As the use of social networking and social media technologies (SNT) has become pandemic amongst young people (Tess, 2013; Falahah and Rosmala, 2012) there has been an increasing drive amongst educators and researchers to explore the ways in which SNT may be utilised within the classroom (Junco, 2012). Whilst there is therefore an increasing amount of literature available in relation to the use of SNT within the classroom it does not appear that there has been sufficient research considering the manner in which SNT results in the development of a complex, invisible and organic social network amongst students. When these networks exist outside of the classroom they may allow informal learning and peer support to occur. The purpose of this paper is to investigate these issues. Additionally this paper seeks to determine if the use of Facebook by students may provide an indication of the likelihood of student success on their course.
This paper utilises an empirical approach to explore the nature of these invisible networks and the degree to which the use of SNT by students outside of the classroom may provide support for student learning in relation to informal learning and social interaction. This study explores the use of Facebook through the use of a case study of one cohort of 90 creative arts students who undertook a one-year Foundation in Art and Design course within a specialist arts college in the UK. This research utilises the technique of social network analysis (SNA) in order to visualise the type of interactions that occur within the online network and the strength of these interactions (Dawson, 2008).
Results demonstrate that within this case study the creative arts student group created a complex and interrelated network of connections through Facebook with some students clearly placed at the centre of the network and others on the periphery. It is also demonstrated that those students who are more central within the network are more likely to remain on the course and achieve their qualification.
This paper demonstrates that SNA provides a useful and insightful way in which to visualise what would otherwise be an invisible network of connections made by students outside of the classroom. Furthermore this paper will provide an insight for teachers and researchers into the benefits of the use of SNT within education, which will have practical implications for the future use of SNT in teaching and learning.
Garcia, E., Elbeltagi, I.M., Dungay, K. and Hardaker, G. (2015), "Student use of Facebook for informal learning and peer support", International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 286-299. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJILT-09-2015-0024Download as .RIS
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