Posted by: Louis Lavelle on October 6, 2011
Whose Facebook friend request is most likely to annoy and raise suspicion in the minds of college students: their mom’s, their boss’s or their professor’s?
According to a study in the Journal of Education for Business, the answer is their professor’s.
While reactions to a mother’s or boss’s friend request were generally positive, “a considerable number of students agreed they would feel nervous, worried, suspicious, and concerned if they received a friend request from a professor,” reads the report, which included results from a survey of 208 undergraduate business students at an unidentified university in the Midwest. The study suggests that privacy concerns were the reason for the negative reaction, but the surveys themselves didn’t ask students to identify a reason.
The study outlines boundaries for professors to consider as more use social media to distribute class information.
Most professors do not send friend requests to students, says study co-author Katherine Karl, a management professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
However, the report cites an instance when a professor contacted a student via Facebook and got a faster response than when the professor had contacted the student via email. She also notes a prior study that suggested students engage with lesson material posted in Facebook forums more often, and in more complex ways, than they might when the same material is posted on web forums maintained through the school.
“There are a lot of faculty who have the mentality ‘Why not go where the students are?” she says.
As more professors create Facebook groups for their classes, sending students friend requests may seem a logical step. If a professor does decide to "friend" students, Karl suggests they warn them about the possibility in class first, explain why, and remind students that if they choose to accept, they can always adjust their privacy settings. Another suggestion is for professors to keep a passive relationship - accepting students' friend requests but not actively sending them.
Karl's study specifically asked students how they would react to friend requests from their "worst professor" and a professor they didn't know very well. It did not ask students about their "best professor," though Karl says the implications apply to professors across the board, as they may not be able to gauge how they are perceived in the minds of students.
- Erin Zlomek