The Use of Alternative Social Networking Sites in Higher Educational Settings: A Case Study of the E-Learning Benefits of Ning in Education
Distance education as a primary means of instruction is expanding significantly at the college and university level. Simultaneously, the growth of social networking sites (SNS) including Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace is also rising among today’s college students. An increasing number of higher education instructors are beginning to combine distance education delivery with SNSs. However, there is currently little research detailing the educational benefits associated with the use of SNSs. Non-commercial, education-based SNSs, such as Ning in Education, have been recently shown to build communities of practice and facilitate social presence for students enrolled in distance education courses. In order to evaluate the largely unexplored educational benefits of SNSs, we surveyed graduate students enrolled in distance education courses using Ning in Education, an education-based SNS, based on their attitudes toward SNSs as productive online tools for teaching and learning. The results of our study suggest that education-based SNSs can be used most effectively in distance education courses as a technological tool for improved online communications among students in higher distance education courses.