Mount Royal researchers spent months examining Facebook comments, reactions and posts. This wasn’t their chosen method of procrastination, it was the subject of their recently published paper that challenges post-secondary institutions to understand the popular online platforms where undergraduate students engage with teaching and learning topics.
A Facebook page that solicits anonymous submissions about all things related to Mount Royal University was the subject of a full year investigation into the information behaviour of undergraduate students in need of academic help. Richard Hayman is an Associate Professor and Librarian at MRU Library, and Erika E. Smith is an Assistant Professor and Faculty Development Consultant with the Academic Development Centre. Both work under the same roof on campus, with each of their departments being in the Riddell Library and Learning Centre, and are co-authors on the publication Information behaviour of undergraduate students using Facebook Confessions for educational purposes along with recently graduated Psychology (Honours) alumna Hannah Storrs.
The trio used a mixed-method content analysis approach to track posts on MRU Confessions—a public Facebook page, geared toward students, that accepts anonymous posts through an online form before published by the page administrator. Using specialized mixed methods software to work with a large social media dataset, they analyzed over 2,700 confessions posted during the 2016/17 academic year and found that a notable portion of the posts, just over 26 per cent, were directly related to student’s learning experiences. The data revealed that students were venting about day-to-day issues related to their university student lives while also turning to each other to find and learn about specific on-campus resources.
“I think the most impactful confessions were the ones where the need for help was tangible,” explains Hayman who refers to a specific post where a first-year student confesses that they are overwhelmed and asks for advice on where to go for help.
“While our university offers many support services, the fact that students can’t easily find them means that we need to do better. We can make these services more accessible, and do more to identify and connect students in need so that they don’t have to turn to places like Facebook Confessions to get help,” adds Hayman.
Smith, whose research background includes digital literacies and social media, says there’s lots of research demonstrating how social media is used in formal learning, but considerably less research on social media as an informal learning environment.
“Our findings demonstrate that students actually do use these informal social media spaces to support their learning in meaningful ways, interacting to meet their own needs, or to assist others outside of their formal classes,” says Smith.
The authors emphasize that the takeaway from the study isn’t that post-secondary administrators should try to interact with students on these unaffiliated forums. Instead, they can be a way for colleges and universities to better understand the needs of their students.
“Students will always want their own spaces to interact outside of the formal learning environment. Our research provides administrators, librarians, educators, and staff with key insights into not only the types of help and information that students seek, but also when these common areas of need arise,” says Smith.
Storrs reviewed the Facebook posts as a co-author of the study while she was navigating post-secondary life and a member of the MRU Confessions page. As she reflects on the experience, Storrs recalls that many of the questions asked in confessions were ones that she also didn’t know the answers to.
Storrs graduated from MRU with a Bachelor of Arts degree this past year and entered this project with an impressive work history as a research assistant on several other projects. The alumna, who plans to apply to graduate school, says she recalls immediately knowing that this research would be of great interest to her when she went into the interview for the research assistant position with Smith.
“I found it fascinating and felt I would be able to learn a lot from this opportunity while also being able to bring my voice and experience to the table,” explains Storrs. “My previous research experience was really quantitative focused but this project allowed me to learn and develop my skills with qualitative analysis and mixed methods research.”
Hayman, Smith, and Storrs presented this scholarship at national and international conferences this past year, including the Canadian Association for Information Science (CAIS) where their research was awarded Best Practitioner Paper. The team plans to expand their data and weave in new observations, including the changing nature of social media that has led to a drop in activity on Facebook Confessions but has channeled similar activity to other forums like Instagram and Reddit.
Libraries are where you go to access information and Indigenous systems of knowledge should be considered and applied to historical documents and new material. MRU Library is pleased to feature a guest lecture with Dr. Sandra Littletree, PhD who will offer insight on how to make space for Indigenous perspectives in institutions. Honouring Relationality: Centering Indigenous Perspectives in Library Services will take place on Tuesday, May 28 at 2pm and is open to the public. Register today!
Final exams start up this week, which means students are working hard to hand in final projects and study for tests before they head into the spring/summer semester or the end of the school year. The Library is pleased to extend Library hours to midnight April 8-17 and provide free Barrow coffee April 12-14.
This is a busy time of year. Please know that there are several ways you can lean on the Library to help you succeed during exams.
LibrarySearch allows you to get access to all Library collections, including databases, journals, articles, and books with a few clicks and a search term. Whether you’re on campus or doing research from home, students can find sources to help support class assignments.
Quick tip: Make sure to log in while using LibrarySearch to access special features to improve the search experience.
- Save searches
- Add to My Favourites section
- Place holds with a click
- Keep track of loans and account details
Subject Librarians are basically research experts for disciplines covered by programs and faculties at Mount Royal. Students are encouraged to book an appointment with a Librarian if they need focused help with research assignments.
If you’re studying late in the Library and simply have a question about LibrarySearch or need advice on the best way to find a source, stop by the Service Desk and get the help you need.
We offer 1,700 seats and 170 computer stations for students to access while studying in the Library. All four floors offer a variety of seating options that include booths for group sessions, pods for solo study, soft seating, study carrels, quiet reading rooms, and so much more! Many of the seats are also powered, which means students can plug in and charge devices while they work.
Quick tip: Cell phone chargers are available to borrow from the Service Desk on the main floor of the Library.
A Librarian from the University of Arkansas and a visual artist from Montreal will spend two weeks working on a project in the MRU Library Maker Studio that is meant to conjure questions with no definite answers—It’s all part of the fun.
What is art? What is art worth? How should we access it?
These are some of the questions Marianne R. Williams and Frédéric Bigras-Burrogano hope attendees of their upcoming exhibit ponder. The two make up Long Distance Call, a collective that is a member of the Wreck City artist residency. The Wreck City Public Exhibition kicks off in Marda Loop this weekend and the duo are busy taking found objects and recreating them using equipment in the Maker Studio.
A corkscrew and empty perfume bottle found in the streets of Marda Loop, and a fork from a restaurant in the area are either being reproduced with the help of a 3D printer or revamped with a laser cutter. Williams and Burrogano invite members of the community to attend the exhibit, engage with this found art, and offer money or exchange for a piece to take home.
“People can offer a price, an item of their own to trade, or simply answer a few questions to keep a piece,” says Williams who explains that it’s not about the money, it’s about allowing the public to question and consider the process of bartering and how art is consumed. It’s also a conscious way to make art accessible to everyone.
Wreck City was founded in 2013 as an independent collective that organizes experimental contemporary art exhibitions in pre-demolition spaces throughout Calgary. This multi-venue exhibition, which takes place July 27 – August 12, falls in line with this mandate as the Long Distance Call exhibit will be hosted at a site in Marda Loop that will soon be an area of construction where a 70-unit residential and retail building will be located.
Williams and Burrogano say the exhibit is meaningful in that it allows their work to be part of a larger conversation around gentrification, conservation and how we respond to space surrounding us. They acknowledge that a project like this wouldn’t be possible without the support of the development company that’s allowing the artists to utilize the area before construction begins and a key resource close by that gives them a space to fully realize their vision.
“This project couldn’t have been possible without this Maker Studio. It’s the best one in the city and everyone here has been so welcoming,” says Burrogano.
Maker Studio Specialist, Kerry Harmer graciously receives the duo’s gratitude but makes a point to acknowledge how she’s able to push the boundaries of the year old space with diverse projects.
“Having artists in the Maker Studio is a learning experience for Maker Studio staff because artists push the technologies to their limits in order to achieve experimental and unexpected outcomes,” explains Harmer. “This kind of experimentation allows us to learn about our tools with the artist.”
At the end of this week, Burrogano will go back home to Montreal and Williams will head to Fayetteville where she works as a Librarian-in-Residence at the University of Arkansas. Williams has conducted research on information literacy, diversity, and inclusion.
The Long Distance Call exhibit will play off the standard garage sale model and will take place at 2240 33 Avenue SW, this Friday, July 27 at 7pm. Money collected through sales will be donated to an organization in the community.