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Online Social Networking Sites and Student Achievement

Elizabeth Power

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for Education 6590

For the degree of Master of Education

Faculty of Education

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

July 22, 2012

Abstract

This paper reviews the available literature on the relationship and impact online social networking sites have on student engagement and achievement. Online social networking sites are plentiful, varied and easily accessible to students and teachers alike. The potential for using these SNSs to further the goal of education is immense, and teachers are making the foray into the world of online social networking for educational purposes. However, educators cannot presuppose that because SNSs are a timely technology, they will necessarily engage students and improve student achievement. In fact, the research is inconclusive. This paper will review literature which has reported finding positive impacts of SNSs on student engagement and achievement, and other literature which finds a negative correlation, or at best, no conclusive proof that there is any kind of a link between the two. Aspects of online social networking such as engagement, collaboration, creativity, distraction, grade point average and academic achievement are considered in the literature. Results of this review will indicate that, while there are many instances of research reporting positive and negative results, there is no conclusive evidence either for or against the impact of SNSs on engagement and achievement. Generally, participation in online SNSs has a positive connection to student engagement, but a negative connection to student achievement. The review concludes with suggestions and implications for further research.

Key words: social networking sites, student achievement, student engagement

Contents
Abstract2

Introduction4

Research Question and Rationale4

Background6

Definitions10

Review of related research and literature11

Positive impact of SNSs on student engagement and achievement11

Negative impact of SNSs on student engagement and achievement14

Neutral research on the impact of SNSs on student engagement and achievement18

Summary of Findings19

Summary19

Discussion and Implications for further research22

References27

Introduction

Research Question and Rationale

Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, Cloudworks, Twitter, and Ning are but a few examples of the relatively new phenomenon of online social networking. People of all ages are flocking to the Internet and are signing up for social networking sites by the millions. Facebook, for example, boasted 901 million monthly active users and more than 125 billion friend connections at the end of March (Key Facts, 2012). This popularity of online social networking sites (SNSs) is constantly growing. Educators are set to take advantage of the multiple collaboration tools and discussion opportunities provided by social networking sites for secondary and higher education (Hoffman, 2009; Mason & Rennie, 2008, as cited in Forkosh-Baruch, & Hershkovitz, 2012). Despite the fact that there is limited guidance on how educators can integrate social networking sites into subjects which have been traditionally delivered face-to-face (Andrews & Drennan, 2009), teachers are on the lookout for information on the potential benefits or harmful effects using SNSs as a new and innovative way to try to engage students and improve student achievement. This effort is supported by Munoz and Towner (2009) when they suggest that “the benefits of Facebook’s networking and social communication capabilities can benefit both the instructor and the student...
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