Student use of Facebook for Organizing Collaborative Classroom Activities

Cliff Lampe
Donghee Wohn
Jessica Vitak
Nicole Ellison
Nick Walsh


Social network sites such as Facebook are often conceived of as purely social spaces, however, as these sites have evolved, so have the ways in which students are using them. In this study, we examine how undergraduate students use the social network site Facebook to engage in classroom-related collaborative activities (e.g., arranging study groups, learning about course processes) to show how Facebook may be used as an informal tool that students use to organize their classroom experiences, and explore the factors that predict type of use. Data from two surveys (N=302, N=214) are used to analyze how Facebook use, social and psychological factors, self-efficacy, and types of instructor-student communication on Facebook are related to positive and negative collaboration among students. We found that predictors of Facebook use for class organizing behaviors include self-efficacy and perceived motivation to communicate with others using the site. When placed in the context of social and psychological factors, Facebook intensity did not predict either positive or negative collaboration, suggesting that how students used the site, rather than how often they used the tool or how important they felt it was, affected their propensity to collaborate.


Bricolage, Classroom, Computer-supported collaborative learning, Facebook, Sensemaking, Social network sites


This article examines how undergraduates use Facebook as “an informal communication platform through which they conduct various organizing activities such as sharing information about their classroom activities and collaborating with peers on assignments” (p. 330). The authors note the ubiquitous nature of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and suggest that often “ICTs are formally designed for education, but in some cases students are repurposing tools initially designed for non-educational purposes. Besides their role in supporting pedagogy, ICTs may also support the ‘process’ of being in a course for students, including issues like organizing study groups, or finding out more about the other people in class” (p. 330). These students are involved in a “collaborative sense making process, using the technology to take advantage of each other’s knowledge and to search for additional information” (p. 331, emphasis in original). To that end, two studies were reported in this article. The first study reports that the more students use Facebook in general, the more likely they are to use it for collaborative purposes. The authors’ hypotheses that students with high self-esteem and high satisfaction with university life would be more likely to use Facebook for collaboration were not supported. However, students who were “more likely to view their instructors’ Facebook profiles were more likely to report engaging in collaboration using Facebook” (p. 336). This did not have to include “friending” the instructor as “friending an instructor was not statistically significant” (p. 336). The second study further explores that finding from the first study that students who use collaboration in ways the instructor might not like (negative collaboration) are more likely to use Facebook for collaboration. Findings suggest that students with low self-esteem and students with high satisfaction of university life are more likely to collaborate negatively. Students who sought help from TAs through Facebook were “more likely to collaborate both positively and negatively” (p. 343) whereas “perceived propensity to ask professors questions using Facebook was not significantly related to either positive or negative collaboration” (p. 343). Overall, findings suggest that students might differ in their beliefs about how to use Facebook for collaborative purposes.

APA Citation

Lampe, C., Wohn, D. Y., Vitak, J., Ellison, N. B., & Wash, R. (2011). Student use of Facebook for organizing collaborative classroom activities. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 6, 329-347. doi: 10.1007/s11412-011-9115-y

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Technology-enhanced
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study Collaborative, group, or team-based learning
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Other
Student Sample Size 200-299, 300-399
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