University students’ perceptions of social networking sites (SNSs) in their educational experiences at a regional Australian university
Higher education institutions, and the way education is delivered and supported, are being transformed by digital technologies. Internationally, institutions are increasingly incorporating online technologies into delivery frameworks and administration – both through internal learning management systems (LMS) and external social networking sites (SNSs). This study aims to explore how higher education students in a regional Australian dual-sector institute use and manage SNSs for personal and study-related activities and their perceptions of how this impacts their educational experiences. This mixed-methods study involved a quantitative and qualitative survey of 355 vocational training and higher education students and in-depth focus groups with ten higher education students. Four key themes were identified through thematic analysis: SNSs as a tool for fostering peer connectedness with fellow students; deliberate and distinct variation between personal and educational use of SNSs; resistance to external SNSs within education settings; and, need for a balance between digital and face-to-face learning and connectedness. Implications for curriculum design and delivery, and development of support for students in diverse learning contexts, are considered.
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