Some university students using social media are sharing information about their course with their peers, in a similar way to how they might talk to friends on Facebook.
Others are much more targeted in their use of online tools — and will only log on to get the information they need, when they need it.
For the study, all 257 undergraduate students in the University’s School of Biological Sciences were asked to use the social media site Google+ as part of a key IT and numeracy skills module.
At the end of the term, the students had contributed thousands of posts and hundreds of thousands of words to Google+.
The researchers analysed these contributions, along with students’ responses to a questionnaire about how they found the online tools module.
They analysed the contribution to find out what users were talking about, and who was talking to whom. They also analysed the results from the questionnaire to find out why users communicated as they did.
They found that there were significant differences between students using social media — and individual participants displaying “Visitor” and “Resident” characteristics.
The Visitors and Residents model for online engagement was put forward by University of Oxford researchers David White and Dr Alison Le Cornu in 2011.
In this model, “Visitors” use the internet in functional terms as online tools, while “Residents” see the Internet as a social space.
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