Online College Students Engagement and Social Media in Higher Education

Focus on use of social media by online students in higher education.

Limerick Institute of Technology
Phillip L. Davidson
Presentation Date: 
Friday, June 22, 2018
Event or Conference: 
5th European Conference on Social Media
Presentation Type: 
Paper Presentation
Boyer's Domain: 
Presentation Location: 
Limerick Institute of Technology
Colleges and universities are investing significant financial and human resources in the creation of school-specific social media platforms. In some schools, student use of social media is often the primary metric for determining student engagement, with the belief that student engagement is linked to student persistence and student persistence is correlated to retention. Colleges and universities want students to return year after year. The desire to measure student retention is understandable as it allows for better strategic planning. Increased student retention also improves the school’s financial picture. Additionally, research has demonstrated that students in traditional class settings, who persist in attending the same school, tend to perform better in their academic classes. Most colleges and universities now offer some form of online education, and the question is whether the same dynamics around student engagement and retention also apply to the online environment. Much of the current research does not consider online students and their use of social media, so models of student persistence and student engagement based on social media may not apply. This descriptive case study involved interviews and a survey of approximately 700 online college students from multiple U.S. colleges and universities. The findings suggested that most students do not participate significantly using the formal social media tools of their colleges or universities but prefer more informal applications to communicate and collaborate with peers. The findings brought into question the costs and time resources being spent by colleges and universities in the creation of formalized social media platforms.