Facebook, Student Engagement, and the ‘Uni Coffee Shop’ Group
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While the curriculum, lecturers and tutors teaching Internet Communications via Open Universities Australia (OUA) have been engaging with students for several years using Twitter (see Leaver, 2012), ...

While the curriculum, lecturers and tutors teaching Internet Communications via Open Universities Australia (OUA) have been engaging with students for several years using Twitter (see Leaver, 2012), in the past Facebook had been largely left alone since this was viewed as a more casual space where students might interact with each other, but not with teaching staff. However, in the last two years, more and more students have created groups to use Facebook as a discussion space about their units, often attracting a significant proportion of students from that unit. While these groups are important, of even more interest is the establishment of the group called the ‘Uni Coffee Shop’. Unlike the unit-specific groups, the Coffee Shop group, established by two Internet Communications students but open to anyone studying online via OUA, affords group support, social connectivity and a persistent online space for conversation which does not disappear or grow stagnant when students complete a specific unit.

This paper will outline an investigation into the effectiveness of the Uni Coffee Shop group as a student-created space for engagement and informal learning. Three modes of inquiry were used: a textual analysis of the common topics of discussion in the group over several months; a quantitative survey of members of the Coffee Shop group; and several follow-up qualitative interviews with Coffee Shop group members, including the two students who administer the group. In addition, the paper includes the perspectives of teaching staff who have been invited to join the group by students and who, at times, answer specific questions and engage with students in a less formal manner. In detailing the results of these mechanisms, this paper will argue that fostering student-run spaces of engagement using Facebook can be a very effective means to create spaces of engagement and informal learning (Krause & Coates, 2008; Greenhow & Robelia, 2009); the support students give each other can persist over the length of an entire degree; and teaching staff engaging with students in their space, often on their terms, can create a better rapport and a stronger sense of connectivity over the length of a student’s entire degree (and potentially beyond). A student-run Facebook group also provide a space where teaching staff and students can interact using the affordances of Facebook without staff having to explicitly ‘friend’ students (something many staff are reluctant to do for a range of reasons).
References
Greenhow, C., & Robelia, B. (2009). Informal learning and identity formation in online social networks. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 119 - 140.

Krause, K., & Coates, H. (2008). Students’ engagement in first‐year university. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(5), 493-505. doi:10.1080/02602930701698892
Leaver, T. (2012). Twittering informal learning and student engagement in first-year units.
http://bit.ly/twitterchapter

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Facebook, Student Engagement, and the ‘Uni Coffee Shop’ Group Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Facebook, Student Engagement,and the ‘Uni Coffee Shop’ GroupDr Tama Leaver / @tamaleaver 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 2. Informal Learning? Student engagement: student learning is best facilitated by the inclusion of not just academic elements, but also non-academic and social activities somehow related to learning activities or learning spaces (Krause & Coates, 2008). Informal Learning: those unplanned interactions, exchanges and connections which broadly contribute to meaningful learning without being explicitly driven by curriculum (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009). (Physical co- presence a big driver!)Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 3. Uni Coffeeshop Group c.300 members. Open Universities of Australia (OUA) students, in various degree, high proportion of Internet Communications students Two admins (both Internet Communications students, 1 near-finished, 1 completed). Strong community guidelines (eg no swearing except specific ‘swears’ thread once a Study Period).Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 4. Uni Coffeeshop Group Survey: Demographics 47 responses 87.2% Female (41 responses); 10.6% male (6 responses) 62% 31-50 years old (2% under 18; 25% 18-30; 11% 50+) 72.3% (34) been using Facebook for 3 or more years; 23.4% for 2-3 years (11); 4.3% (2) 1-2 years. 28% use Facebook 20+ hours/wk; 28% 11-20 hrs/wk; 23% 6-10hrs/wk; 17% 2-5hrs/wk; 4% 1-2hrs/wk.Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 5. Uni Coffeeshop Group Survey:Membership DurationInternet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 6. Uni Coffeeshop Group Survey:Weekly Time Spent in GroupInternet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 7. Uni Coffeeshop Group Survey:Group Access by DevicesInternet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 8. Importance of receiving practical support …Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 9. Importance of giving practical support … Slightly more people give than receive practical support.Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 10. Types of practical support … Technical (LMSs, unit software). Administrative (enrolments, course structures, especially due to multiple universities providing OUA courses). Essays (how to start, how to keep going, research) Referencing (mentioned by many!) NB: Several mentioned past student experience out of date (units, assignments or procedures changed) – have to be careful with wisdom of the crowds.Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 11. Importance of giving social support …Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 12. Importance of receiving social support … Receiving social support still very important, but slightly less important that giving support. (Social overall more important than practical support.)Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 13. Types of social support … “virtual cheerleaders” encouragement to persist and achieve, and congratulations/condolences with results “Daily humour”; “fun and laughter”; “bacon movies and uses of a #hose” (group in-jokes / memes) “General chit-chat” “encouragement, commiseration , humour (very important) knowing other people are in the same mindset, place, under the same stress = belonging”Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 14. Broader Facebook ecology of learning groups … 87% of Uni Coffeeshop members also members of unit-specific groups (on average, spend more time in unit groups).Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 15. Uni Coffeeshop & unit-specific groups … “Similarities: mostly study-based conversations. Differences: Coffee Shop has more generalised conversations than the specific ones found in unit based groups. Also, as people dont move on after completing just one unit, the relationships tend to develop a little deeper.” Most mentioned longevity of Coffeeshop leads to more social. Some found less-moderated unit groups allowed for more freedom (eg swearing not allowed by Coffeeshop admins).Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 16. Students running the group vitally important …Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 17. Tutors/lecturers as participants does influencegroup discussion …Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 18. What do members gain from membership? “I get a sense of belonging to a group - even though we interact with other students on the db this membership changes every SP - there is a sense of continuity in the Uni Coffee Shop. Its nice to be able to talk to others who are facing the same difficulties, challenges and sharing our triumphs :)” “In one word? Fellowship. I dont have actual onversations with other adults on a daily basis, so the coffee shop is great in that I can chat about something other than "Dora", or "The Wiggles"!”Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 19. What do members gain from membership? “Reassurance I am not the only one suffering from lack of motivation/difficulties studying by distance/online. That said it only comes from reading, not so much participating. Im rather intimidated by the leadership/long term students.” “I think the group provides a sense of social interaction that is otherwise lacking in online study. I think it replaces, at least partially, the "Tavern Studies 101" that on-campus students can access.”Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 20. Initial Conclusions … Student-run Facebook groups clearly provide important spaces for informal learning and support not otherwise easily available to online learners. Social support appears to be the most important ‘missing’ thing this group provides. Some dangers in past/out-dated information being put forward as current Role of lecturers/tutors in this space at times unclear (but probably important in clarifying information).Internet Research 13, Salford. 21 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  • 21. Questions, Criticism, Comments? Or find me later … www.tamaleaver.net @tamaleaver t.leaver@curtin.edu.auInternet Research 13, Salford. 20 October 2012Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of TechnologyCRICOS Provider Code 00301J