1 Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel (BELGIUM)
2 Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel & K.U.Leuven (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 6094-6104
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
Social Media have been theme to much discussion in the educational community in recent years. A growing body of research has been carried out towards the educational utility of Facebook (FB), which is the most popular Social Network site at the moment. Visionary authors have early reported the potential of FB to transform the educational system, and to foster collaborative learning (e.g. Minocha, 2009; Selwyn, 2009). Yet, many students and instructors are resistant to the idea, and find it not appropriate, fearing the risk of losing their privacy and credibility (Roblyer, et al., 2010). Despite the divided opinions, FB was born inside a university and is known for evolving ahead of the trends.

The objectives of this study are to understand how higher education students are using FB to promote informal learning, as well as to investigate their perceptions about its use as a tool in more formal learning settings.

Grounded in an extensive literature review, a survey methodology was used. An online questionnaire was administered to address constructs and behavioural and demographic questions, which were based on prior research, but adapted to fit the context. The research embraces well-known theories like Uses and Gratification and the Technology Acceptance Model, as well as concepts that have not been much explored yet, like We-Intention (Tuomela R., 1995).

Data have been collected from 325 respondents. Latent variables were tested for internal consistency and validity and hypothesized relationships have been validated to understand individual differences.

Findings show that FB is a popular media of choice for communication among students when educational needs arise; even though the main motives for using FB are socialization and entertainment. For group tasks, FB is even preferred over other software of virtual collaboration like Google Docs and SkyDrive. Students find FB a suitable way to interact, exchange knowledge, and acquire more information about study-related topics and learning strategies. However, they are not sure whether this potential will produce a direct impact on grades and performance.

While results indicate that FB has not yet been used much in support of formal learning activities, the majority of students expressed preference for doing so. Additionally, the data indicate that this preference is positively related with the student’s previous exposure to such experience.

Globally the findings of this study display a more positive attitude than some previous studies have reported. It appears that the educational use of FB is a growing and hard-to-avoid trend. On one hand, FB is used for a variety of reasons and it has less specialized educational capabilities when compared to Learning Management Systems. On the other hand, it is unquestionably a powerful means of communication that may foster a more engaging, inspiring and collaborative learning approach. The challenge is to find the best way to make use of its strengths and potential to improve the learning process.
Higher education, Social Media, Facebook, e-learning.