Monday, December 01, 2008

Facebook as a pre-induction support tool

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that we trialled using Facebook to support induction for our new undergraduate intake this year. It was definitely a positive experience, and now some two months later, I've had a chance to take stock, do some analysis and reflect on what it was good for (or not).
The group had a pretty good intake (80 out of 120 new students), but it's more interesting to look at the actual patterns of participation. Of the 80 students who joined the group, 39 of them actively contributed to the discussions (either writing on the wall or starting a discussion thread). Of those 39 students,
  • 59% wrote one post only
    31% wrote 5 or less wall posts
    8% wrote 10 or less wall posts
    2% wrote more than 10 wall posts.
This works out roughly at a participation ratio of 30 - 15 - 4 - 1, a bit more encouraging than Reilly's 90-9-1 predictions. And of course, this doesn't reflect the emails that students were sending each other - only the public communication on the group itself.
The topics that they wrote about were a good indication of what the students used the group for: getting specific information about what was needed for the start of term and introducing themselves to each other. The most frequent topics (those with 10 posts or more on the wall) were about:
  • purchasing books
    reading lists
    routeway choices

So what can we learn from this? Well, I will ensure that all the information going out to new students has even clearer instructions about where students can buy their books and what they need to read in which order, and I'll be adding a FAQ sheet to our joining instructions to give them the information as soon as they have their results and an offer confirmed from us.

My next plans? I'm toying with the idea of starting a group for our current first years and final years to talk to prospective students as a way of enhancing the visit days. And in the meantime, I'll be talking about this to delegates at the ESC event Encouraging Student Interaction Online in January, and Legal and General have even been interested the research as a means of supporting their new starters! I'm delighted, too that the work we have done will be published as a JISC study in the use of social software.