An empirical study on using web-based social media to build a learning community

Ricky Yuk-kwan Ng and Cecilia Po-san Leung
Vocational Training Council

Hong Kong SAR, China

Adopting a mixed method approach that combines quantitative and qualitative methods, this study examines the effectiveness of using web-based social media to build a learning community for nurturing a collaborative learning culture among 24 students studying a 12-week culture studies module in one of Hong Kong’s largest vocational education and training institutions. Students’ perceptions on using Facebook to complement their learning, the usefulness of the learning community and their experiences were addressed. In addition, the teacher’s views and strategy on using web-based social media as the learning management platform were collected for reflection and improvement. The findings reveal that most of the students preferred using Facebook rather than the learning management platform provided by the institution. Furthermore, the students’ responses and the teacher’s observations indicate that the online social network facilitated rapport-building and knowledge-sharing. This study suggests that facilitation skills and a sense of belonging are important for online learning. Another noteworthy point is that marks should be assigned to students for their participation in online discussion.