There is a brand new Pew Internet Research survey out called The Social Side of the Internet which is all about the impact of the internet on GROUP-FORMING. I'm just starting to dig into the data about Internet users joining groups - which includes "associations".
The internet is now deeply embedded in group and organizational life in America. A new national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has found that 75% of all American adults are active in some kind of voluntary group or organization and internet users are more likely than others to be active: 80% of internet users participate in groups, compared with 56% of non-internet users. And social media users are even more likely to be active: 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants.
Group engagement - which certainly should be of interest to educators - is impacted by social media and internet use in general.
...social network site users and Twitter users are much more likely than online group members who do not use these tools to say that the internet has a major impact on almost all aspects of their group engagement. This relationship is confirmed in regression analyses when other important factors such as age, education, income, personal efficacy, religiosity, and trust are controlled.In fact, among all of these key predictors of online behavior and group involvement, being a daily internet user, being a social network site user, and being a Twitter user are among the most powerful predictors of whether people perceive the internet as having a major impact on their ability to find groups that match their interests, bring others into their groups, keep up with the groups they belong to, organize group activities, contribute money or volunteer their time, and even create their own groups. Moreover, among active group participants who are online, social network site use, Twitter use, and daily internet use are more powerful predictors of discovering new groups online, participating in “a lot more groups,” and spending more time participating in groups than other factors such as age, income, education, and efficacy.
Groups and their members are using social networking sites. Facebook was used by 62% of those surveyed. Twitter only had 12%. Blogs, and texting was used by 74% of the cell phone owners in the survey.
48% of those who are active in groups say that those groups have a page on a social networking site like Facebook 42% of those who are active in groups say those groups use text messaging 30% of those who are active in groups say those groups have their own blog 16% of those who are active in groups say the groups communicate with members through Twitter
Social network and Twitter users are also more active in some parts of group activity. For example, they post about group activities on their Facebook pages and Tweets. They are more likely than others to invite new people into a group. They are more likely than others to be targeted for invitation to groups, and use the internet to discover new groups.
This report is based on a survey of adults and does not focus on a student population. If we can see any transfer of these results to the use of social sites for a course, then we should also find that students feel enabled to participate in more groups and more likely to say they spend more time on group activities. Logically, social media users are significantly more likely than other group participants to go online for group activities. Can we say anything similar for students who take online courses?
Internet users are more active participants in their groups than other adults, and are more likely to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment. The survey asked group members whether they had done several core activities with their group in the past 30 days and internet users were significantly more likely to have done all of these activities.
Perhaps, the takeaway for educators is more about thinking of social media as a way to engage students rather than a distraction or a way that students become dis-engaged from their coursework.
The engagement measured in the report (see below) is Real World engagement. That's something that students often report appreciating in a course, but often find lacking.