FACEBOOK IN THE UNIVERSITY ENVIRONMENT: TO WHAT EXTENT DO STUDENTS MAKE USE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES AND INSTANT MESSAGING APPLICATIONS FOR UNIVERSITY-RELATED WORK AND STUDYING?
Social Networking Sites (SNS) and Instant Messaging (IM) applications have become very popular in the last decade. This has brought about much academic debate on the usefulness of such sites and applications in different areas and work environments. The university environment is one such, as a gap seems to exist between the use students make of SNS and IM and the limited, or even lack of, official implementation and institutional use of them by lecturers and learning institutions. This paper aims to investigate to what extent university students make use of SNS and IM in relation with learning and university-related work. In order to do so, a survey was conducted among 116 university students. This paper focuses mainly on the SNS Facebook, as it is the most popular SNS in the world, both in terms of number of profiles and global penetration. However, students were also asked about their use of other SNS and IM applications in relation with university-related work and studies. Results show that answering surveys posted by other students (for their university work), being part of groups created for doing university work or studying and sharing university-related links are some of the education-related activities that students most perform on Facebook. Alongside Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and LinkedIn are the most popular SNS or IM applications when it comes to studying, doing and organizing university-related work. Some differences among girl and boy students can be inferred from the data though, although it was not the aim of this study to explore such differences and further research would be needed. The paper concludes that university students make good and ample use of SNS and IM applications for education-related purposes and a recommendation for lecturers to adopt these tools is made.