Does Facebook reduce ‘student drop-outs’?

The BBC today report that Facebook ‘cuts student drop-outs’. But does it? Is there any evidence for this claim?
No and we’ll show you why. Firstly, this article isn’t really about the this claim at all as only 2 passages out of 18 in the article refer to it:

I hate facebook

1.
“”There has been a significant improvement in retention,” says media curriculum manager, Perry Perrott.”
and:

2. “As a consequence, he says that there has been a reduction in the number of students dropping out of courses.”

Now, let’s examine these passages in more detail. At the Gloucestershire College website there is no public access to this data so it can’t be verified. In other words, we have to trust Mr Perrott and the College that their figures are exact and have been analysed correctly.

This doesn’t seem too much to ask. But should a BBC journalist – Sean Coughlan – be taking them at their word? Shouldn’t the journalist mention in the very same article that the data has or hasn’t been verified? We’ll never know if he did because it isn’t mentioned.

Despite Auntie’s mission to be objective and impartial, this article through not checking its facts, has failed. It would be interesting to know what motivated Mr. Coughlan to write this article. Education journalists are no different to others and must act to identify PR parading as news. The links and information in this article do nothing to prove or demonstrate that Facebook improves retention rates. It only says it does.

The same applies to all of the other assertions made:

1. “Gloucestershire College says social networking is used to keep students informed and in touch with staff.”

2. “Using such teenager-friendly communication tools has a “positive effect on motivation”, says the government’s technology agency, Becta.”

3. “”We’re embracing it rather than fighting it,” says Mr Perrott. He says Facebook pages for individual courses help the students to bond with each other, work together as a team and maintain their connection with staff.”

4. “Students on media-related courses at the college use the social networking website to get information about assignments and to access help either from other students or from staff.”

5. “These are closed group pages, with designated times when lecturers will check for questions or messages and when students can have discussions about their courses.”

6. “When the use of such websites was so widespread among students, Mr Perrott said it made sense for colleges to take advantage.”

7. “With social networking also available through mobile phones, it means that students can keep in touch with each other and be given support outside of class.”

8. “As a practical example, he says students had been asking each about what was needed for an assignment – and he was able to intervene and explain, allowing the work to be handed in on time.”

9. “”This can be a properly managed way of sharing information,” he says.”

10. “It was also used as a way of keeping in touch with students who were about to start courses, helping them to make contact with future course mates.”

11. “At City of Sunderland College, a pilot scheme using Facebook has found it useful as a way of reminding students about deadlines.”

12. “Lynne Hardy, a lecturer in biology and physiology, says that students can often forget when work needs to be completed and this is a way of “giving them a gentle prod”.”

13. “”Students are already familiar with it, they’re very comfortable with using it,” she says.”

14. “”Technology is no longer an optional extra – and modern trends such as social networking should not be ignored,” says Jane Williams of Becta, the government’s educational technology agency.”

15. “”Virtual learning environments, simulations such as Second Life and social networking sites can have a positive effect on motivation and attainment across the further education sector,” says Ms Williams, executive director for further education, regeneration and delivery.”

16. “”With social networking technologies, you can communicate to many students easily and quickly at next to no cost, which is increasingly important in a world where budgets are under pressure.””

There is no evidence. Therefore, you can’t make these claims.

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