Integration and Use of Social Networking Platforms for student retention and pertinenceMay 6, 2010
By Raymond Rosario, IT Services Specialist, Title V
Thanks to the technological advances in day to day communication methods, online social networking platforms have become an everyday tool for student socialization and interaction. Among the most prolific online social networking platforms is Facebook.com. According to Bugeja (2006), Facebook is an online social network providing college students with a “fascinating, interactive,image-laden directory featuring groups that share attitudes or lifestyles”. Kord (2008) mentions that for students, the Facebook website serves as a social hub where information is shared through profiles and that these profiles are individual web areas where students provide information in a preset format that allows for flexibility in the amount and type of personal disclosure and content. College student involvement in online social networking has increased considerably since 2004, and for many college students interacting on online social networking websites is a daily activity (Bugeja, 2006; Capriccioso, 2006; Finder,
2006; Hirsch, 2006; Kim, 2005; Quindlen, 2006; Shier, 2005). Evidence supports that online social networking websites and platforms such as Facebook are a significant trend especially within the Millennial generation (Anderson, 2001; Bugeja, 2006; Ellison, Lampe & Steinfeld, 2006; Gemmill & Peterson, 2006; Gosling, Gaddis & Vazire, 2007; Gross, Acquisti & Heinz, 2005; Hewitt & Forte, 2006; Lampe, Ellison & Steinfeld, 2006; Read, 2005; Ridings, Gefen & Arinze, 2002; Ridings & Gefen, 2004). Besides Facebook being the most prolific and ubiquitous online social networking platform, according to Bugeja (2006) Facebook is unique among social networking websites because it creates institution specific networks. Facebook members who join using their college assigned e-mail address are automatically positioned in their institution specific social network.
According to Bainbridge (2005), in “The Facebook Campus: Exploring the Evolution of Facebook Culture in University Students, the interactions that students have with peers, faculty and other campus community members influence the impression of university commitment to, and retention of students. Campus culture shapes much of the interaction that students experience. Kuh and Whitt (1988) define campus culture as “persistent patterns of norms, values, practices, beliefs, and assumptions that shape the behavior of individuals and groups in a college or university and provide a frame of reference within which to interpret the meaning of events and actions on and off the campus”. Banbridge mentions that the impact that campus culture has on student success is crucial to understanding the interactions students have across different communication channels within the university community. Faculty interaction with students provides a necessary component to integration into the campus community and student retention. Literature from Kuh and Whitt (1988, 1999), Preece (2004) and Astin (1975; 1993) supports theories regarding community development and group sharing activities that may influence retention. Also, Tinto (1993) states that looking at online social networking involvement from a theoretical perspective, the interaction that occurs between students and their peers and faculty as a result of online social networking could play a key role in students’ integration into the college, thus influencing persistence.
This presents an opportunity for our institution to create a culture of online social networking integration in day to day student contact by way of Facebook so that student pertinence may be reinforced, therefore having a positive effect on student retention. This can be accomplished through the implementation of technological activities that integrate information and activities regarding student organizations, student service offices, academic departments and other extracurricular activities with the student online social networking’s profiles and groups by way of an enhanced web portal that can be connected to the campus’ website and distance learning platforms. This assures that a strong connection and integration between the campus and the student online social networking environments is accomplished, allowing the university to extend its reach into the student’s social environments on and off campus. It’s a matter of reaching out to the student and connecting with him in his element with relevant campus issues, student body organizational activities and extracurricular activities instead of expecting the student to do it on his own.