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Connecting With Alumni: An Experiment In Social Networking Using Facebook Groups

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Programming for Engineering Students II

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.358.1 - 14.358.11



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Paper Authors


John K. Estell Ohio Northern University

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John K. Estell is Chair of the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science
Department, and Professor of Computer Engineering and Computer Science, at Ohio Northern University. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His areas of research include simplifying the outcomes assessment process, first-year engineering instruction, and the pedagogical aspects of writing computer games. Dr. Estell is a Senior Member of IEEE, and a member of ACM, ASEE, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Connecting with Alumni: An Experiment in Social Networking using Facebook Groups


One of the more difficult aspects of complying with the ABET criteria concerns the collection of data in support of Criterion 2, Program Educational Objectives. The primary issue involves not only possessing valid contact information for graduates, but also maintaining a relationship with one’s graduates such that there is an inherent willingness to participate in the assessment process when an alumni survey is received. Unfortunately, low response rates, sometimes even in the single digits, are often the norm, making evaluation of the assessment data difficult. The traditional methods of maintaining relationships with alumni have not been overly effective for obtaining such data, so why not try something different? This paper presents an initiative undertaken by the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science (ECCS) Department at Ohio Northern University to use the social network service Facebook as an electronic mechanism for better developing and maintaining communications between the department and its alumni, and in so doing provide greater opportunities for increasing alumni participation rates regarding program educational objectives assessment.

Background: Social Network Services and Facebook

Social network services are a relatively new phenomenon, offering ease of access and providing a variety of modes of interaction between members. Boyd and Ellison define social network services as web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system1. The concept of a social network service, however, is hardly new; as examples, Free-Net and similar community-oriented networks have been available since the early 1990s, bulletin board systems were popular during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Usenet newsgroups have been around since 19792. Additionally, in their seminal 1968 paper, Licklider and Taylor prognosticated that telecommunication through the network would be a natural extension of face-to-face communication, with life for the on-line individual being happier “because the people with whom one interacts most strongly will be selected more by commonality of interests and goals than by accidents of proximity”3.

Modern-day social network services, as defined above, have been in place since the establishment of for connecting friends and acquaintances from one’s high school in 19954. One of the most popular social network websites is Facebook ( Named after the paper “face books” distributed at many academic institutions that depict members of a campus community, Facebook has acquired over 150 million active users worldwide since its inception in 20045. Users are required to register, with one email address associated per Facebook account; however, there is no charge to use the service. Users are encouraged to create a profile featuring both basic and personal information regarding items such as birthday, hometown, relationship status, education, work, activities, and interests; these items are formed into links on one’s “Info” page. By traversing a particular link,

Estell, J. K. (2009, June), Connecting With Alumni: An Experiment In Social Networking Using Facebook Groups Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4541

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