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Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?.

In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

The Facebook Generation Boon or Bane for E-Learning at Universities?
Martin Ebner Computing and Information Services / Division of Social Learning Graz University of Technology Graz, Austria martin.ebner@tugraz.at Walther Nagler Computing and Information Services / Division of Social Learning Graz University of Technology Graz, Austria walther.nagler@tugraz.at Martin Schön Institute of Life Long Learning Graz University of Technology Graz, Austria martin.schoen@tugraz.at

Abstract: No other social community has been that booming ever than Facebook. A query among freshmen at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) displays this strongly ongoing trend too. Compared to the freshmen-studies of the last three years we can demonstrate the way Facebook already influences the communication behavior of today´s students. Does the use of Facebook lead to a more competent understanding and intensive practice of Web2.0 applications in general? Does Facebook pave the way for Web2.0 or absorbs it by implementing and enabling Web2.0 functionalities on the platform? And what does this mean for teaching and learning aspects so far? Using a couple of statistical analysis methods for complex investigations (hierarchical cluster analysis, the principle component analysis and the varimax rotation) we tried to answer these questions and found out that the usage of Facebook already leaves it´s marks on the communicational behavior of students. An influence on the usage of other Web2.0 applications cannot be stated with significance so far but it seems that Facebook has a repressive factor rather than a promotive one; it serves as a substitute for them.

Introduction
On the Facebook fact-sheet you can read: „Founded in February 2004, Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. … Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment“1. However man may think about Facebook the platform is a phenomenon. What began as a more or less funny idea about a rating system for Harvard University students in autumn 2003 is today the world’s biggest network of people. “Facemash”, the predecessor to Facebook had 450 visitors and 22 000 photo-views in its first four hours online. Within ten months after launching Facebook in February 2004 it gained over 1 million active users. In July 2010 it cracked the 500 million. The success is impressive also in the face of Facebook´s rather “relaxed” Terms of Service which they constantly adapt. The allure of it and the need for affiliation seems to be stronger than security and privacy questions. Anyway this paper will not discuss those for sure interesting subjects on Facebook but will take a look at its usage among freshmen of Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) as well as its influence on other communicational ways and Web2.0 behaviors (O’Reilly, 2004) in terms of eLearning2.0 (Downes, 2005).
1

http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?factsheet

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Though the worldwide boom is over and there are regressing trends in a couple of states lately Facebook is constantly getting more users below the line and is now close to 600 million by mid of December 20102 in 213 countries worldwide. In Austria we have a growth over 10% within the second half of year 2010. Over 27% of all Austrian have a Facebook account (2,26 million). The average age of an Austrian Facebook user is between 18 and 34, which is 60% of all Austrian Facebook users, male and female balanced quite well in this range of age (only 40% female among senior users over 60 years). Among the freshmen of TU Graz the usage of Facebook is topping as well. 97% stated that they use Facebook either passive or active or as well for learning purposes. This is still an increase of 40% compared to autumn 2009. The big growth took place between 2008 and 2009 with an increase of approximately 300%. These facts cannot be denied also by university teachers. For it might be not of direct interest to have a Facebook page running for teaching intentions, Facebook may be used for other purposes enhancing the teaching and learning processes. Furthermore it is a fact that Facebook offers a couple of Web2.0 functionalities which leads to a higher acceptance of those functionalities in general; people may improve their Web2.0 competences using Facebook. From a research point of view it is interesting to answer the questions: Does the use of Facebook really leads to a more competent understanding and intensive practice of Web2.0 applications in general? Does Facebook pave the way for Web2.0 or absorbs it by implementing and enabling Web2.0 functionalities on the platform? And what does this mean for teaching and learning aspects so far? The following chapters try to answer these questions on base of our annual study among freshmen of TU Graz.

The Study
The study among freshmen coming to TU Graz takes places in the very first days of the new study year since 2007. The survey is managed and exercised by the Department for Social Learning (DSL) at TU Graz, which is an own part of TU Graz´s Computer and Information Services (CIS). Aim of this long-term study is to follow and point out processes in the field of technology enhanced learning as it is in use by young people at the beginning of their study, as well as the comparison to similar surveys (Conole et al, 2006) (Margaryan and Littlejohn, 2008) (Schulmeister 2009) (Schulmeister 2010). On base of these annual queries we can argue to optimize our services and fields of research (Ebner et al, 2010). It is a paper pencil survey during the “Welcome Days” at TU Graz that investigates the students´ Web2.0 competences as well as their technological equipment regarding computers and mobile devices with a view on their communication behaviours using that equipment. In total DSL has collected and analysed n=2858 data sets since 2007 (n2007=578, n2008=821, n2009=757 and n2010=702). In the course of analysing we follow two main directions, once to have the recent data sets interpreted and secondly to compare over the years. For the first time this year´s query has been undertaken a deeper analyse. For better understanding of our usage of methods of analysis they need to be explained shortly. During the last years of evaluation (2007 to 2009) we only took account of a comparison of single values we take care of correlations of multiple variables to each other for this year´s analysis. To analyse more than just pairs of variables opens the perspective for deeper relations and other impacts. An approved method for statistical analysis of correlationmatrices is the so called “Principle Component Analysis” (PCA). The main components are main factors as to the variation of variables. In best case you can explain existing variances with only a few “strong” components. In that way you can find out the reprehensive impact of the variable on the component. To find out why a variable has a “strong” impact on a component it has become usual to construct an inner correlation that enables you to get an overview easier. The method bases on calculations of correlations. In our study a lot of variables had a dichotomous (yes/no) character and therefore little variability as well as the numbers of given “yes” differ a lot from each other. In such cases the maximum value of correlation (1) will never be reached even under perfect impact. Therefore we helped us with the method of “Hierarchical Cluster Analysis” (HCA) – particularly “Average Linkage” – part of the SPSS-package. This method puts a variable in correlation (vector) to its answers given by the query participants. Next the distances between all vectors to each other are calculated and the variables with the smallest distance (maximum similarity) are put together to a group. Now the distances between this group and the remaining variables are calculated and again those with maximum similarity are put together in a group. After a couple of iterations that process finals in a so called dendrogram (Fig. 5). Dichotomous variables with same incidence have more similarity and grouping effect.

2

http://www.socialbakers.com/countries/continents/

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

The problem can be described as follows: The question “Do you use Facebook?” was answered “Yes” by 80%. According to Twitter it was 16%. But do these 16% Twitter users also use Facebook or do they belong to the 20% of those not using Facebook. This problem has been discussed substantial by Bart and Krus (Bart & Krus, 1974). A couple of other disciplines research on it as well: Knowledge Spaces (Albert & Lukas, 1999), Learning Spaces (Falmagne & Doignon, 2010), Learning pathes and hierarchical prerequisition Clusteranalysis (Kleiter & Probst, 1994) as well as Item Tree Analysis (Van Leeuwe, 1974), Schrepp (Schrepp, 2006) and Unlü and Sargin (Unlü & Sargin 2010). Furthermore the analysis is complicated by the fact of noisy data; people may check not veridical because of several reasons (inattentiveness, by accident or deception). This may result in different outcomes the higher the grade of assumption for automated analysis is. In our case upon the recommendation of Busch (Busch, 1993) a method has been chosen that bases on Yule´s coefficient of associativity. The following chapter describes the results of this year’s study and outlines trends and findings considering all four years. Furthermore a special eye is on the phenomenon Facebook as well as on the characteristics of a special group of freshmen using Web2.0.

Results and Findings
Which Trends Can be Seen Towards Technological Equipment? Asked about the devices multiple answers were possible. Compared to the surveys between 2007 and 2009 (Ebner et al, 2008) (Nagler and Ebner, 2009) (Ebner and Nagler, 2010) a couple of new end devices have been added to the questioning which are “iPad”, “Other smart devices”, “Kindle”, “sony e-reader” and “Other e-reader” as well as mobile phones have been asked in more details about their running system “Android” and “Other mobile”. This was necessary to cover the field of e-readers and to have a relation to the usage of “iPhone”. Though e-readers seem to boom in the US since Amazon released its Kindle in 2007 there is little demand on them in German speaking countries (Statista, 2010). The results demonstrate that e-readers are not of interest at all so far nor is the iPad for freshmen. Nevertheless an online query by The Boston Consulting Group (BGC) states an increasing demand on ereaders for Austria (n=697) only 2% already have one yet (OE24, 2010). Furthermore the comparison of devices verifies trends such as the steadily ongoing rise of mobile phones with WLAN and the usage of portable devices as well as the decreasing usage of MP3 players.

Figure 1: Comparison of devices used by first year’s student at TU Graz between 2007 and 2010; Selections “iPad”, “Other Smart devices”, “Kindle”, “Sony e-reader” and “Other e-readers” as well as “Android” and “Other mobile” are new to the survey since 2010

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Which Trends Can be Seen Towards Communication Behavior? This is the most interesting question on the query 2010. Our special focus lies on the influence of Facebook on other ways of communication as well as on Web2.0 applications at all. A short look at the results tells it obviously. There is a decrease to be noted for a lot of ways of communications probably due to the increase of Facebook usage (and other social networks). A detailed reflection will be discussed later on.

Figure 2: Comparison of communication behaviour of first year’s student at TU Graz between 2007 and 2010 Values similar to answers given for “often” plus “daily” use

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Figure 3: Comparison of communication behaviour of first year’s student at TU Graz in 2010 Which Trends Can be Seen Towards Internet Access at Study Home? The access to internet stayed nearly the same compared to last year’s survey of 2009 (Ebner & Nagler, 2010). The trend to mobile internet connection seems to have stopped. Over 10% stated to will only have internet connection using public access possibilities such as the universities offer or student´s hall. Which Trends Can be Seen Towards the Usage of E-learning Platforms at Secondary School Level? For this part of the survey there are no remarkable changes compared to the results of the query in 2009. Besides Moodle there are no other e-learning platforms in use but simple school homepages. The usage of Moodle maybe a little bit rising, the one for other e-learning platforms apart from schools stays “rarely”. Which Trends Can be Seen Towards Web2.0 Competence? According to Web2.0 competence the effect of the Facebook-rising needs to be analyzed in details which will be done in the following chapter of this paper. Besides that there are a couple of interesting results more. Unlike to the survey of 2009 we split the question upon Web2.0 competences into sub questions. The students first had to answer whether they know the application or not. But “Knowing” an application in this context means only knowing but not using it! In case they know and use it they had to state their kind of usage with the application; is it only passive consuming or also active editing which follows the “spirit of Web2.0”. And finally they had to state whether they use the application for learning purposes as well. This splitting was needful to find out the number of people only knowing but not using an application. 2009th survey only polled those not knowing it; those who know were only given the chance to decide between active and passive usage, which misleads to an “inflated” indifferent passive usage.

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Figure 4: Overall Usage of Web2.0 of first year’s student at TU Graz in 2010 with actual values given One result is that a usage for learning rather corresponds to a passive handling but collaborative applications slowly increase in importance related to learning. Their percentages of “passive”, “active” and “for learning” are more similar to each other than it is with other Web2.0 applications. Furthermore their “known but not in use” percentage is very low but the “known” one is high which means, if you get to know the application you will probably use it. So it is also up to the teachers to let them students know collaborative applications; they will use it. Completely different this is with Twitter. The “known but no use” percentage of Twitter is the highest of all polled applications. In case Twitter is used the usage is mainly passive. The level of familiarity for Twitter is high but the awareness of its benefits is very low. To use Twitter active is very simple, so technical problems are no reason for the little active usage. The Twitter hype of the two last years is definitely over, even more Twitter´s attractiveness did not catch first year students. Regarding to Gartner´s Hype Cycle (Gartner, 2010) this is approved; Microblogging is on its way down to be consolidated and established at last. Even worse are the results for the category virtual realities represented by Second Life. The same pattern of percentage also occurs for the social communities MySpace and StudiVZ (mainly known in German speaking countries) which is not that surprising due to Facebook. A conclusion of the high “known but no use” value may be that people don’t like to run many different social communities or/and prefer Facebook. The three social communities do not differ according to their passive usage but only Facebook is used extensively active which is the basic explanation for the decreasing or stagnancy in the usage of other communicational ways and Web2.0 applications. Special eye on Facebook To answer the main questions of this paper as postulated in the introduction some special characteristics of Facebook must be mentioned. Though it has not changed its main intention of being a kind of personal e-portfolio page Facebook slowly turns into a complex web platform including and combining more and more functionalities of Web2.0 applications step by step. The connection to or integration of other modern web applications such as Twitter using API’s (Application Programming Interface) has become a powerful principle speeding the internet-wide spread of Facebook very quickly; just think of the “I like”-button. You cannot hide from Facebook easily using

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

today’s internet. Even more since spring 2006 also special features for mobile devices have been launched. Today over 200 mobile provider of 60 states promote Facebook products for mobile usage. More than 150 million user surf Facebook via their mobiles and research has shown that those using Facebook mobile are more active Facebook users (Hutter, 2010). The overall strategy is very clever and has been made possible by modern web technology. We can assume that the influence of Facebook on the internet will become continuously bigger. When a closer look is taken on the results according the communication behaviour of 2010´s freshmen we find out a couple of interesting aspects among Facebook. The daily use of Facebook almost equals the one of Email and Email is used by everyone at least rarely. The number of those who do not use Facebook is rather high compared to the fact that Facebook is used by so many daily (Fig. 3). This means that Facebook still is considered critically or denied in principle. One of the reasons for that may be the rather non-transparent right-management. Furthermore there is a decrease to be noted for a lot of ways of communications probably due to the increase of Facebook usage (and other social networks). Email has not been affected yet as Facebook does not offer this functionality mainly. Facebook was launched in German speaking countries in mid of 2008; the same time the chat function was introduced to Facebook. Though we have no distinct data for Facebook related to communication for 2009 we can assume that the peak of 2009th selection “Others” is caused by Facebook (Fig. 2). If so than the value for Facebook 2009 can be assumed with approximately 20% for communication. The total number of Facebook users for 2009´freshmen was stated with 67%; so only close to 30% used Facebook for communication ways in 2009. In 2010 94% stated they use Facebook passive or active; over 75% of them associate Facebook with communication which is an increase of more than 200%. This has a verifiable effect on the other ways of communication. The most intensive one is to be seen at the section “Other instant messaging”. Compared to 2007 the usage of other instant messages has even halved and is now lower than the one of Skype for the first time. This decrease of “other instant messages” did not happen constantly but mainly suddenly from 2009 to 2010 in times Facebook pushed communication functionalities. “Newsgroups” as well as “Skype” went down too. Though Facebook does offer a kind of newsgroup so called groupts there seems to be an indirect coherence to it. For to analyze the influence of Facebook on Web2.0 application usage the analysis methods described before had been exercised. Because Facebook has implemented Web2.0 characteristics as a result of the study it can be said that there are some distinct influences to be found on other Web2.0 usage. To “blame” this increase distinct on Facebook further researches must be done but cannot be stated with significance by this year´s query. But there are some interesting trends to be seen which can be related to Facebook. There is a strong decrease of the active and passive usage of StudiVZ from constantly 75% for 2007, 2008 and 2009 down to the half of 36% in 2010. Such a decrease can be found for the active and passive usage of MySpace as well. The upswing of MySpace since 2007 has not only been stopped now but definitely felt back to the value of 2007. So it seems that students don’t like to manage multiple social networks or both just prefer Facebook. This “stopping” effect can be seen on further Web2.0 applications. The media platform Flickr for managing images and movies suffer a big loss and nearly halved their usage as well as other media platforms no longer play an important rule. The positive trend of Twitter also has been stopped and declined a bit, a fact that can be noticed for weblogs too. But there is no effect on the social platform Xing or Wikipedia or on YouTube. Anyway, although we have a decrease in a couple of Web2.0 applications which we can associate with the boom of Facebook we only can suppose that Facebook is taken as an alternative for those Web2.0 applications in the meaning that the functionalities substituted by Facebook are used within Facebook in real. For an example: the decrease of Flickr may be caused by the fact that people now share their images first on Facebook; but we cannot be sure about that as long as we did not differentiated investigations on Facebook.

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Figure 5: Hierarchical cluster analysis for Web2.0 applications displayed in tolerance of failure grouping Due to the fact that Facebook boomed no special relation can be realized between Facebook and any other Web2.0 application (Fig. 5). In other words Facebook is no sufficient indicator for an advanced or characteristic Web2.0 usage so to say that if one used Facebook s/he would has used Web2.0 application “X” and “Y” too but not “Z”. Nevertheless we found out that there is a 100% consistency of the following applications to Facebook: “QR code”, “Twitter”, “Xing”, “Dropbox” and “Etherpad” as well as to “Bookmarking” and “Second Life”. All students who are using one of the named applications are using to 100% Facebook to; so the members of each listed application are subsets of those of Facebook. Not for Facebook but for other Web2.0 applications we can find user groups. Figure 5 displays the different correlations and dependencies as a dendrogram using the HCA. There is a distinct group of people using collaborative tools. But are there more similarities among the users? Wikipedia (97%), YouTube (92%) and email (89%) is used by nearly every student. All of them have experiences with learning platforms (at secondary school level) but not all of them use Facebook (80%). Facebook users use email more often than other applications which seems evident facing the fact that a lot of Facebook administration requires the email account of the user. According to the incidence ranking MySpace (37%) and StudiVZ (36%) follows. Most of the StudVZ users joined or switched to Facebook – which is displayed within the historical progression – but not do MySpace users. Second Life residents (7%) are also Xing users (10%) as well as MySpace. For other rarely used applications we can state nothing peculiar but a special grouping of people using newsgroups, instant messaging, VoIP and RSS as well as bookmarking and Dropbox with similar intense.

Discussion and Conclusion

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

On base of four years study (n=2858) we can see an ongoing trend to portable and mobile devices. The usage of Web2.0 applications for learning purposes is slightly rising but with no significance. Applying to the PCA and HCA methods we state that there is a strong correlation (main components) between the usage of applications and communication, collaboration as well as for learning purposes. Against general assumptions we cannot state a direct correlation between devices and the intense of using Web2.0 applications which means that having many devices do not result in more Web2.0 interaction. The study pointed out that Facebook has definitely an influence on the usage of other Web2.0 applications. For example the usage of MySpace or the german-wide platform StudiVZ decreases, similar to the photo-sharing application Flickr as well as the microblogging tool Twitter. But on other services like YouTube or Xing no effect can be seen, maybe because of their general acceptance or their slightly different adjustment. Due to the fact that the number of non-Facebook users are high compared to the daily ones, it can be stated that the platform is considered critically. Finally some remarkable facts especially for learning and teaching can be pointed out: • The rising market of tablets and upcoming eBooks did not affect freshmen right now. There is no increase in usage of e-Readers or especially the iPad. • Furthermore the comparison of devices verifies trends such as the strongly ongoing rise of mobile phones with WLAN and the usage of portable devices as well as the decreasing usage of MP3 players. • Among the group of people using podcasts in their daily life the iPhone is the favorite device. It can be summarized that the use of collaborative applications will depend on teacher’s engagement to bring it in the daily university life. Because of Facebook it can be assumed that the general handling of so called Web2.0 applications is no big problem anymore – for freshman it’s just media which can be used for different purposes. Bearing in mind that Facebook is primarily a medium for communication, the next research steps have to carry out how the use of social networks influence our communication as well as collaboration behaviour.

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Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schön, M. (2011). The Facebook Generation – Boon or Bane for ELearning at Universities?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 3549-3557). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
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