Higher Education

, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 303–313 | Cite as

Evaluating the use of Facebook to increase student engagement and understanding in lecture-based classes

  • Benjamin Dyson
  • Kristin Vickers
  • John Turtle
  • Sara Cowan
  • Adrianna Tassone


Both lecture delivery and Facebook use are ubiquitous aspects of higher education from staff and student points-of-view, respectively. An attempt was made to integrate the two by setting up a Facebook group and delivering contemporary news stories in preparation for in-lecture discussion in a large-scale (1,200 students across 5 sections) Introduction to Psychology class. Each section experienced two-thirds of the class with Facebook intervention and one-third without, thereby each section served as its own control group. Overall, Facebook intervention did not yield higher self-report of course engagement or understanding for those portions of the course. Only those individuals who never viewed the Facebook postings reported lower engagement and understanding of the in-lecture discussion, in addition to a lower appreciation of the link between the Facebook content and the lecture material. Our data suggest that successful integration of social media into the classroom is a challenging one and the relative success or failure of these interventions may stand or fall on the basis of a complex interaction between a number of factors including the timing of content delivery, the integration of social media content with course assessment and the students’ own perspective on using social media for academic purposes.


Social media Facebook Student engagement Student understanding Large-scale teaching 



The research was funded by a Ryerson Learning and Teaching Enhancement Fund. Thanks go to section leaders Alba Agostino, Brad A. Meisner and Stephen Want and the students of PSY102 for their participation in this project. We would also like to thank Pearson Education for support in establishing the post-study focus group and also two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments regarding earlier versions of manuscript


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Dyson
    • 1
  • Kristin Vickers
    • 1
  • John Turtle
    • 1
  • Sara Cowan
    • 1
  • Adrianna Tassone
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

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