Technical Blog: Social Networking, A Missed Opportunity

This is an initial review of the topic which I did not complete as it is no longer required.  I have posted it here as an example for my students.

Technical Blog: Social Networking, A Missed Opportunity?

The development of Web 2.0 technology and the continuing transition towards Web 3.0 technology has helped to contribute to a massive increase in the number of social networking site users. For example, Facebook now has more than one million active monthly users which is increasing year on year (, 2014) and accounts for nearly 50% of the social network market (, 2015); where 61% of the world’s population uses social networking tools ( 2015b).  Providing a possible gateway for educational establishments to present and extend learning across their student population.

Dalsgaard (2008) provided a definition of social networking, indicating that “each individual has a personal page and profile, which the individual develops and modifies.”  However, Boyd & Ellison (2007) suggested that social networking sites must include a list of other members who “share a connection.”  More recent definitions extend this by including keywords like ‘communities’ and ‘interaction’ ( 2015; 2015) bring the process of using social networks within the constructivist domain and the theory of community of practice, as expressed by Lave & Wenger (1991, p.98).

Subrahmanyam (et al. 2008) highlighted that adults used different platforms to improve real-life interaction and position within communities.  Further, DiMicco (et al. 2008) discovered that ‘professionals’ use networking to develop and strengthen their position within the organisation,  arguing that this increases their career prospects and promotes their projects. Other studies have shown that social networking increased self-esteem, well-being, and satisfaction whilst participating within social networking experiences (Valkenburg et al. (2006); Bennett et al. (2010)).  Suggesting that social networking sites such as Facebook can be used to support the students’ transition into the university and during their journey to graduation.

Social Networking As A Social/ Learning Support Tools

It has been identified (Hung & Yuen (2010); Yu et al. (2010)) that students who engaged with the university using social networking experienced ‘a sense of community’ and assign more positive feelings to their learning experiences, further supporting Valkenburg et al. (2006) and Bennett et al. (2010). However, Tsai & Men (2013) concluded that for a social networking experience to be successful the student needs to believe that the producers (staff and university) must have credibility within the domain.  This suggests that the use of social networking during the learning experience can increase student satisfaction rating for modules, courses, and the university life when the content is credible (Madge et al. (2009); Morris et al. (2010); Yang & Brown (2013)).

Where students engaged with ‘mentors’ within the university, Pollara & Zhu (2011) suggests that social networking increases the student’s level of satisfaction and the student believed that they have a much stronger learning experience.  However, a one sizes fit all approach is likely to face the same old issues associated with this methodology.  For example Clipson et al. (2012) identified that gender expectations of social networking are very different and therefore the satisfaction of each gender group offer different levels of course satisfaction.  Whereas Mikami et al. (2010) suggest that the use of social networking during early teenage years influences the use of social networking in the late teenage years and early twenties.  To support this Taylor et al. (2012) and Madge et al. (2009) found that students were disengaging with social networking tools which formed formal learning experiences.  This suggests that there needs to be a balance between the formal and informal use of social networking.

There is an ethical consideration around harness the power of social networking to engage and support students.  There is evidence that social networking can be used to identify and support people  (Moreno et al. (2011); Youn et al. (2013); Maher et al. (2014); Park et al. (2015)) but recent attempts to harness social networking data , such as the Samaritans Radar has backfired (Orme (2014); Dave (2014)).  However, simple holistic text mining strategies used in customer relationship management tools which access a range social networking sites can be used to track the level of students negatively and positively towards the university.  When combined with a simple keyword stop list (department, teaching, computing, business, history) this can highlight student satisfaction with their course and the university.  This data can also be crossed referenced with student voice opportunities.

Social Networking As A Productivity Tool

However, there are other advantages which social networking offers.  For example, Zyl (2009) suggested that an increased use of social networking actually increases productivity and workflow.  Pollara & Zhu (2011) findings support this position and highlighted the need for a balance between work and personal usage of social networking. There are constraints such as the line managers attitude (Zyl (2009)) and the individual personal use and attitudes toward social media (Roblyer et al. (2010)).  Alongside, the different expectations and usage between gender (Clipson et al. (2012)) and students engagement (Taylor et al. (2012)).

Social Networking As A learning tool

What is clear is the way which students engage with social networking.  Pempek et al. (2009) indicate that students spend more time observing the information flow within media threads than actually posting.  However, Jabr (2011) argues that the critical thinking skills of students are generally poor and therefore collaborative learning via social networking is little more than ‘social communication.’ The difficulty is how this student observation or passive experience can be tracked and measured for learning attainment.

As indicated previously the creditability of the information provider and the attitudes towards social networking is a common constraint. However, Sullivan et al. (2013) highlighted that the (Kolb’s) learning style of the information provider(s) impacted the student’s satisfaction levels and the way in which they viewed the course materials.  Although, there are criticisms aimed at Kolb’s learning styles and inventory (Chavan (2011); Koob & Funk (2002)).

In Summary

Social networking can support the satisfaction levels of students by promoting engagement within the university community as longs as the producers’ are authentic and the student does not feel overload with posts.  This approach can also increase staff productivity; however, the producers need to be aware of the gender difference in information consumption.   Finally, there appears to be little evidence that Facebook and similar sites can support a measurable learning experience and I will defer to research conducted on similar tools such as forums and blogs.