In recent years, social networking services (SNSs), for example, Facebook, have shown exponential growth in their number of users. Witnessing the popularity of these SNSs, educational researchers have also explored the potential educational value of using SNSs. Despite the few studies that have investigated learners' attitudes toward and the effects of incorporating SNSs in class, limited attention has been paid to examining learners' knowledge and cognitive processes involved in online discussions using SNSs. Although general public interest in life-long learning has been gradually increasing, relatively little attention has been devoted to exploring the application of SNSs in adult and continuing education programs. To promote a better understanding of using SNSs in learning, this study seeks to explore learners' online discussion behaviors in an art course that involved a project-based learning activity using a popular SNS, Facebook, to support students' asynchronous online discussions. The participants in our study included 62 students enrolled in the school of continuing education at a university in northern Taiwan. Adapting the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy as a coding scheme, this study employed a quantitative content analysis (QCA) and lag sequential analysis (LSA) to examine the content and behavioral patterns of students' discussions. The results indicate that the most prominent knowledge dimension in students' discussions is the meta-cognitive knowledge, while the cognitive process is primarily focused on understanding and comprehension. In addition, a moderate proportion of off-topic discussion was found in this study. Considering the different behaviors that may be exhibited by members of varied age and gender, a further analysis based on students' individual differences was conducted. The results showed that, in the context of online discussions, female and older learners are more likely to engage in off-topic discussions. Based on these findings, this study suggests that when conducting online discussion activities using SNSs, instructors should consider the characteristics of adult learners and their individual differences and design their teaching activities accordingly. Implications and limitations of this study are discussed, and pedagogical suggestions for adapting SNSs to teaching activities for adult and continuing education are proposed.
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