Category: Professional practice
|Teaching and Learning Forum 2011 [ Refereed papers ]|
Lisa Cluett and Hon Weng Benjamin Seah
The University of Western Australia
Australian universities have joined the growing global trend of building online student communities for recruitment, engagement and relationship building. Many of these communities are built using Facebook, including the one at UWA which was developed by Student Services in response to the annual survey of student ICT needs and skills. Now that communities are being part of mainstream university activities, there is a growing area of interest and research in generating benchmarking data, advice, standards and measurement in community building to determine the success of these engagement initiatives. Most of this benchmarking applies to communities aimed at marketing and recruiting potential students to the institution. For communities that prioritise the engagement of current and incoming students (including referral, demystification and explanation) this paper asserts that most meaningful way to determine the success of the online community is to gather a range of qualitative data from the community members themselves.
The move to take student engagement online is more recent. While teaching staff and academic development teams continue to work on delivering quality, flexible and assessable course content via institution-wide delivery systems; staff in non-teaching positions are confirming their roles in student engagement by delivering services, referring to programs, building connections, answering questions and building community using online tools. And while the evolution of learning management systems and integration with online classrooms, discussion boards, ePortfolios, wiki-type functionality has given greater opportunities for class-based interaction, the majority of non-course based student communities are built using external environments such as Ning, wikispaces, LinkedIn, Twitter and the market leader Facebook.
This paper builds on earlier work by Cluett (2010) that defined the establishment of an online student community in Facebook including the development of a content matrix to plan and monitor content. This paper examines the UWA Students Facebook community two years after establishment and focuses on the issue of defining success and carrying out evaluation. Findings from this action research assert that while there is a growing field of standards and metrics used to recommend growth, posts rate and user interaction; the most meaningful way of determining the success of a community aimed at engagement is to generate quantitative and qualitative feedback from members.
rnational Centre, Norwich University in the UK; Texas Southern University in the US) (Cluett & Skene, 2010).
So while it is almost expected now to see links to Twitter, YouTube and Flickr embedded in official university webpages, the use of online communities, particularly Facebook is often newsworthy in itself. For example, the 'race' between Texas A&M and Louisiana State Universities to gather 100,000 fans gained momentum and turned attention to the use of Facebook by higher education institutions. It is important at this stage to draw the distinction between Facebook fan pages that have a marketing/recruitment focus and those that have a community building/engagement purpose. Whilst these two aims are not mutually exclusive, very different communities are developed depending on the target audience, content and tone of the pages. The UWA Students fan page does not aim to actively recruit students; rather to create an online space where current students can learn more about their university, feel that they belong at our institution and to become connected to fellow students. Pages called, for example, 'University of St Andrews postgraduate recruitment' (UK) or 'St Mary's University recruitment' (Canada) clearly have their sights set outside the currently enrolled student population.
Most students interviewed indicated that they found out about the UWA Students Facebook page from their friends. This reinforces the power of the 'fan page' functionality whereby page activity appears in fans' news feeds for their friends to see. A small number of interviewees were also referred to the page by University staff and all interviewees joined the page the first time they heard about it. They perceived a range of benefits upon joining the page including feeling part of the UWA community, finding out about events and activities and interacting with other students. An important finding from the student interviews is that fans prefer to check page content via the updates that appear on their own pages rather than going to the Facebook fan page itself. This has important implications for the frequency of posts uploaded by page administrators - enough to remind fans about what's happening but not to the extent where fans are overwhelmed with too many updates. One of the interviewers explained this pattern of usage as
I very rarely check the page, it happens to all my other pages. I join other pages but I never really go to their page to follow their wall posts. Anything that comes to my news feed I will just read (quote from student interview)Students interviewed expressed a willingness to post content (questions, comments, 'likes') on the page, particularly if they had a query that might also apply to other students or if they knew the answer to a student-posted question because they had had a similar experience. Students also explained that they would use the Facebook page in conjunction with other services including face-to-face helpdesks and contacting individual staff directly.
When asked about the benefits gained from the page, students highlighted that they found it useful to hear about things happening on campus such as exam results being released, teams moving buildings on campus and students selling textbooks. Students also described instances where they felt part of the UWA community by being a fan of the page, for example
...I like to see the pictures posted by others because some people can really snap a fantastic view. For example, pictures of Winthrop Hall, the Japanese Garden and especially the photos and videos of the hailstorm. I even saw a picture that was posted when Student Services had a window washer on the same day I went to see my careers counsellor (quote from student interview)Those students who felt that they did not gain any direct benefits form the page still felt that the page would be of benefit to students starting their journey at UWA rather than those further on in their studies. Students all indicated that they didn't use the page to make new friends stating that they preferred to meet new friends face-to-face and then potentially connect with them in online communities. This suggests to page managers that students are not seeking to form new friendships through the page yet they experience other benefits from being part of the student community.
7 of the 10 students interviewed indicated that they found the page's wall to be the most useful feature of the page as it hosts the discussions and interactions by the page fans. The other 3 interviewees preferred the photo albums which showed activities happening around campus for reasons including:
People can see what's happening on campus...that's good. Because it's a big campus and not all students go to all parts...so they know what is happening through the page and it's a good way to get the message across. (quote from student interview)All students interviewed stated that they would continue to use the page in a similar way, possibly even after they graduate for a arrange of reasons including
...just in case of emergency or anything that comes up and it's within hands reach. So it's quite convenient to have around (quote from student interview)and interviewees indicated they were happy to recommend the page to other students. One interviewee explained the different types of students who might benefit from the page by categorising them into groups
Yes. I would recommend it to...1st year students because they will be able to get the most info. The 2nd category is Facebook addicts. The 3rd group is students who are ignorant about what's going on in Uni and want to know more about what's happening. Recommending to that group would make them more in touch and less ignorant. (quote from student interview)
Cluett, L. (2010). Online social networking for outreach, engagement and community: The UWA Students' Facebook page. In Educating for sustainability. Proceedings of the 19th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 28-29 January 2010. Perth: Edith Cowan University. Paper available from http://otl.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2010/refereed/cluett.html
Cluett, L.J. & Skene, J. (2010). The student-learning student-engagement nexus: how can non-teaching areas of the University use Web 2.0 tools to enhance the student experience? Chapter in Lee, M.J.W. & McLoughlin, C. (Eds), Web 2.0 is here: Applying Social Informatics for Tertiary Teaching. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Cluett, L.J. & Skene, J. (2010b). TechNODE bulletin 2010: an annual synopsis of student access to, experiences with and expectations of ICT at The University of Western Australia.
Hughes-Warrington, M. (2010). Keynote Presentation at the 2010 Teaching and Learning forum 'Educating for sustainability' Forum homepage http://otl.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf-pubs.html
Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) (2008). High Expectations and High Support. Austin, Texas: The University of Texas at Austin, Community College Leadership Program. Available from: http://www.ccsse.org/publications/2008_National_Report.pdf [Accessed 6 September 2010]
Jenkins, H. (2008). Hanging out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: A conversation with the Digital Youth Project (Part 2). Available from: http://www.henryjenkins.org/ [Accessed 4 September 2010]
Krause, K. (2005a). Understanding and promoting student engagement in university learning communities. Available from: http://www.cshe.unimelb.edu.au/pdfs.stud_eng.pdf [Accessed 11 August 2010]
Krause, K. (2005b). Who is the e-generation and how are they faring in higher education? In J. Lockhard & M.Pegrum (Eds), Brave New Classrooms: Educational Democracy and the Internet. New York: Peter Lang
Krause, K. (2005c). The changing student experience: Who's driving it and where is it going? Student Experience Conference: Good Practice in Practice, Charles Sturt University 5-7 September 2005. Available from: http://www.csu.edu.au/division/studserv/sec/papers/krause.pdf [Accessed 4 September 2010]
Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Student speak their mind. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
M+R Strategic Services (2010). 2010 Nonprofit Social Media Benchmark study. Available from http://www.e-benchmarksstudy.com/socialmedia [accessed 12th October 2010)
McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M. J. W. (2007). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007. Available from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/mcloughlin.pdf [Accessed 23 April 2010]
Markwell, D. (2007). A large and liberal education: Higher education for the 21st century. Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing.
Oblinger, D.G. & Oblinger, J.L. (Eds) (2005). Educating the Net Generation. [online] Educause e-book available from http://www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen/ [Accessed 4 August 2010]
Oliver, B. & Goerke, V. (2007). Australian undergraduates' use and ownership of emerging technologies: Implications and opportunities for creating engaging learning experiences for the Net Generation. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 23(2), 171-186. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet23/oliver.html
Pesce, M. (2007). Challenges and Opportunities: Peer-produced knowledge and Australian education. Available from: http://blogs.educationau.edu.au/gputland/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/challenges-and-opportunities.doc [Accessed 20 October 2010]
Skene, J., Cluett, L. & Hogan, J. (2007). Engaging Gen Y students at university: what web tools do they have, how do they use them and what do they want? Refereed paper presented at the First Year in Higher Education conference, Brisbane, Australia, 3rd-6th July 2007. Available from: http://www.studentservices.uwa.edu.au/page/108244
|Please cite as: Cluett, L. & Seah, H.W.B. (2011). Measuring success: A case study in evaluating an online community using the Facebook fan page for UWA students. In Developing student skills for the next decade. Proceedings of the 20th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 1-2 February 2011. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://otl.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2011/refereed/cluett.html|
Copyright 2011 Lisa Cluett and Hon Weng Benjamin Seah. The authors assign to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format, provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.