Evaluation of a Collaborative Learning Environment on a Facebook Forum


  • M.R. (Ruth) de Villiers
  • Marco Cobus Pretorius


Keywords: ELearning, Facebook group, heuristic evaluation, discussion forum, qualitative analysis, Web 2.0


Abstract: An academic group and discussion forum were established on Facebook for a cohort of postgraduate students studying Concepts and Principles of eLearning. The Forum had a constructivist, student‑centric ethos, in which students initiated discussion topics, while the course leader and administrator facilitated. In previous research, content analysis was undertaken of the discussions, but the present study evaluates the collaborative learning environment on Facebook, investigating social relationships, study‑related pursuits and the balance between them, as well as considering whether the Group could be viewed as a Web 2.0 application. A literature review shows how social networking by students, initially social, began to overlap with academia, leading to groups and forums for academic purposes. In mixed‑methods research, qualitative analysis was done on free‑text data to extract themes from students reflective essays and from an exam question, while heuristic evaluation was conducted by expert evaluators, who analysed forum discourse in line with contemporary learning theory and considered the social culture of participation. Findings of the qualitative analysis and results of the heuristic evaluation of forum participation confirmed each other, indicating a good social climate and a conducive, well‑facilitated environment. Inter‑personal relationships were fostered between distance learners, and academic value arose from independent research, peer‑learning and social negotiation. Facebook served well as an environment for collaborative learning, but did not provide a full Web 2.0 environment for the collaborative generation of artifacts or projects.



1 Jun 2013