Academic Exchange Quarterly     ISSN 1096-1453    Volume 22, Issue 1    Spring 2018

Facebook plays an important role in today’s schooling…  
My first online check in the morning is email but,
for my millennial students, the first online check is likely their smartphones and social media. As described in
our recent article, Facebook to Promote Students’ Extracurricular Experience (Academic Exchange Quarterly
Winter 2017 issue), a full 88 percent of US internet users ages 18-29 use Facebook and 75 percent of these
use the site daily. Given its impact in students’ lives, it makes sense for teachers and scholars to find ways to
leverage Facebook to help meet our professional goals.

In this brief editorial, I summarize our past success using Facebook and I share our ideas for future uses.
In the past, we successfully used (and we continue to use) Facebook to help meet the student success goal of
informing them about opportunities for extracurricular experience. In this use, Facebook proved invaluable. It made
our work easier. It leveraged the power of a group to find more opportunities. Because of Facebook’s popularity,
we were able to reach more students with information about extracurricular experiences.

Facebook made our work to meet this goal easier because we were able to delegate to student leaders the daily
tasks involved in maintaining and monitoring a Facebook group. Year after year, we consistently find that our nutrition
club student leaders are better at the Facebook job than are we nutrition professors. Our student leaders know more
about how to use Facebook than we do and they check it more often than we would. Our mentor role is very
manageable; it is further detailed in our article.

An even more important benefit of using Facebook has been its ability to harness the collective knowledge of alumni
and students in our major. During the year we analyzed posts, students and alumni made 128 posts about
extracurricular opportunities; professors made 14. The extracurricular opportunities included profession-relevant
part-time job openings, nutrition-related volunteer opportunities, and opportunities associated with the local, state,
and national professional associations. Our Facebook group has over 700 members. We believe the Facebook posts
reached more students than professors could have with emails and class announcements.

A point we emphasize in our article is that while Facebook was immensely helpful, by itself it was not sufficient.
The review of literature we did for our article validated our notion--while the technology raises awareness, it is usually
not adequate in itself to induce student action. Most students needed the support that comes from old-fashioned
face-to-face encouragement and advice. If anything, Facebook increased students’ need for, and interest in, experience
and career advising from their professors. In advising we help students evaluate different opportunities; make selections
based on personal needs and interests; take action; and benefit from experiences. Our article provides further advice to
faculty mentors for supporting their students to participate in extracurricular experiences.

This has been my first foray into using Facebook both as a subject of scholarship and as a tool for supporting student
success. In the future, I will try using Facebook in teaching. More research is needed, but preliminary findings suggest
Facebook may be helpful for engaging more students in academic discussions. For students who are reticent to
speak-up in class, posting an alternative viewpoint in a Facebook group may be more likely and may be confidence
-building. Acceptance of their alternative viewpoint on Facebook may embolden them to speaking up in classes.
Additionally, Facebook group discussions may be more effective than discussion features offered through traditional
online learning platforms such as Blackboard. The technology is better. It’s easier to upload photos, videos and other
content. Moreover, students may be more responsive to alerts from Facebook compared to those from learning
platforms.

Early findings by other researchers also support Facebook’s connection and community-building potential. Using a
Facebook group, I aim to seem more approachable to my students. I also hope to catalyze resilience-enhancing
relationships among my students. Additionally, I hope Facebook will help me take better advantage of student
“capital”. Each student has unique cultural and life experiences that, if shared, can diversify perspectives and ideas.
I plan to explore ways to elicit student capital and use it to enhance understanding (my own included) of nutrition and
health behavior change topics.

I hope you will read our article and also experiment with using Facebook and other technologies in your teaching,
scholarship, and service. Perhaps I will read about your findings in upcoming Academic Exchange Quarterly issues
(Summer or Fall 2018) devoted to the subject of educational technologies.

Cynthia Gillette Dormer, PhD, RDN
Associate Professor, Metropolitan State University of Denver

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