Creat ive Educati on
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 15-19
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( ce) DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.38b004
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
How Facebook Connects Students’ Group Work Collaboration:
A Relationship between Personal Face book Usage and Group
Pr aweenya Suwannatt hachote, Pornsook Tantrar ungroj
Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Received 20 1 2
This study examined the relationship between the personal value of social networking technology, the
frequency of Facebook use, the frequency of Facebook activities, and group engagement. The samples
were 2 05 p re-s ervice t eacher s who par ticip ated in t he six-week onli ne group pr oject. Quest ionnair es wer e
collected after the pre-service teachers submitted the project. The data were analyzed using descriptive
statistics and correlation analysis to identify relations among variables. The results showed that 98% of
pre-service teachers expanded their network by adding group members to their Facebook friends during
the pr oject ass ignment. T he study f ound no rela tionshi p bet ween persona l purp osive values of soci al net-
worki ng t echnol og y an d group en g agem ent. Al thou gh 5 8 .4 % of t he stude nt s us ed Fa ceb ook man y times a
day, the frequency of usage was largely related to personal interests rather than being relevant to group
communication and engagement with the project assignment. However, there were significant but slight
correlations between the Facebook activity “view others’ status to update social events” and group en-
gagement; between “private messages” and group engagement; between “set up and share events” and
group engagement; between “commenting” and group engagement; and between “clicking like” and
group engagement. Therefore, educators should integrate their instructional strategy with the virtual
learning envir onment to promote st udents’ group engagement via soc ial networking sites.
Key words: Socia l Networking Sites (SN Ss); Facebook; Group Enga gement
The most popular among the online social networking sites
(SNSs) catering to a bro ad range of un dergraduate users i s “fa-
ceboo”. This website clai ms to have hun dreds of millions
of registered users. Research undertaken by the EDUCAUSE
Center for Applied Research (ECAR) showed that of the 90.4%
of students in their sample population who interacted with so-
cial networking websites daily, 96.6% indicated that they used
Facebook (Smith & Caruso, 2010). Currently, Thailand with
over ten million Facebook users is ranked 16th in the world in
terms of users by country recorded by Facebook Statistics by
country (March 1, 2012).
Online collaboration tools facilitate students’ group work
such as discussion board forum, and chat room. Formal learn-
ing management systems (LMS) such as Blackboard, Moodle,
and Author are used for large classes to provide students with
access to course syllabi, course documents, and course re-
sources. In addition, each LMS provides a variety of synchron-
ous and asynchronous communication tools. However, various
kinds of SNSs such as Twitter, Facebook, and Delicious have
become alternative platforms for academic use. Facebook is
another informal system that fits with student modes of social
interaction, and hence students have adapted it as a communi-
cation tool, as a channel to reach their friends, and as a colla-
borative learning tool.
Kuh (2009) emphasized two major aspects of student en-
gagement: 1) in-class (or acad emic) engagemen t, an d 2) out-of-
class engagement in edu cationally relevant activi ties. There are
various factors related to engagement including investment in
the academic experience at a college, involvement in co-cur-
ricular activities, and interacti on with teacher s and p eers (Junco ,
2012). In the engagement, students use physical and psycho-
logical energy, both of which are important to student success.
Students who spend time and effort in in-class and out-of-class
engagements are more likely to attain their desired academic
outcome. The higher the level of student engagement in aca-
demic work, the greater his/her level of knowledge acquisition
and cognitive growth (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Although
student engagement has been researched in face-to-face envi-
ronments, only the limited research undertaken by Junco (2012)
and Junco, Heiberger, and Loken (2010) focused on the relation-
ship between student engagement and social networking use.
Students use SNSs as a way to both formally and informally
communicat e academi cally top ics (Greenh ow & Rob elia, 2009 ).
Other research also showed that students used Facebook for
organizing collaborative classroom activities involving both
online-only e.g. using Facebook as a medium for sharing notes,
and online-to-offline, using the site to arrange a study group
(Lampe et al., 2011). Since recent statistics have shown that
today’s college students use Facebook at high rates, it would be
useful to measure their success in terms of usage, interaction,
and user or group engagement. The latter term was defined in
this study as online interaction with peers on Facebook involv-
ing group assignment activities.
The relationship between Facebook usage and group en-
gagement has been limited by the measurements of engagement
that focused on student engagement individually rather than
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
group engagement. For example, Junco (2012) focused on the
relationship between frequency of Facebook use, participation
in Facebook activities, and student engagement. The study of
Cheung, Chiu, and Lee (2011) used personal value as the key
factor. They examined the relative impact of social influence,
social p resen ce, and the five key valu es fro m the u ses an d grati-
fication paradigm on We-Intention on use of online social net-
works. Although the study did not mention group engagement
directly during the classroom activities, some factors involving
group activity and social engagement were found. The results
showed that social presence had the strongest impact on We-
Intention to use Facebook, and that group norms also had a
significant influence on We-Intention to use Facebook.
This study focuses on pre-service teachers’ use of Facebook
as a collaborative tool in a course in Educational Technology
and Information (2726207 ED TECH INFO). This course uti-
lized a LMS and an asynchronous online discussion board for
students to communicate within their groups when working on
their practice assignments. In addition, students were free to us e
other communication tools subject to group agreement, such as
SNSs, instant messaging, and e-mail. This study evaluates the
relationship between the personal value of social networking
technology, the frequency of Facebook use, the frequency of
Facebo ok activities, and group engagement. The research qu es-
tions us e d were as fo llows:
Question 1: Is there a relationship between the personal pur-
posive value of social networking technology and group en-
Question 2: Is there a relationship between the frequency of
Facebo ok use and gro up engagement ?
Question 3: Is there a relationship between the frequency of
Facebo ok activities and group engagement?
Research Settings
This study examined the Facebook behavior of pre-service
teachers who participated in online group work in 2726207 ED
TECH INFO at the Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn Uni-
versity, Thailand during the second semester of the 2011 aca-
demic year. This course provided pre-service teachers with
knowledge and skills in the use of instructional media, informa-
tion technology, and computer applications for students in
schools. Part icipants were required to attend classroom lectur es,
to undertake hands-on and computer lab practice, and to com-
plete three group projects with their team members. One of the
three final class projects involved 6 weeks of online project-
based learning. For the online group project, pre-service teach-
ers were randomly assigned to work in small groups with 4-5
members. A total of 5 5 small groups were created.
Blackboard’s group pages were set up to provide a working
space and set of communication tools that only members of the
group could access. The following collaborative tools were
available for students to use when participating in real-time
lessons and discussions. A chat room was available for students
to engage in real-time chats with group members. A file ex-
change facility was accessi ble by partici pants to post and sh are
files and pertinent documents. An email facility was also pro-
vided for students to send email messages to all or selected
group members. A discussion board was available for each
group to conduct private discussions, with individual forums
available only to those students that were part of the group.
Students were required to provide a log of their communica-
tive interactions with peers on each group discussion board.
However, st udents were free to use o ther communication tools,
for example, SNSs, instant messaging, and e-mail, subject to
group agreement. Six weeks after the project was assigned,
students were required to complete questionnaires.
Research Participants
A total of 205 pre-service teachers agreed to participate in
the study. Analysis of the demographic data for the sophomore
participants revealed that 70.2% were female and 29.8 % were
male. Although their ages ranged from 19 to 22 years old, the
majority, 71.1%, were 20 years old. The students were under-
taking a variet y of majors, with th e three most common majors
being secondary education (29.3%), primary education (17.6%),
and early childhood education (10.2%). Other students were
majorin g in art s educatio n, music edu cation, physical edu cation ,
non-formal education, and educational psychology.
Instruments and Data A nalyses
The questionnaire which was used in this research was de-
signed with closed questions. The questions were formulated
based on Facebook behavior reported in education research
articles (Lampe et al., 2011; Junco, 2012, Suwannatthachote,
2012). The questionnaire was divided into four main parts: 1)
student demographics, 2) purposive use of social networking, 3)
Facebo ok u sage for collaborative group work with 9 items from
the Likert scal e, and 4) personal Faceboo k usage with 1 5 items
from the Likert scale. Pre-service teachers responded to the
survey after submitting their project assignment.
Descript ive statistics wer e conducted t o determine the demo-
graphic characteristics of the participants and to analyze their
use of Facebook. The data were analyzed using correlation
analysis to identify relationships among variables that could
help answer the research questions.
Group Online Communication Tools Dur ing Project
During the six-week project assignment, students were as-
signed to work in small groups of 4-5 students using the
Blackboard course website. The Blackboard discussion board
was the primary area of contact and was also where students
worked collaboratively to design the storyboard for the learning
object. During the first and second weeks of the six-week
project period the students worked individually. From the
fourth to the sixth week, the students were required to post,
comment, and communicate with their peers on the group dis-
cussion board. However, students were free to use other com-
munication tools as described previously. The results showed
that students used Facebook, the Blackboard LMS group dis-
cussion board, and Windows Live Messenger (MSN) to com-
municate among their assigned group members (47.3%, 35.1%,
and 18.0% respectivel y). Th e results also revealed how popu lar
Facebook was among pre-service teachers. All participan ts had
a Facebook account before their enrollment in this course, and
during the project work they used their own preference com-
munication tool, Facebook, to communicate among group
members more than the required communication tool, the
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Blackboard LMS group discussion board. Researchers found
the media attribute of Facebook is rich of communication tools
in just one site such as “wall” status posts, online chat, Face-
Group (small group social networks of small group), and in-
cluding alternative privacy settings. Qualitative data from the
grou p discussion bo ard revealed how relu ctant studen ts were to
use the discussion board. Most groups asked members to opt out
and use the prefer r ed alternative communication tools instead,
especially Faceboo k.
All stud ents used Faceboo k for th e collaborative work in the
group project. The results showed that 98% expanded their
network by adding group members to their Facebook friends,
57.6% set up FaceGroup as an additional communication tool
besides the required class communication tool, 69.8% sent per-
sonal messages via Facebook to contact group members, and
81.0% used Facebook Chat for real time communication with
group members from different majors.
Group Engag e ment
The data from Table 1 shows Facebook activities related to
group engagement. The most three common activities were “con-
tact oth er with a question related to grou p assignment” (M ean =
4. 23, S. D. = 0.75), “come to a group consensus” (Mean = 4.17,
S.D. = 0.82), and “receive information from group members”
(Mean = 4.14, S.D. = 0.71).
Persona l Online Communi catio n Behavior
Participants used different SNSs for private communication.
The results showed that the top three SNSs were Facebook,
Twitter, and Google Plus (100%, 38.0%, and 20.5% respec-
tively). The data indicated that all the students had Facebook
accounts which they used regularly. The three highest ranking
reasons for their preference of for using Facebook were to
communicate among friends, associates, and family members,
to be broug ht up t o date on social e ve nts a nd news among gr oups ,
and to conform with their friends (67.8%, 26.8%, 21.0% re-
Frequency of Facebook Activities
Pre-service t eachers par ticip ated in a variet y of Facebo ok ac-
tivities. Among the top three activities were clicking ‘Like’ on
others’ messages, updating their status, viewing photos, and
using Facebook chat (35.8%, 35.0%, and 33.8% respectively).
Further details are shown in Figure 1.
Tabl e 1.
Facebook activities on group engagement.
Ite ms Me an S .D.
Receive information from group member s 4.14 .71
Share group project information
(content, format, screen design technique
for Learning Object Storyboard) 3.72 .87
Discuss group assignment 4.05 .84
Inquire about details of project assignmen t 4.11 .75
Schedule for group meet ings 3.71 .92
Share ideas and opinions 3.77 .93
Share knowledge and te chnical
computer tips 3.39 .98
Contact others with a ques tion related to grou p
assignment 4.23 .75
Come to a group consensus 4.1 7 .82
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Figure 1.
Frequency of Facebook activities.
Research Question 1
To determine the answer to the first research question, Pear-
son correlation was used to examine the relationship between
the personal purposive value of social networking technology
and group engagement. The results showed that the relationship
was not significantly related. However, the results did show
that there were significant relationships among personal purpo-
sive value variables. Low correlations was found between
“communication among friends, associates, and family mem-
bers (communication)” and other values; a relationship was
found between “communication” and “find new friends”
(Pearson’s r = .199, p < 0.01), between “communication” and
“update status” (Pearson’s r = .273, p < 0.01), between “com-
munication” and “share information” (Pearson’s r = 0.252, p <
0.01), and between “communication” and “view oth ers’ status”
(Pearson’s r = .208, p < 0.01), and a significant but negligible
correlation between “find new friends” and “update status”
(Pearson’s r = .20 0, p < 0.01).
Research Question 2
The second research question sought to determine if there
was a relationship between frequency of Facebook use (log on)
and group engagement. The results revealed that the relation-
ship was not significant. Most of the students spent a significant
amount of time on Facebook on a daily basis. Figure 2 shows
Facebook usage. Although 58.4% of the students used Face-
book many times a day, the frequency of usage was largely
related to personal interest rather than being relevant to group
communicat ion and engagement with the project assignment.
Research Question 3
There were significant but low correlations between the Fa-
cebook activity “view others’ status to update social events”
and group engagement (Pearson’s r = 0.274, p < 0.01) , between
“private messa ges” an d group engage ment (P earson ’s r = 0.232,
p < 0.01), between “set up and share events” and group en-
gagement (Pearson’s r = 0.218, p < 0.01), between “commen t-
ing” and group engagement (Pearson’s r = 0.211, p < 0.01), and
between “clicking like” and group engagement (Pearson’s r =
0.194, p < 0.01).
Educators are introducing Facebook into the classroom for
educational purposes such as promoting communication among
students, increasing student collaboration, facilitating or ar-
ranging groups or meetings, and contacting another student
with a question related to class. This research investigated stu-
dents’ usage of Facebook during the assigned group project.
Pre-service t eachers used F acebook in a po sitive way related to
group engagement. The results showed a high percentage of
Facebo ok use for collaborative work in the group project such
as adding group members to their social network, using real
time chat via Faceb ook, an d sending person al messages to co n-
tact group members (98%, 81.0%, and 69.8% respectively).
This result is consistent with the study of Lampe et al., (2011)
in that their study found students’ usage of Facebook promoted
the o r ganization of collaborative classroom activities.
This study found no relationship between the personal pur-
posive value of social networking technology and group en-
gagement. The purposive values of using Facebook found in
this study were related to individual student engagement rather
than group interaction and discussion which required students’
active involvement. Purposive value factors such as updating
social events and news among groups, communicating among
friends, associates, and family members, and expressing self-
experien ce and feelings with texts and pictu res focused on self-
attentiveness rather than contributing to group efforts. Astin
(1984, cited in Junco, 2012) added that some students are more
engaged than others and individual students are engaged in
different activities at different levels.
There was no relationship between the frequency of Face-
book use (log on) and group engagement. The data from the
study of Junco (2012) showed that time spent on Facebook was
negatively predictive of student engagement while Junco and
Cotton (2010) found that students who spent more time chatting
onl in e had more academic impairment .
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Figure 2.
Frequency of Facebook log on.
This study found that some Facebook activities, such as “vie w
oth ers’ status to up date social events”, “pr ivate messages”, “set
up and share events”, “commenting” and “clicking like”, had
significant but slight relationships with group engagement.
Therefore, educators who introduce Facebook into their class-
room activities should be aware of the activities above so they
can encourage more academic learning engagement. Students
will communicate with friends for both academic and social
discussions on Facebook. A study by Lampe et al. (2011) indi-
cated that students perceived motivation for communicating
with others when using Facebook and were likely to use Face-
book for discussion of class assignments.
Further study should focus more on an instructional strategy
to promote group engagement using Facebook. Educators need
to put more effort into encouraging students to use Facebook
for more academic purposes such as contacting others with a
question relating to group assignments, sharing information on
group projects, inquiring into details of project assignments,
and discussing and sharing ideas and opinions.
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