Study finds online engagement leads to higher grades for students

Students who use enterprise social networks as part of their university studies are getting better academic grades, new research shows.


This study focused on online postgraduate students and their engagement specifically with Microsoft’s popular Yammer network – which has become a busy medium over recent years for sharing ideas and collaborating between students and academic staff.

The opportunity ESN’s provide to ask academic staff and other students the right question at the right time emerged as one of their biggest benefits.

In undertaking this study, Professor Nick Barter, Griffith Online’s Academic Director, looked at SWOOP Analytics data covering the online activities of 222 students across three Yammer Groups.

Each of these 222 students were assigned one of five online personas as a result of their engagement activities, with preliminary results showing “a clear correlation between (their) SWOOP persona and academic performance”. According to Professor Barter, “on average, the highest performing students were engagers, the most desirable of the five personas”.

Designed to analyse and report on all relationships formed through enterprise social networks like Yammer, SWOOP Analytics allows each user to identify who is talking with whom, what they’re talking about, the sentiment of their conversation, the time of the day they’re collaborating and also, who the most influential and active users are within each conversational group.

To ensure all participants can properly understand their own collaborative behavior, SWOOP has created the following five distinct personas which characterise interaction behaviors across ESN platforms:

  • Engagers – As the engine room for collaboration networks, Engagers are adept at connecting and sustaining relationships. The higher the number of engagers in an organisation the better.
  • Catalysts – Catalysts energise their network by attracting responses from others. They also initiate a lot of conversations and keep them going with replies and likes.
  • Responders – Responders are more reactive individuals who prefer to respond to conversations rather than initiating them. They will often reply or ‘like’.
  • Broadcasters – Broadcasters as the name suggests, are happy to send messages to individuals within their group, but otherwise do not engage directly within their group or community.
  • Observers – Observers are mere bystanders, happy to consume the content of their groups and communities but not actively participating in terms of replies and likes etc. This persona is unlikely to be creating much organisational value.

“The so-called engagers were active communicators who both gave to and received from their peer group. Passive participants, called observers by SWOOP, scored poorly by comparison,” Professor Barter said.

Caj Kjaer, Chief Executive of SWOOP Analytics said these finding demonstrate the value of interacting on ESN’s such as Yammer.

“The results are very clear and show that the number of ‘Engagers’ increases in an almost straight line with higher grades.”

SWOOP’s Chief Scientist Dr Laurence Lock Lee, who also authored the world’s largest benchmarking report on ESNs, said the findings came as no surprise.

“When employees, or in this case students, use ESNs to connect and build relationships, whether it be in their own team or with a colleague on the other side of the world, it leads to greater knowledge sharing, innovation and ultimately a return on investment. In this case, that ROI is better performing students.”

Dr Lock Lee’s study spanning 57 organisations across the globe examined a total of over 250,000 employees and almost six million individual digital interactions. Its key finding found business outcomes improved as an organisation’s ESN matured, linking a successful ESN to a successful business.

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