Event: Undergraduate Research Symposium
Date: May 18, 2019
Location: UCI Student Center
Presenter: Huainan Wang
Mentor: Penelope Collins, Micihael Scott Leo
Title: An Investigation in how Social Media can Support Undergraduate STEM Learning
Improving STEM education for students is a growing priority. Social media use and SMS text messaging have been found to enhance undergraduate learning in humanities and social science. This study examined how social media can be used to support student learning in a large biology class. The participants were 228 undergraduate students enrolled in a lower-division biology course. All students were invited to join a Facebook group for the course. We coded students’ communications in the course’s group chats for comments about course content, course administration, and social conversation. On average, students posted 0.86 comments about course content, 0.64 comments related to course administration (e.g., “When’s the midterm?”), and 0.99 social comments throughout the quarter. While social conversation was most common, the three types of chatting were highly correlated (ranging from r=.56 to r=.76). However, only the number of comments on course content was related to students’ final grades, with regression analysis finding that each additional content-based comment in the chat group was associated with a 2% increase in the final grade of the course. Neither posting comments about course administration nor social comments predicted students’ final grades. These findings suggest that contributing in a Facebook group chat can support student learning, but only when it is focused on the course content. Using group chats in social media may be one way that instructors can support students’ STEM learning outside of the lecture hall.