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*, Kamakshi Rajagopal

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2019
    EventALT Annual conference 2019: Data, Dialogue, Doing - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    Duration: 3 Sept 20195 Sept 2019
    Conference number: 26


    ConferenceALT Annual conference 2019
    Abbreviated titleALTC 2019
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • learning network
    • Facebook
    • student group
    • Social Networking Site
    • distance learning


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