TITLE

Academic Group and Forum on Facebook: Social, Serious Studies or Synergy?

AUTHOR(S)
Villiers, Ruth de; Pretorius, Marco Cobus
PUB. DATE
January 2012
SOURCE
Proceedings of the European Conference on Information Management;2012, p63
SOURCE TYPE
Conference Proceeding
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
An academic group and discussion forum were established on Facebook for a cohort of postgraduate students studying the concepts and principles of eLearning. The Forum had a constructivist, student-centric ethos, in which students initiated topics for discussion, while the course leader and administrator facilitated. Previous research has been conducted, involving content analysis of the topics and academic discourse, but the present study focuses on social aspects, investigating social- and study-related pursuits and determining whether synergy can exist between them. A literature review shows how social networking by students, initially social, began to overlap with academia, leading to the use of groups for academic purposes and forums for subject-related discussions. In the present study, data was triangulated and two methods of data analysis were used. Qualitative analysis was done on free-text data from students' reflective essays to extract socially-related themes. Heuristic evaluation was conducted by expert evaluators, who investigated forum discourse in line with contemporary learning theory and who considered the social culture of participation. Findings of the qualitative analysis of students' perceptions and results of the heuristic evaluation of forum participation confirmed each other, indicating a warm social climate and a conducive, well-facilitated environment that supported individual participation styles. It fostered inter-personal relationships between distance learners, as well as study-related relationships due to peer teaching and insights acquired from social negotiation. The environment supported student-initiative, but was moderated by facilitators. The mixed-methods research approach of evaluating students' essays and conducting expert analysis of forum discussions showed the advent of a virtual community with a synergy between social aspects and academia. Most participants experienced a sound balance of social- and study-related benefits, but with a stronger focus on academic matters.
ACCESSION #
82397554

 

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