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Roger Andrews, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Definitions and background

The advance of social networking sites (SNS) has been one of the most significant phenomena in digital technology in recent time (Ranieri, Mamca, & Fini, 2012). According to Aydin (2012), an SNS is an online site that provides users with the platform where they can construct social relations with other members who have the same interests and are involved in similar activities. Facebook is an SNS that enables individuals to make connections and form communities without the worry of temporal or spatial constraints (Lin, Hou, Wang, & Chang, 2013). Facebook was developed by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, and is now the most prevalent SNS with the largest quantity of global Internet traffic (Wang, Lin, Yu, & Wu, 2013). Throughout the world, the number of Facebook users is estimated at 179 million active monthly users in North America, 229 million in Europe, and 212 million in Asia (Wang et al. 2013). Users over the age of 13 are able to create and modify personal profiles, add members, exchange messages and chat online (Aydin, 2012). Aydin (2012) observed that this SNS offers the possibility for its members to organize themselves into groups based on personal and professional connections which can include such things as education, occupation, interests, hobbies, or political and religious beliefs.


Lin et al. (2012) indicated that the ease of accessibility of Facebook makes it an important asset so that young adults can freely and easily intermingle with one another which in turn, promotes social interaction. Both educators and administrative staff can use SNS to provide academic and emotional support to their students outside of class time. (Lin et al., 2012). Facebook can also be accredited with the reduction of loneliness for students and because of this; educators need to look at using SNS for their universities (Lou, Nickerson & McMorris, 2012). Many of the components that are integrated into Facebook can also aid students to become more organized within their courses and can help reduce the cost associated with setting up another avenue whereby students can easily communicate (Lampe, Wohn, Vitak, Ellison, & Wash, 2011). The use of Facebook simplifies the process of organizing a large network of connections by providing the user with a number of different options to communicate (Lampe et al., 2011). Meishar-Tai, Kurtz, and Pieterse (2012) found that by using Facebook, students have the opportunity to be involved in a very intensive and collaborative learning process because of the dynamic features and special structures that set it apart from learning management systems. Facebook affords the creation of closed groups that permit asynchronous and synchronous interactions between members, which in turn, allows for the easy sharing of links to Websites, documents and pictures (Meishar-Tai et al., 2012). The use of Facebook also provides students with access to their instructor and helps them to perceive their instructor as being more human and trustworthy (Meishar-Tai et al., 2012). “Facebook has made it possible to create closed groups that allow asynchronous and synchronous interaction between members” (Meishar-Tai, Kurtz, & Pieterse, 2012, p. 33). Meishar-Tai et al. (2012) also observed that Facebook enables the sharing of information that includes such things as websites, text documents, and pictures. Rambe (2012a) found that when students adopted Facebook as an information source for browsing peers’ questions and conversing with them before developing another viewpoint, they were able to use it as a resource to facilitate learning. It can be used to extend a student’s access to a wide range of educational information to support student learning (Rambe, 2012a). Aydin (2012) indicated that the use of Facebook allows for an easier flow of communication between the teacher and the student. Raniere, Manca, and Fini (2012) had similar findings and noted that Facebook encourages visibility and includes characteristics that can assist networking and increase the efficiency of the sharing of resources.


Meishar-Tai et al. (2012) pointed to the fact that one of the major problems associated with using Facebook was the willingness for both teachers and students to become “friends” because they felt they were exposing themselves. Many teachers were unwilling to expose their personal lives with their students and vice versa (Rambe, 2012a). Wang, Woo, Quek, Yang and Liu (2012) found that Facebook does not provide a safe environment and that students perceive privacy is reduced. Hew (2011) observed that there is a potential privacy issue related to the use of Facebook because of the access to personal information. “The dynamic structure of Facebook content was a serious problem for students who found it difficult to locate important information they wanted to retrieve during learning” (Meishar-Tai et al., 2012, p. 43). Meishar-Tai et al. (2012) also noted that the dynamic structure is perceived by some students to be a load weighing on their daily routine. Lin et al. (2012) found that just simply including Facebook into the daily teaching activity does not spontaneously lead to a collaborative learning environment; there is still a need for pedagogical practices to ensure insightful and significant discussions. Souleles (2012) discovered that it may not be possible to convince all students that Facebook is more than just a social space and that there are educational benefits in using this SNS. Pimmer, Linxen and Grohbiel (2012) observed that within Facebook there are no devices to ensure the quality and reliability of the learning content that is offered. The educational material provided could simply be copied from some source which may violate copyright laws (Primmer et al. 2012). It was also identified that Facebook did not enable deep engagement of learners in the form of comprehensive discussion (Primmer et al. 2012). Madge, Meek, Wellens, and Hooley (2009) observed that many students did not view Facebook as an educational site, but instead viewed it important merely for social reasons. Aydin (2012) observed that the use of Facebook may have harmful repercussions on those involved, including inappropriate behavior, abuse, cyber bullying, and invasion of privacy. Aydin found that students need more decisive guidelines when becoming involved in SNS like Facebook. The researcher also observed that “as research results indicate that Facebook is an effective tool in social learning, e-learning, environment learning, business, art, and chemistry education, more practices and research are needed in other fields of education” (p. 1102).


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Works Cited

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Cheung, C., Chiu, P., & Lee, M. (2011). Online social networks: Why do students use Facebook? Computers in Human Behavior, 24(4), 1337-1343.

Davies, J. (2011). Facework on Facebook as a new literacy practice. Computers & Education, 59(1), 19-29. doi: 10.1016/jcompedu.2011.11.007

Hew, K. (2011). Students’ and teachers’ use of Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(2), 662-676. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.01041.x

Junco, R. (2011). The relationship between frequency of Facebook use, participation in Facebook activities, and student engagement. Computers & Education, 58(1), 162-171. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.08.004

Lampe, C., Wohn, D., Vitak, J., Ellison, N. & Wash, R. (2011). Student use of Facebook for organizing collaborative classroom activities. International Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 6, 329-347. doi: 10.1007/s11412-011-9115-y

Lin, P., Hou, H., Wang, S. & Chang, K., (2012). Analyzing knowledge dimensions and cognitive process of a project-based online discussion instructional activity using Facebook in an adult and continuing education course. Computer & Education, 60(1), 110-121.

Lou, L., Yan, Z., Nickerson, A. & McMorris, R. (2012). An Examination of the reciprocal relationship of loneliness and Facebook use among first year college students. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 46(1), 105-117.

Madge, C., Meek, J., Wellens, J. & Hooley, T. (2009). Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: ‘It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work’. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 141-155. doi: 10.1080/17439880902923606

Mazman, S. & Usluel, Y. (2010). Modeling educational usage of Facebook. Computers & Education, 55(1), 444-453. doi: 10.1016/jcomedu.2010.02.008

Meishar-Tai, H., Kurtz, G. & Pieterse, E. (2012). Facebook groups as LMS: A case study. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4), 34-48.

Pimmer, C., Linxen, S, & Grohbiel, U. (2012). Facebook as a learning tool? A case study on the appropriation of social network sites from mobile phones in developing countries. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 726-738. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01351.x

Rambe, P. (2012). Activity theory and technology mediated interaction: Cognitive scaffolding using question-based consultation on Facebook. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(8), 1333-1361.Retrieved from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet28/rambe-2.html

Rambe, P. (2012). Critical discourse analysis of collaborative engagement in Facebook postings. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(8), 295-314. Retrieved from http://ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet28/rambe.html

Ranieri, M., Manca, S. & Fini, A. (2012). Why (and how) do teachers engage in social networks? An exploratory study of professional use of Facebook and its implications for lifelong learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 754-769. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01356.x

Souleles, N. (2012). Perceptions of undergraduate graphic design students on the educational potential of Facebook. Research in Learning Technology, 20, 241-252

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Wang, J., Lin, C., Yu, W. & Wu, E. (2013). Meaningful engagement in Facebook learning environment: Merging social and academic lives. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14(1), 302-322. Retrieved from: http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde50/articles/article_26.htm

Wang, Q., Woo, H., Quek, C., Yang, Y. & Liu, M. (2011). Using the Facebook group as a learning management system: An exploratory study. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(3), 428-438. doi: 10.1111/j.467-8535.2011.01195.x