Want Better Grades? New Study Says Try Facebook

Facebook does many things, but boost academic performance isn’t one of them, right? Wrong. A new study suggests that social networking sites may help college students both socially and academically.

Facebook does many things, but boost academic performance isn’t one of them, right? Wrong. A new study suggests that social networking sites may help college students both socially and academically.

The study, conducted in China and Hong Kong and published in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, found that 90% of students use Facebook. Unlike previous studies which have explored post secondary education and social media and focussed on such issues as privacy and online identity, this study interviewed students in an attempt to understand social media experiences.

The researchers found that social networking used by college students could be categorized in two ways: social and educational. In terms of education social media allowed students to connect with faculty and other students in a way they wouldn’t if limited to “real time” interactions.

Socially, however, the influence of social media was huge. It allowed students to build relationships and support networks; it also made it easier to make friends, stay in contact with family and provided an outlet for down time and fun. The researchers noted: “The typical social network pattern on Facebook is often in a core-periphery mode: An individual has close relationships with core friends and weak relationships with many others. Online social networking applications such as Facebook offer an efficient platform for college students’ socialization by expanding their network scope and maintaining close relationships.”

So, the research essentially argues that the “social” in social media is good for college students; is that really a revelation? It is. Previous research has often focused on the negative impact of social media for academic study. However, this study suggests that while Facebook is a great procrastination tool, it is also an un-paralleled way of connecting, and this is particularly important for college students, the majority of whom are young adults. This in turn acknowledges that social media can help students cope with increased workload and stress by being able to maintain a virtual community. Turns out all the “How College is Like Elementary School” Facebook groups have a purpose after all.

The study also encourages universities and colleges to take more innovative approaches to using social media. Already, many colleges have Facebook pages and some even use social media for orientation activities. However, if social media plays a significant role in the success of students and their perceived level of satisfaction with their college experience, then it stands to reason institutions should make a bigger effort to connect to the student body. The researchers argue:  “Educational institutions may need to adopt active (but somewhat restrained) actions to utilize existing social network applications such as Facebook for education. They continue, “Teaching activities will need to be appropriately designed for different target populations. The breakthrough point may start from students’ social learning.”

The lesson here is that social media is here to stay. This doesn’t mean profs need to participate in Facebook groups about how to make better beer bongs (though, there are probably some engineering faculty that could provide great wisdom on the matter). Instead, institutions need to meet their students halfway. Essay feedback via Twitter, perhaps?