Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Science and Technology


Ping Zhang

Second Advisor

Jing Lei


Community of Inquiry, Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, E-Learning, Human-Computer Interaction, Information Science, Information Systems

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Students are increasingly expecting social media to be a component of their educational experiences both outside and inside of the classroom. The phenomenon of interest in this dissertation is understanding how the educational experiences of students are affected when social media are incorporated into online and blended course activities. Qualitative case studies are undertaken toward this end from a Human-Computer Interaction perspective by proposing 4 research questions: (1) How does the use of social media in blended-learning courses impact students' educational experience? (2) How does the use of social media in online courses impact students' educational experience? (3) How do specific features of social media impact student experiences inside the physical classroom? (4) How do specific features of social media impact student experiences outside of the physical classroom?

This work is rooted in the theoretical foundations of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework to conceptualize educational experience as defined by the intersection of social, cognitive, and teaching presences. Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST) is also integrated here to conceptualize social media features as technical objects defined through the relationship of functional affordances and symbolic expressions between students and social media.

The findings are based on a total of 9 case studies (5 within a blended context and 4 within an online context) bound by students in Masters-level library science classes at Syracuse University. The results suggest that social presence is clearly the most salient type of presence in social media within blended course contexts, while cognitive and social presences are relatively salient in social media within online course contexts. Two main categories of affordances, timeliness and information curation, emerged as pertinent to students' educational experiences in blended courses; while both of these, plus multimedia engagement, were identified as relevant to online courses. Technical objects (general features of social media) were identified which facilitate these affordances, and implications based on these are provided in respect to practice (for educators and information technology designers) and theory.


Open Access