The Use of Social Networking by Higher Education Institutions in Spain: A Comparative Analysis Employing the Facebook Assessment Index (FAI)

The Use of Social Networking by Higher Education Institutions in Spain: A Comparative Analysis Employing the Facebook Assessment Index (FAI)

F. Javier Miranda (Department of Business Management and Sociology, University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain), Antonio Chamorro (Department of Business Management and Sociology, University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain) and Sergio Rubio (Department of Business Management and Sociology, University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/JCIT.2016040102


The objective of this study was to analyse the use Spanish universities are making of the main social network today: Facebook. The research adapts to the Higher Education Institutions context an evaluation index denominated FAI that has been used in other areas. It applies the index to all of Spain's universities, making comparisons between them and the best universities in the world. The results show that Spanish universities' indices are far from the values obtained by the best international universities, and that the country's private universities have better results than the public ones. It is an intention of the work to contribute to the tools the marketing managers of higher education institutions might use in how they relate to social networks and to the opportunities and threats these pose.
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Since the creation of Facebook in 2004, there has been a continuous growth in the use of social networks in both the private and the professional spheres. Today, together with private profiles, there coexist the profiles or pages of businesses, public institutions, and non-profit organizations of all kinds. Naturally, the education sector has not been immune to this social phenomenon. The presence of primary and secondary schools, universities, and teachers is common on the major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Social networks have various applications in the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) world. They can be used in teaching, in research and knowledge transfer, and in the university's management. In the first case, social networking has found applications primarily in the contexts of informal learning and entertainment. “However there is a growing interest in its use in formal education in face-to-face, distance, and blended modes” (Anderson, 2009). Some experts believe social networking in general and Facebook in particular to be “a vital tool for teaching and learning in the 21st century and for making education more social” (The Education Foundation, 2013), especially if one understands learning to be a “typically interactive, student centred, collaborative, and on demand” process.

According to Roblyer et al. (2010), “the social and interactive nature of SNSs presents the intriguing possibility that by enhancing social interactions with and among students through the use of an SNS such as Facebook, teachers can increase the overall quality of engagement in a given instructional setting, and thus create a more effective learning environment.”

The use of Facebook and other social networks in HEI teaching raises such questions as: What is the acceptance of their use by teachers and students? How should they be used? How do they differ from other tools such as forums and e-learning platform chats? What should the teacher's role be? How can the participants' privacy be ensured? What are their effects on cognitive and affective learning? Although still few and inconclusive, there have been some studies which report the experiences of teaching in this line, and which discuss some of these questions (Madge et al., 2009; Ophus & Abbitt, 2009; Roblyer et al.; 2010; Espuny et al., 2011; Wo et al., 2012; Irwin et al., 2012; Veletsianos & Kimmons; 2013; Jong et al., 2014).

With regard to its influence on learning, early research showed that SNS use during courses had positive impacts on student motivation, classroom climate, and student-faculty relationships (McCarthy, 2010; Panckhurst & Marsh, 2011; Wang et al., 2012).

Social networks are also beginning to have a significant presence in the context of university research. Research is a social activity, and the emergence of new specialized social networks such as ResearchGate, Methodspace, and Academia is allowing university researchers not only to communicate their research and findings more rapidly, broadly, and effectively than ever before, but also to build and exploit personal networks in order to establish collaborations and further their careers. According to Rebiun (2010), social networks and other so-called “Web 2.0” tools allow researchers to share:

  • The investigation itself. The Web provides the necessary resources for researchers to share their work, whether it is in an initial phase or under critical review;

  • The resources useful for the research, such as references, objects of learning, links, information, and documents;

  • The research results, mainly through blogs, open access journals, and open archives or repositories.

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