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Students Push Their Facebook Use Further Into Course Work

College students are taking social media to a new level, using Web sites like Facebook to communicate with other students about their coursework, according to results of a new survey on student technology use.

Nine out of 10 college students say they use Facebook for social purposes, like writing status updates and posting pictures. And the majority, 58 percent, say they feel comfortable using it to connect with other students to discuss homework assignments and exams. One out of four students even went so far as to say they think Facebook is “valuable” or “extremely valuable” to their academic success.

The survey was conducted in June by the Educause Center for Applied Research, and was taken by 3,000 students from more than 1,000 colleges. The results show how technology is shaping students’ lives both inside and outside the classroom.

Kevin Roberts, chief information officer of Abilene Christian University, says technology is merging the academic and social aspects of students’ lives.

“Learning takes place beyond the 50 minutes you spend in class,” Mr. Roberts said. “So using Facebook, while you’re talking about the Rangers game, students just throw in, ‘Oh, by the way, did you understand what Dr. So-and-So was talking about today?’”

Some students say they still want to keep their social and academic lives separate, as noted in an earlier Chronicle story. In the survey, 30 percent of students say they prefer to draw a line between these two worlds.

Students are taking to other social networks, too. More than 30 percent of students say they use sites such as Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Google+. Nearly a quarter of students report using social studying sites, such as CourseHero and GradeGuru, and 11 percent say they wish instructors would incorporate these sites into the curriculum more often.

The idea of students wanting professors to integrate more technology use into the classroom was a common takeaway from the survey.  After e-mail, learning-management systems and e-textbooks were the two technologies that students wanted instructors to use more frequently, according to the survey.

Learning-management systems are used by 73 percent of students, and e-books or e-textbooks by 57 percent.

Even though those technologies are commonplace on most campuses, some students say that their instructors don’t use them effectively or that they themselves don’t have the skills they need to use them effectively.

“Students are saying they want to see classes taught more like how they live their lives,” Mr. Roberts said. “I don’t think they just want technology for technology’s sake.”

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