Date of Thesis

4-27-2015

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science in Education

First Advisor

Joseph L. Murray

Abstract

This thesis reports on a qualitative phenomenological investigation of the personal experiences of nine undergraduate students who attended Bucknell University, chosen on the basis of their shared experiences of deep immersion in social networking platforms; all had attained values of 40 or above on their Klout Scores, which measure social influence. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts and social analytic metrics, was used to identify the unique ways in which student engagement occurs online. Based on a review of the data, it appears that traditional principles of social influence are applicable to online interactions. The social engagement cycle and its collaborative loop are helpful in describing the phenomenon of social student engagement. Three categories of online student thought leaders emerged from this research: collaborators, connectors, and contributors. Interview data revealed that the participants valued connectedness, sought acceptance and gratification from online listeners, displayed skills in filtering through dense information, used social media as their primary source of news, and gravitated to others online who had interests similar to theirs. Also, findings suggest that social media use enhances student collaboration, which encompasses salient academic and non-academic aspects of the student experience.

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