students found that the learners considered Facebook a valuable tool that helped to strengthen interpersonal relationships, build learning communities, and engage students. When asked to compare Facebook to the popular Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS) Blackboard was found to be better suited for course announcements and for providing links to course resources; the two systems were rated equal when it came to hosting study sessions, supporting group projects, and facilitating question and answer sessions, and Facebook was considered overwhelmingly superior for community building and facilitating class discussions.

In addition to the questionnaire, a content analysis was also conducted. Original postings rather than comments on the postings made by others were examined, categorized, and occurrences counted.

Literature Review

How does one define Web-based social networking? In its simplest form, social network services are computer applications that support the complex arrangement of connected nodes (people) with tools for storing and presenting information as well as communicating, connecting, and interacting with others (Buzzetto-More, 2012).

Social networking technologies are monumental in scope. The numbers, while growing exponentially, are unquestionably impressive. YouTube is the second largest search engine on the Web, 3.5 billion pieces of content are shared each week on Facebook, Twitter supports over 65 million tweets per day, in the U.S. 96% of 18-35 yr olds are on a social network, and 25% of search results for the World's top 20 largest brands link to user generated content (Morejon, 2010) Further, more than 67% of the global online population regularly visits a social network site, and social networking sites now collectively account for one in every eleven minutes people spend online (Kazeniac, 2010).

The top 10 social networking sites by market share for March of 2012 were reported by Experian. According to the data, Facebook holds a 63.28% market share, followed by YouTube (20%), and Twitter and Yahoo!Answers each at around 1% (Experian Hitwise, 2012). Table 1 presents the findings.

The current generation of students are digital natives who have been raised in a Web-enriched world where omnipresent technologies play an integral role in human life and where new innovations are quickly absorbed and assimilated. …

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