Exploring Facebook (FB) as an Online Tutorial Complement in Distance Education

Exploring Facebook (FB) as an Online Tutorial Complement in Distance Education

Adhi Susilo (Open University, Indonesia) and David Kaufman (Simon Fraser University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/ijopcd.2014100105
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Facebook (FB) has become the “communication portal” for social networking, which has rapidly transformed the way people communicate and stay connected. From an educational perspective, social networking sites have received ambiguous reviews. The authors explore FB use at an Asian distance university by ten domestic workers as students in an English course, as well as lecturer engagement with students in that course. Drawing on virtual ethnography and online qualitative interviews, this study relies on qualitative data that shows there are potential positive benefits to using FB for teaching and learning, particularly for the development of educational micro-communities. However, certain challenges need to be managed and are discussed.
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According to Ludlow and Duff (2009), the Internet has had a more dramatic influence on education than any previous technological innovation because it has allowed individuals of all ages to access education and training programs. However, the most dramatic changes have come most recently with the introduction of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 is a set of web-based applications that are fluid in nature (Lorenzetti, 2009). Its basic elements are communication and collaborative technologies that involve voice, video, social networking, and content sharing; the direction and content of these applications are established by their users. Web 2.0 technologies add a new dimension to online teaching and learning and provide opportunities for instructor-to-student as well as student-to-student real-time and time-delayed collaboration. These technologies have shifted the role of instructors from deliverers of instruction to that of facilitators of learning and have made learners the center of attention (Askov & Bixler, 1998; Beldarrain, 2006; Gunga & Ricketts, 2008). Falvo and Johnson (2007) note that Web 2.0 technologies are viewed as tools that will elevate teaching and learning from the structured and linear learning management system (LMS) environment to a dynamic, multi-dimensional environment.

Social networking sites (SNSs) have become increasingly popular with the rise of Web 2.0, providing increased collaboration and sharing among users through applications like wikis, blogs, podcasts, and RSS feeds. SNSs such as MySpace, Friendster and, most recently, Facebook (FB), are used by a great variety of people, both for social and professional purposes; youth, in particular, use these new technologies to communicate and stay connected (Castells, 2007). This popularity should help SNSs act as natural supports for educational activities if they are used effectively.

The study described in this article focused on use of the FB social networking site for distance education at an Indonesian distance university, the Open University of Indonesia (Universitas Terbuka or UT). It investigated students’ participation in online discussions and their feedback on the use of FB groups as the platform for the activity. Its subjects were Indonesian domestic workers living and working overseas, individuals that can benefit significantly from education but are challenging to engage and sustain in their learning efforts. The overall purpose of the study was to add to our understanding of the potential and challenges of educational applications that involve FB-supported information sharing.

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