Contradicting criticisms that social sites are nothing more than trivial distractions from serious study, the researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China and the City University of Hong Kong say their findings suggest students' online social networking directly influences social learning and can positively influence academic learning.
The study has been published in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organizations.
"The typical social network pattern on Facebook is often in a core-periphery mode: an individual has close relationships with core friends and weak relationships with many others," the researchers said. "Online social networking applications such as Facebook offer an efficient platform for college students' socialization by expanding their network scope and maintaining close relationships."
Students surveyed in the study said Facebook allowed them to connect with the faculty and other students, provide comments to peers and share knowledge, join groups established for subjects, collaborate and use educational applications for organizing learning activities.
"Educational institutions may need to adopt active (but somewhat restrained) actions to utilize existing social network applications such as Facebook for education," the researchers said.