The Amadors (2014) hand selected six participants from a population of approximately 440 students who had actively communicated with their academic advisor on Facebook throughout an academic year. The advisor had established a Facebook profile specifically for students who had already established a face-to=face relationship. Students friended the advisor whose posts then automatically appeared in the students’ newsfeeds. The focus of the study was to understand how the students used the social network to seek academic advice based on the help seeking theoretical framework that posits that students who seek help are active agents in the learning process.
A case study approach was used for data collection since it is best suited when researchers are interested in the unique experiences of participants. Data were collected via interviews with responses analyzed in the context of official records of the students’ advice seeking help via the network. Preliminary themes were identified and coded from the interview responses and subsequently refined following analysis of 3,085 Facebook posts. Final theme codes included celebration, homework, studying, academic itinerary, emotion, communication, help seeking, anxiety, and other.
Results of the study revealed that students were most at ease when the advice was prescriptive in nature, such as how and when to register for a class and which classes they need. Students struggling with a class or those seeking more personal career advice were less likely inclined to use Facebook as a means for seeking help and preferred a more private means of communicating those needs. Students also found the advisor’s posts reminding them of upcoming deadlines and/or procedural and policy changes particularly useful.
While the six participants actively used Facebook to seek academic help, the extent to which they also sought help via other communication channels is unclear. Further, there was no analysis performed of which students needed the least or most help and how they went about getting it. Inasmuch as the study involved only six participants and one advisor, results cannot be generalized. Lastly, all six participants had a preexisting in-person relationship with the advisor raising the question if whether that relationship is essential for a student to friend the advisor.