The Effects of Facebook Discussions on Academic Performance
31 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2015
Date Written: September 22, 2015
In this paper we investigate the effects of using a Facebook page exclusively devoted to a first year Mathematics course in a large Italian public university. Posts and discussions supported traditional face-to-face lectures and students could freely post queries and get help from professors and peers. We use a newly constructed dataset to measure how this influences the grade they achieved and the probability of getting a passing grade.
Firstly, we find that active students, who read and post more often, perform slightly better than non active ones, who mainly read the content, but the effect is not significant. However, other measures of activity, such as the frequency of visualization of the page significantly increase the probability of earning a passing grade, after controlling for students’ characteristics and robust ex-post measures of ability.
Secondly, we exploit a quasi-natural experiment to compare the performance of students having access to Facebook with that of a large sample of similar students who were not offered the support page in another branch of the university. Difference-in-difference estimates show that students who could access online discussions gain on average 1 additional point out of 30. The effect is, hence, significant but rather small and of possibly limited practical relevance.
Keywords: Facebook, virtual discussions, academic performance, quasi-natural experiment, difference-in-difference
JEL Classification: I23, C54
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