Social Media and Social Adjustment: A Mixed Methods Study of College Learning Community Students

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Florida Southern College
Colleges have made significant improvements in enrollment rates over the past century. However, graduation rates in higher education have not improved as dramatically. Tinto’s interactional theory of student attrition points to students’ personal connections, or social adjustment, as an important factor related to their decisions to remain in college. Learning community programs are one strategy colleges use to increase students’ opportunities for these social connections. However, technology and social media have changed the ways in which people interact with one another. This quasi-experimental explanatory mixed method study explored if learning community students’ social adjustment was influenced by the use of social media within their learning community. Two cohorts of learning community students used the social media app GroupMe for their first semester in college and two cohorts did not. Faculty in the social media group received Ethical Communications Using Social Media in Education training prior to the start of the semester. The researcher compared students’ change in raw Social Adjustment to College Questionnaire (SACQ) scores (N = 44). The results indicate that students’ use of social media with their classmates and faculty does not decrease social adjustment. Additionally, there were no differences in social adjustment based on active, interactive, or responsive social media use (n = 26). An inductive analysis of the qualitative data (N = 35) revealed three themes (i.e., academic, non-academic, and prosocial) for the types of communication for which students use GroupMe. Lastly, the quantitative and qualitative data were integrated (n = 22). The results indicate that academic and prosocial communications via GroupMe may predict academic and personal-emotional adjustment, respectively. These findings suggest that social media, when used intentionally and ethically, may be beneficial to students and serve as a window into students’ experiences as well as encourage a scholarly environment. Furthermore, leaders of academic institutions should provide opportunities for educators to receive training on ethical communication using social media. Future research should continue to explore social media use based on the current study’s two-dimensional model, include direct measures of social media use, and investigate students’ experiences from a variety of academic disciplines.
Dissertation presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education in the School of Education at Florida Southern College by Melanie R. Fowler.
Higher education, Social media
Fowler, M. R. (2020). Social Media and Social Adjustment: A Mixed Methods Study of College Learning Community Students (Order No. 27744984). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (2388022632).