Just a little update, as the research is now published.
From the press release:
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.
The students were able to discuss parts of the module on the site.
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 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’ use of social media – and individual participants displayed “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 a tool, while “Residents” see the Internet as a social space.
The University of Leicester-led study suggests the Visitors and Residents model is valid – and is the first study to suggest this using statistical methods.
She said: “In order to know how to effectively teach using social media one needs to understand the student’s motivation to use it. Such paradigms, if proven correct, help educators to approach this problem, increasing student engagement with tasks.
“Students of today often spend a large amount of their free time using social media, so if this tool could be used effectively for academic purposes it would be a great resource for teachers in higher education.”
The Visitors and Residents model of internet use suggests a continuum of modes of engagement with the online world, ranging from tool use to social spaces. In this paper, we examine evidence derived from a large cohort of students to assess whether this idea can be validated by experimental evidence. We find statistically significant differences between individuals displaying ‘Visitor’ or ‘Resident’ attitudes, suggesting that the Visitors and Residents model is a useful typology for approaching and understanding online behaviour. From our limited sample, we have been able to produce evidence that the Visitors and Residents labels are statistically robust. This demonstrates that the Visitors and Residents approach provides a valuable framework for those considering the use of social tools in educational contexts.