Engaging with online networks leads to higher grades

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

New research at Griffith has revealed a direct correlation between student activities on enterprise social networks (ESN) and their academic grades.

The study examined the habits of online postgraduate students and how they engaged with Microsoft’s Yammer network to share ideas and collaborate with other students and academic staff.

The online opportunity to ask the right question at the right time also emerged as a significant benefit for students.

Professor Nick Barter, Academic Director of Griffith Online, looked at SWOOP Analytics data focusing on three Yammer groups and the activities of 222 students at Griffith University.

Each individual was attributed with one of five online personas as a result of their engagement activities.

“Preliminary results showed a clear correlation between SWOOP persona and academic performance,” Professor Barter said. “On average, the highest performing students were engagers, the most desirable of the five personas.”

SWOOP is designed to analyse and report on all relationships that are formed through enterprise social networks like Yammer. SWOOP Analytics allows each user to identify who is talking with who, spot influential people and hot topics, recognise the best performing groups, track sentiment on posts and show what time of day people are collaborating.

To ensure each individual can understand their own collaborative behaviour, SWOOP has identified five personas that characterise interaction behaviours on an ESN:

  • Engagers — Engagers are the engine room for collaboration networks. They connect and sustain relationships. The higher the number of engagers in an organisation the better.
  • Catalysts — Catalysts energise the network by attracting responses. They seed lots of conversations that lead to a lot of replies and likes.
  • Responders — Responders prefer to react to conversation rather than initiating them. They will often reply or ‘like’.
  • Broadcaster — The Broadcaster persona is self evident, as someone who sends messages but does not engagemuch with the groups and communities.
  • Observer — TheObserveris someone who consumes some of the content from the system but as they donot actively participate in the interactions they are unlikely to be creating 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.

SWOOP Chief Executive Cai Kjaer said the findings show the value of interacting on Yammer.

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

SWOOP Chief Scientist Dr Laurence Lock Lee, author of 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 of 57 organisations worldwide examined more than 250,000 employees and almost six million digital interactions. Its key finding showed business outcomes improved as an organisation’s ESN matured, linking a successful ESN to a successful business.