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Limits and potentials of social networking in academia: case study of the evolution of a mathematics Facebook community

Goodband, John H., Solomon, Yvette, Samuels, Peter C., Lawson, Duncan and Bhakta, Roy (2011) Limits and potentials of social networking in academia: case study of the evolution of a mathematics Facebook community. ISSN 1743-9892

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Abstract

The use of social networking services has rapidly increased in recent years, especially by university students. Some authors assert that they have educational potential in terms of promoting collaborative learning practices among undergraduate students which enhance engagement and understanding. This possibility is particularly relevant to mathematics learning, because university communities are frequently experienced as isolating and performance-oriented. This case study reports on the use of Facebook to support mathematical communication and more participative learning identities within a UK university mathematics department. It describes how the reactive formation of a student-led Facebook community became a source of conflict within the wider academic social community and how this conflict was eventually resolved. While it raises questions about the extent to which Facebook can encourage open collaborative learning within the wider context of student aspirations in a competitive climate, it notes its potential for fostering cross-cohort student support in a subject which frequently induces anxiety in its students.

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