Evaluating Web Connectivity for Adult Distance Learners – Facebook or Forums?

Christine Gardner
The Open University, United Kingdom


Adult learners tend to have many demands placed up them, often preventing them from engaging in the traditional pattern of daytime study (Callendar & Feldman, 2009). Whilst online distance education offers adult learners opportunities to study without attending a campus-based university it also implies separation from fellow learners. Regarding distance learning in particular, the extent to which social interaction can be accomplished is open to question. At physical campus-based universities students have opportunities between lectures to discuss and debate topics relating to their studies. For those online distance learners who want to engage in interactive, collaborative learning, the question is to what extent students feel they belong to a dynamic network of learners? How does an online ‘virtual proximity ’relate to’ physical proximity’ (Haythornthwaite et al., 2006)? Tinto (1988) suggests that social integration, alongside academic integration, is key to retention within an educational environment. This paper explores the role the Internet plays in students’ social integration within the distance learning environment. The affordances of social networking sites, such as Facebook, are viewed in comparison to University-provided online forums.

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.