Do you still remember the time when the only activities you looked forward to when logging in to Facebook (FB) were playing games, adding or accepting friend requests, and updating your profile banner? Did it ever cross your mind that anything academic-related would have a place in this site?
Facebook in the Past
When Facebook was initially released to the public, its uses did not extend much beyond the purpose of social interaction and entertainment. Back when I was in sixth grade, I remember enjoying the FB games and spending hours in front of a computer screen just to ensure that my opponents couldn’t reach my current level. I also remember the excitement I felt whenever I get home from school and log in my account to check if my seatmate had added me as a “friend” or if my best friend had already uploaded our selfies. During those times, FB as a platform for academic discussion was unimaginable. Everything was just about socialization, fun, and games until the use of FB groups became popular. Facebook has become an avenue that encourages learning and exchange of information. Facebook now has several other features that appeal to faculty members and can be utilized if it proves to facilitate communication with students .
Facebook groups for academic use
A lot of Facebook users, including myself, may not have anticipated that Facebook groups– something we once used to consolidate things like files, photos, funny memes– would eventually become essential for academic use. FB groups now enable students to communicate with their teachers and other students as well as encourage them to learn in a collaborative environment . If used properly and accepted by students as an effective learning tool, FB groups may enhance student engagement .
Because technology is constantly advancing, academic institutions should be more informed of how FB groups can be used in order to effectively facilitate learning. In Speech Communication classes in UP Diliman, FB groups are used by professors to post announcements and ask for updates. Likewise, students upload their report files and share links that may be useful to the course. In the FB groups I am part of for my Speech Communication classes, I have noticed the varying levels of student engagement. For example, there is this classmate who seems to have all the energy in the world to express his thoughts and never runs out of things to say. Yet another classmate who always just “seenzones” the posts or at best, “likes” the posts and comments.
Student engagement is characterized as an inclusion of the student’s investment of time and effort geared towards positive academic outcomes. It is claimed to be “positively related to moral and ethical development, psychosocial development, and self-esteem.” It differs from person to person, especially when it is being incorporated with media. There are students who are more comfortable expressing themselves online, while others feel the other way around. I, myself belong to the latter. Most of the time, I cannot keep up with online discussions because the absence of nonverbal cues makes me feel like I will be misinterpreted. In some instances, those who actively participate in face-to-face discussions are the same students who participate in liking, posting, commenting, or sharing in FB groups.
Does it really matter if we know or not the concept of student engagement in FB groups? It does because its enhancement improves not just student retention but also academic performance. Who knows? After discovering that you are the quiet achiever who just sits in the back of the classroom, never says a word, and never replies on discussion questions online, you become conscious and decided to be more participative during discussions. While this may be true to some students, others may, however, discover that they are the know-it-all of the class whose hand is always ready to be raised to share their academic or personal insights and the one who is always present in online discussions. With this discovery you realize that maybe, just maybe, it is time for you to give others the chance to speak up. These attitudes may be affected by one’s intrinsic motivation – the feeling of having a relationship with others, the feeling of competency to achieve success, and other sources of student engagement motivation .
To know how student engagement in FB groups impacts students’ attitudes towards Speech Comm classes, I interviewed some of my friends whose names were changed for confidentiality. I asked Sean, a Speech Communication student, if her engagement in their Speech 115 FB group is dependent on the urgency of participation. She said that she constantly gives reactions to announcements but comments on posts only when she has clarifications for a certain activity. Additionally, she brings up the same clarification question in their classroom discussion because she feels like it will be “more explained in class”.
Gen, a student in the same class, sees their Facebook group as a more convenient venue for addressing her concerns because she does not have to “wait for the professor’s cue” before she can speak up. She also mentioned how it was not really hard for her to engage in both face to face and online discussions since most of the students in class belong to the same degree program and they have already established connections prior to enrolling in the class. Those who are in the same situation as Gen are considered to have high levels of student engagement as its indicators are enumerated as: taking initiative, self-motivation, independent experimentation, spontaneous collaboration and peer coaching, and enthusiasm or frustration.
In general education classes like Communication 3 where students belong to different degree programs, student engagement may be a challenge. Such is the case of Marc and his classmates. Most of them are just “likers” of their professor’s posts and the few who post links that are useful to the course are the same students who constantly give their insights during classroom discussions. In contrast, these are the kind of students who are considered to have low levels of student engagement.
Nowadays, they say that you are already an effective modern student if you utilize various online platforms for academic use. However, just like how technology does not instantly make one a Picasso, the same way goes for FB group that it does not instantly make one an “effective modern student”. It all lies in our hands, our skill and determination, to make use of these online platforms for academic use effectively. FB group would be useless and would not contribute to our development as individuals if we, in the first place, do not contribute in the discussions. We may not be able to see it now but our participation in FB groups has an impact on our attitudes in class and this engagement of ours promotes student persistence and course completion .—Judith Ilagan