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.
War In Pieces is a growing collection of stories that have been donated by members of our Canadian Armed Forces, veterans, and their families. Each story is told in first person and presented with a memento that symbolizes it. The purpose is to provide the public with an intimate glimpse of life through the eyes of our service men and women, and their families.
“Our exhibit reveals the challenges and rewards of military life. We provide visitors with an intimate glimpse into lives of commitment, sacrifice, and heroism with stories told in first-person by our military men and women. We personalize those who wear the uniform, and we help Canadians recognize and appreciate their sacrifices,” says Melanie Timmons, Executive Director of the War Stories Society.
The stories and mementos are exhibited in a physical traveling popup gallery and in the virtual gallery on www.war-in-pieces.ca.
MRU Library is proud to host the upcoming War In Pieces pop-up in the Ideas Lounge from November 7 and 8 from 9:00am-4:30pm on each day. We encourage everyone on campus to stop by to experience this meaningful exhibit. Please share this widely and invite students, colleagues, and include in department newsletters if applicable.
files from https://war-in-pieces.ca/
Mount Royal Library continuously works to improve services and resources to meet the needs of students, faculty and the general community. We are conducting a survey that will help us to understand how we are doing as a library and how we can improve.
Select students and faculty will be sent an email invitation to complete the LibQUAL + Satisfaction Survey but we encourage all current students and faculty to participate. The survey takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete and has been a way for us to implement meaningful changes to the library over the years. Past survey feedback has led to changes such as adjusting our hours of operation, enhancing services, and website updates.
Participants will have a chance to enter a draw to receive gift cards valued up to $300.
Questions about this survey can be directed to Brian Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-440-5032. Please share this notice with others who might be interested in participating.
Current Mount Royal students interested in gaining experience on a council while helping to direct future changes to the University Library are encouraged to join the Student Library Advisory Council. Submit your statement of interest by Wednesday, October 30.
What is it?
SLAC is a forum for gathering input and advice from MRU students about the University Library. Students on the council provide feedback on resources, services, spaces and programs, and help generate ideas for enhancing the student experience at the library.
When does it meet?
We plan to meet three times this year. The first meeting will be on November 7th from 12:00pm-1:30pm. Dates and times for next semester will be scheduled based on member availability.
What will you get out of it?
This is an opportunity to contribute to future Library improvements that will better the student experience. Learn what the Library has to offer and how it operates while gaining committee experience to add to your resume. SLAC is also a great venue to meet other students from across campus over snacks or a light meal.
What is expected of student members?
You are expected to attend and participate in meetings by sharing ideas and providing feedback about how to improve the Library, along with helping to strengthen communication between the Library and MRU students. We understand if your schedule requires you to arrive late or leave meetings early.
How do I apply?
Please submit your name and a brief paragraph describing your interest in joining SLAC, via email to the committee chair Alice Swabey, at email@example.com, no later than October 30th.