Seeking support, seeking challenges or something else? - The case of a student-driven ecosystem of Facebook groups as 'third space' at a distance learning university

  • Steven Verjans (Speaker)
  • Kamakshi Rajagopal (Speaker)

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesTalk or presentation (not at a conference)Academic


    Over a period of 5 months during the Spring of 2012, we collected 11.000 entries in a closed Facebook group, contributed by more than 300 distance learning students within a Psychology degree programme. In the same period, the general discussion forum within the institution’s VLE showed a little over 300 messages, from more than 12000 potential users. Initial superficial analysis of the FB group entries showed a multitude of topics covered by the students, including in-depth domain discussion and fleeting messages offering social support. However, the studied FB group forms part of a larger student-initiated and student-driven ecosystem of FB groups constituting the ‘third space’ around the degree programme, between teacher-managed institutional spaces and non-institutional personal spaces (Aaen & Dalsgaard, 2016). During the session, we want to reflect with the participants on this phenomenon of third spaces. In the first half of the session, we will present some descriptive statistics on the collected data, as well as some initial results of a content analysis (Vivian et al. 2014). We will give some historical context on the development of the current ecosystem, and how it relates to the institutional spaces offered. This opens the discussion with the participants on third spaces at their institutions, and their role in education and learning. In the second half of the session, we will pose a number of general topics regarding the issue of student-driven third spaces at educational institutions (Dalsgaard, 2016; Salmon et al., 2015). Based on the study and literature, we will discuss with the participants what kind of support third spaces offer, but also if, and how you might deal with third spaces as a learning technologist. The reflection will then also be opened to the relationship between these third spaces and the educational institution. The take-away for the participants are some key reflection points on the concept of third spaces and how they relate to educational programmes. The take-away for the researchers will be an understanding of the key points in this discussion, leading to new research avenues around the collected data. As such, this session illustrates the parallel use of formal and informal learning technologies, and fits with theme 4 of the conference, which deals with digital third spaces to enable learning of students in distance learning circumstances. References AAEN, J. & DALSGAARD, C. (2016). Student Facebook groups as a third space: between social life and schoolwork. Learning, Media and Technology, 41, 160-186. DALSGAARD, C. (2016). Students’ educational use of Facebook groups. Educational Media International, 53, 261-273. SALMON, G., ROSS, B., PECHENKINA, E. & CHASE, A.-M. (2015). The Space for Social Media in Structured Online Learning. Research in Learning Technology, 23, 28507. VIVIAN, R., BARNES, A., GEER, R. & WOOD, D. (2014). The Academic Journey of University Students on Facebook: An Analysis of Informal Academic-Related Activity over a Semester. Research in Learning Technology, 22, 1-16.
    Period3 Sept 2019
    Event titleALT Annual conference 2019: Data, Dialogue, Doing
    Event typeConference
    Conference number26
    LocationEdinburgh, United KingdomShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • Open Universiteit
    • KULeuven
    • social media
    • CSCL
    • Informal learning
    • Facebook groups
    • distance education
    • student-driven
    • netwerkleren
    • Networked learning
    • learning communities
    • leernetwerken
    • social learning