Using Social Networks Communication Platform for Promoting Student-Initiated Holistic Development Among Students

Using Social Networks Communication Platform for Promoting Student-Initiated Holistic Development Among Students

Joseph Chi Ho So (Hong Kong Community College, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China) and Siu Yuen Lam (Hong Kong Community College, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China)
DOI: 10.4018/ijisss.2014010101


This article follows previous research works on the possibility of applying online social networks for educational purposes, and mainly focuses on how Facebook is being used as a platform to communicate among students of a student development project run by a local tertiary institute in Hong Kong which aimed to facilitate promotion and foster participation and interaction. The study takes on the perspectives from 7 student coaches and evaluate on the positive achievement as well as difficulties in promoting self-initiated holistic development via Facebook from 2011 to 2013. The study shows that instant interaction between participants and student coaches via Facebook leads to faster and more effective information circulation compared to traditional communication channels such as email, posters or bulletins. However, the lack of proactive discussions initiated by participants themselves, and the difficulties in establishing and maintaining active interactions between coaches and participants had been observed. Such passive practice by participants has hindered the effectiveness of fostering self-initiated holistic development.
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Introduction: Using Online Social Network As New Learning Support

Under the new era of internet and cyber societies, online social networking has fast become as a popular mode of virtual communication which has fundamentally transformed the ways people interact with each other. Individuals are increasingly inclined to develop social relationships via popular virtual social networking websites or applications, first through Xanga and MySpace, and now via Facebook and Twitter. These websites or virtual spaces encourage users to share and publish selected personal information which permits others to know about themselves.

In addition, people can use these platforms to establish and also maintain close relationships with their real-life friends, colleagues, classmates and family members. Such engagement to keep existing and establish new relationships via virtual communities leads to an ever-expanding sharing culture which allows people to access infinite amount of information from various sources for different purposes (Wasko & Faraj, 2005). In particular, many popular online social networking websites have been established, occupied and run by tertiary students at their leisure time (Madge, Meek, Wellens, & Hooley, 2009; Subrahmanyam, Reich, Waechter, & Espinoza, 2008).

Some depict the teenage nowadays in metropolitan cities as the Generation Media, alias ‘Generation M’, who is media-savvy and possess technological know-how and rely heavily on multimedia in their daily lifestyle (Roberts & Foehr, 2005; Vie, 2008). They do not treat computers and the Internet as a separate part from their everyday lives; rather it is part of it (Oblinger, 2003). Palfrey and Gasser (2008) suggest the concept of “digital natives” and describes the new generation as “born digital”. Although their arguments may have over-generalised the impact of internet technologies, and ignored the effect of housing or school locations, access, family background in effecting their online habits (Bennett, S., & Maton, K., 2010; Corrin, L., Lockyer, L., & Bennett, S., 2010; Hargittai, 2010; Jones, 2010; Jones & Cross, 2009; Kennedy et al., 2008), they are convincing in pointing out that the ‘Generation M’ in general have been literate in multi-media technology during their early learning experience, thus needs a new, creative way of teaching and learning.

Earlier research pays more attention to utilising informational technology as supplement of traditional academic learning strategies such as literacy and writing skills (DeVoss & Porter, 2006;; Hart-Davidson, Cushman, Grabill, DeVoss, & Porter, 2005; Vie, 2008; Yancey, 2004). However, some see the early mastery of information technology skills and habit of using online social networking among teenagers as a breakthrough that can reach new terrains of students’ life. Besides offering users to make new friends and play online games, these networks allow teachers and school counsellors a new way to maintain contact with the students off the normal class hours. More importantly, young people’s online social behaviour may not necessarily be negative; in fact, research illustrates that their engagement can bring physical and psychological well-being (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Steinfield, Ellison, & Lampe, 2008). That means if we can look carefully into the different learning styles and expectations of our “net generation” (Williams & Chinn, 2009), and can utilise a social system effectively between individuals (both students and teaching staff) who have a shared academic context (Hwang, Kessler, & Francesco, 2004), the rapid growth and prevalence of online social networks can become a useful educational tool that can foster communication, interaction and collaborations between students, teachers, counsellors and curriculum planners.

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