Examining The Relationship Between Social Network Site Use And Persistence Among Students At A Suburban Community College

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Community College Leadership Program


Doctor of Education

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Social network sites (SNSs) Facebook and Twitter are online communities that college students use extensively for socializing and networking, yet student outcomes associated with the use of these sites has not been fully explored for community college students. Thus, the purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the relationship between SNS use and three key student outcomes--social integration into the college community, commitment to the institution, and persistence at the institution. An additional goal of the study was to assess how community college students use Facebook and Twitter, and to establish a profile of SNS use at the institution. Astin's (1984) theory of student involvement and I-E-O model provided solid frameworks for assessing SNS use to determine its impact on Tinto's (1993) social integration, institutional commitment, and persistence constructs. To quantify SNS use into measures of student time and effort, SNS use was defined as intensity of Facebook and Twitter use, and frequency and type of Facebook and Twitter activities. A 75-item online survey was administered to community college students (n = 364) at a mid-Atlantic suburban community college in the fall 2013 semester. Persistence data, defined as enrollment status in the spring 2014 semester, was provided by the research site's registrar. To address the four research questions, descriptive and inferential statistics were used. Univariate and bivariate analyses were applied to determine SNS use profile characteristics; independent samples t test, analysis of variance, and correlations were used to determine significant differences in SNS use based on demographic characteristics. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were computed to assess the relationship between SNS use and social integration and institutional commitment. Hierarchical linear regressions were then used to isolate the specific impact of SNS use beyond the effects of the demographic variables. Hierarchical logistic regression was used to determine the potential predictive relationship between SNS use and persistence. This research confirms that community college students spend a great deal of time on both the Facebook and Twitter and students are actively engaged in various activities on both sites. Significant relationships between SNS use and social integration and institutional commitment were identified. There was no significant relationship between SNS use and persistence. This study revealed limited interaction between students and the institution when using Facebook and Twitter. Other significant findings include differences in SNS use based on age, ethnicity, income level, and attendance goal. This study has implications for how community colleges use the Facebook and Twitter SNSs to interact and engage with students and provides insights into how SNS use is related to positive academic outcomes. Specifically, this study provides evidence that SNSs can be an important strategy for improving student outcomes for African American, Hispanic and low-income students. The results of this study suggests additional research to examine how institutions use SNSs to interact with students will contribute to the understanding of SNS use on community college campuses. To further explore the relationship between SNS use and student outcomes for community college students, research is needed on larger populations representative of the national community college student profile.