Liminal spaces, resources and networks

Facebook as a shaping force for students’ transitions into higher education

in Learning and Teaching
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  • 1 University of Newcastle Sally.Baker@newcastle.edu.au
  • | 2 Sheffield Hallam University e.stirling@shu.ac.uk
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Abstract

As technological developments accelerate, and neoliberal ideologies shift the ways that universities ‘do business’, higher education is facing radical changes. Within this context, students’ need to ‘succeed’ at university is more important than ever. Consequently, understanding students’ transitions within this shifting higher education landscape has become a key focus for universities. It is now pertinent to explore how social-networking sites (SNS) influence students’ experiences as they transition into university. In this article, we offer two ethnographic case studies of how students use one SNS (Facebook) as they travel through their first year of undergraduate study. We suggest that Facebook is used not only for dynamic participation in the social fabric of university life, Facebook is the go-to space to organise their academic and social lives, using it as a hybrid space to negotiate between home and university. As such, Facebook offers student-users a ‘liminal tool’ for negotiating and facilitating resources and networks within the first year at university.

Contributor Notes

Sally Baker is an early career researcher and English language teacher, whose research interests centre on language and literacies, particularly students’ academic reading and writing ‘in transition’, and equity in higher education. In her current role, Sally is involved in projects exploring various foci, such as Postgraduate Coursework and students from refugee backgrounds, through the lens of equity. Sally’s ongoing projects include an audit of Australian enabling education through the lenses of language and literacies and numeracy, and a longitudinal exploration of the cultural and language transitions students from refugee backgrounds make into and through undergraduate study. Email: Sally.Baker@newcastle.edu.au

Eve Stirling is a senior lecturer in Design at Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom and completed an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded PhD at the University of Sheffield researching first-year undergraduates’ usage of Facebook in their transitions into university life. Her research interests include technology and higher education, the use of social media in higher education and the pedagogical impacts of these. She is also interested in design thinking and its influence on the research process and ethnographic research methods and the influence of space and time on the student experience. Email: e.stirling@shu.ac.uk

Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

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