This is a presentation I did at the CPUT RITAL conference in December 2010 on a study carried out by Dr. Eunice Ivala and myself.
This work investigates the promise of Facebook and blogs for enhancing students’ levels of engagement in learning. This issue warrants investigation because low levels of student engagement and hence poor throughput rates continue to be a challenge in most of the Universities in South Africa and there is little published empirical work on the subject. We applied a learning ecology perspective to better understand how learning outside university relates to learning within university or other formal organizations. Data was collected through in-depth interviews with lecturers, as well as focus group interviews with their respective students to establish: usage of Facebook and blogs in teaching and learning; the context of use; challenges encountered in usage; and whether these technologies enhanced student learning. Significant findings of the study were that Facebook was an integral part of the students’ everyday life and that appropriate use of Facebook groups and blogs enhances students’ engagement in learning activities of an academic and social nature on-and off-campus, by blurring the boundaries between students’ academic and social lives. Facebook groups and blogs encouraged peer to peer support, collaborative learning, creation of student-generated content and improved interaction between staff and students, which are powerful indicators for student engagement. However, differences in the uptake of social media tools across disciplines and maturity level of students were highlighted. The presentation also suggests strategies for the implementation of Facebook and blogs in teaching and learning in ways that are likely to have a positive impact on student levels of engagement.