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5.3 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES
Students’ methods of engagement in third level education are very different to those of a decade ago (Cloete, de Villiers & Roodt 2009). There are a number of factors impacting on these changes in students’ profiles, expectations and willingness to engage. One of these factors which is addressed by the author is the way in which students now use social networking tools to engage and communicate. Popular new technologies such as wikis, blogs and podcasts are now being used for academic purposes. But what are the roles of such tools? Do they merely aid staff-student communication and student-student communication, do they help lecturers seem more relevant and current, or can they provide an interface for academic material? In summary, can social networking actually enhance the learning experience and if so, for whom? This paper explores the adoption of social networking (with particular reference to Facebook and Twitter) within the context of hospitality, tourism, event and leisure management first-year undergraduate programmes in the school of Hospitality Management & Tourism, D.I.T. The research is in the specific context of an initiative called “Get Smart!” which targets the personal and professional development of first year students on these programmes. The specific objective of the paper is to examine whether Facebook and Twitter can help students engage more in an academic environment, and whether they are viewed as academic tools to any real extent. A comparison will be offered between Facebook/Twitter and the more traditional virtual learning environment (VLE), in the D.I.T’s case Webcourses.
O'Rawe, M. (2010) 'Can we be friends? Social Networking and Student Engagement in an academic environment', THRIC, Conference proceedings, Shannon College of Hotel Management, June 15th and 16th, 2010 .