College students prefer to use Facebook in their courses

Posted by reyjunco on January 17, 2012 in Research |

Students prefer Facebook over Twitter, Ning, and LMSOver the last year, I’ve conducted or collaborated on a number of studies examining the use of social media in the classroom. One thing has been clear from our observations in those studies: when given the choice of a number of social technologies to use as part of a course, students will overwhelmingly choose Facebook. This week, I finished analyzing new data showing this to be the case.

These data are from a follow-up to a Twitter study we conducted a few years ago using first-year students. We interviewed these students a year after the original study. While we found some interesting things about their preferences for technology use including their use of learning management systems, I don’t want to spoil the surprise as we’re writing those results up for an upcoming paper. When we asked students what they thought about using Twitter or Ning in their courses, they overwhelmingly responded with the ideas exemplified in these quotes:

I think [using Facebook] would’ve been easier and a little more comfortable for people because I think pretty much everyone in my class had a Facebook and nobody had either one of these things.

I think that [Facebook] is a lot easier for people to use and since people generally get on there every day they are going to see the stuff and invites a lot quicker than others.

Many of them went on to say how they independently used Facebook to organize study groups, to ask questions of fellow classmates, and to catch up on missed work.

Why do students prefer Facebook over other technologies? 

Almost every student in our sample gave us a variant of the same answer: all their friends/classmates are on Facebook, and it’s easy to use. In other words, Facebook has the user base in order to make academic conversations useful. Plus, since students are “always” on Facebook, it’s easy to see when new comments are made to a post from a class. Some of my research has shown that how students use Facebook is sometimes more important than time spent on the site in terms of grades and student engagement. Therefore, college faculty have an opportunity to engage students using Facebook and to help them use the site for educational good.

One way to use Facebook as part of a course.

I encourage faculty members who want to integrate Facebook into their courses to set up a Facebook group and use the group to continue class discussions, allow students to ask questions, and encourage students to post and comment on class-related links (news articles, etc.). In a paper that will be published shortly, we make the case for faculty to actively participate in such groups to increase student involvement and improve course performance.

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  • I received some very similar feedback from the graduate students who used Twitter in my course last semester.  I have been toying with using Facebook for my spring course (which begins in mid-February), but was actually thinking about setting up a course page that students could “like” rather than using a group.  Any thoughts on that approach?

  • I think that could certainly work depending on your purposes. Groups have better privacy settings and allow you to enable group chat (which our students have used very effectively). They also have the “ask question” feature for polling. Plus, the way that updates are displayed is different for groups (they follow traditional notification rules). 

  • Makes perfect sense – there is not learning curve.  I am using a “Facebook” group now with my online intro to social media class.  I think they would prefer to use the facebook group instead of blackboard or twitter.  Why it is easier to read, easier to post links/videos/photos and they live on facebook.  Look forward to learning more about your research.

  • I taught a graduate social media in higher education course last spring and required students to use Twitter, blogs, phpBB, etc. (http://blog.reyjunco.com/open-sourcing-online-education). As an afterthought, I created a Facebook group and it turns out that almost all of the interaction among students happened there.

  • Hi Kendra.  Just to let you know that we looked at both pages and groups as a way of pushing news from our VLE out to students on both Twitter and Facebook.  We went for pages as this is a simpler push mechanism and we wanted to keep the focus of activity and publishing within the VLE.  Just about to start on some preliminary feedback and analysis.

  • Guy: Please keep us posted… am curious to hear about your results.

  • Lori Ebert

    Great to see your work out here F*&%$ng Ray Junco!  It’s been almost a year since the Pearson event in Vegas!  My school system is rolling out iPads to all students in the next 30-60 days and findings like this makes a difference!  I’m sending system faculty to your sites!  Dr. Lori loriebert@hotmail.com

  • I used a facebook group instead of a page. I liked the polling feature and privacy settings. It seemed to work very well as a water cooler for an all online class for graduate students.  I think I would use a page instead if I were using it for the entire department/program.  Perhaps it depends on the purpose?

  • Would love to hear more about your class & research.  Will check out the link.  Curious what your syllabus looks like.

  • Profrmiles124

    I have used Facebook with my courses for three years now. The idea to use social media came after successfully integrating “Podcasting” as a supplemental learning aid to the classroom. The use of Facebook as a supplement to classroom instruction is one of the best decisions I’ve made as an instructor.  

  • Amchl30

    Hi Dr. Rey Junco,

    With your research on Facebook and students using it more for academic purposes, do you think it will get to a point where it will be mixing work with social life too much that students will lose even more focus and control. It is similar to the cliche “never mix business with pleasure”? I appreciate the site and your addressing of the Social Media in Higher Education topic as I am a young college student myself and use social media a lot


  • Hi Tony,

    Thanks for your question. My answer would be “it depends.” I think that if we, as academicians, co-opt Facebook in ways that aren’t well conceived, we run the risk of creating burnout from the technology. Email is a fantastic example. When emailing became popular on campus, universities emailed students about everything. That practice still goes on. It’s no wonder students don’t use their institutional emails. I’m less concerned with mixing “business with pleasure” as Facebook has some pretty good segregated spaces for both. 

    Rey Junco

  • Ted Myers

    Great article, Dr. Junco! 

    I was wondering if, from your research, you were able to gain any insight into the growing issues that students are beginning to have with facebook, beyond the academic purposes. Within your research, did you notice a trend of any discontent or frustration expressed by students for the social networking website as the site continuously regulates more, caters more to investors, and begins imposing more and more features upon users that they do not approve?

    Again, great article and some great insight for the academic community. Thanks!


  • Thanks Ted. In my interviews with students, very few are concerned about these issues. I suspect that we’ll soon see more student insight and later activism about these problems that signal a disregard for users. 

  • Faixazaki9

    do u have its research paper i really need it for my final year project

  • Josie Mills

    Hi Guy, I’m a prof. just setting up a page for my college classes. I’m wondering if I can just use one page for both courses and if everything I write there will appear in my feed for my normal friends to see. Any other suggestions for me? Thank you so much!

  • Chuck Devlin

    Just found this article. Wondering if you ever did any research on College Students using programs like “schoology.”

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