Use of social media in learning
Modern generation has seen a rapid development regarding technology, which plays an integral role in the lives of humans today. One of the significant technological developments evident today is social media, which has been adopted in various contexts including companies, social organizations, as well as learning institutions (Moran et al, 2011). Social media as a form of technological development can be described as the tools and platforms, which enable user-generated content through writing and uploading to a particular web page. In recent years, the use of social media has gradually penetrated into learning institutions, with some of the social media technologies used in these institutions including blogs, discussion forums, wikis, and sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube (Roblyer et al, 2010). Undoubtedly, the explosion of the use of social media and social networking for teaching and learning can be based on various factors. Many instructors see social media as means through which more social constructivist and student-centered pedagogies may be designed in online environments, and this is because the media allow students to collaborate and contribute to e-learning environments in various ways (Ajjan & Hartshorne, 2008). In contrast to first generation e-learning tools, social media enables social learning and increases social interaction, which is integral to the teaching and learning processes (Madge et al, 2009). Social media has also been integrated into learning environments as it provides mechanisms for peer assessment, peer learning, as well as for the development of active learning communities of practice (Junco, 2012). Modern learning entails the creation of presentations or flashcards, doing video assignments, and taking notes from online platforms. Thomas & Thomas (2012) and Heiberger & Harper (2008) believe that all these rely heavily on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as these platforms enable learners to share information on created presentations or flashcards, video assignments, and notes obtained from other online avenues (Junco et al, 2011). Forming a significant part of this paper is a literature review section that gives details of previous studies or research focusing on the use of social media in learning.
Overview of the theoretical significance of selected articles
This paper interprets, reviews, and explores theories and ideas on the use of social media in learning from six scholarly journal articles. The selected articles are theoretically significant in various ways, one of them being that they give clear definitions of what social media are and how evident their increased use in modern learning institutions is. The selected articles also give a detailed and extensive discussion of why social media is used in learning institutions. In this case, the focus is on the specific reasons and factors that have influenced the use of social media in learning in institutions around the world. Moreover, the selected articles are theoretically significant because they explore the various ways through which social media is used in learning and its impact on teaching and learning in various institutions. Most importantly, the selected articles give an insight into the various learning institutions in various parts of the world that have emphasized the use of social media by both instructors and learners with the aim of achieving institutional goals and objectives.
Possible implications for intended research
As already mentioned, the literature review will focus on the analysis, interpretation, and exploration of issues on the use of social media in learning. With this, the literature review’s possible implications for intended research cannot be ignored. First, the literature review will lay a foundation or platform for the intended research on the use of social media in learning. This means that most of the findings or data collected from participants during the actual study will be in line with the literature review’s interpretation or analysis. Moreover, how relevant the researchers will be during the actual study depends on the information they will have acquired from this literature review. In the real sense, the literature review will provide important information that will determine the validity of the research findings.
According to Thalluri & Penman (2015), social media has played an integral role in the learning and teaching process, especially in undergraduate sciences. This article highlights Facebook as one of the key social media platforms, and it goes ahead to state that in 2013, Facebook played a crucial role in the learning and teaching of clinical problem solving in a Pathology and Clinical Science course at a university in South Australia. The article notes that while social interaction and engagement have evolved in the age of the internet, social media has become a crucial avenue of social interaction. One of the important components to student success in higher education is engagement among and with peers, and this has been achieved through the adoption of social media, especially Facebook, in learning institutions (Blankenship, 2011). It is seen that contemporary teaching methods are gradually shifting to the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, which is one of the most popular networking websites amongst all age groups in modern society. Students pursuing courses in medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and medical radiation find Facebook an important platform for their studies. In the United States, for instance, slightly over 90 percent of undergraduate students are deeply immersed in the use of Facebook highlighting how significant social media is to learning and teaching in the modern generation. The use of social media platforms such as Facebook in learning and teaching is based on the fact that it has real and potential benefits to learners and instructors. Thalluri & Penman (2015) indicate that one of the reasons for the use of Facebook in teaching and learning is that it presents a relaxed, friendly, accessible, and comfortable environment, which results in the promotion of collaboration, student engagement, and social exchange of knowledge and ideas. Also, the article notes that the use of Facebook in learning is because it promotes a social constructivist educational approach that is student-focused and highlights open dialogue and collaborative construction of knowledge and educational ideas. Moreover, since Facebook and other social media platforms are used in professional careers, their use in learning enables a smooth transition from the educational level to the professional level (Veletsianos, 2012). When used in learning, learners are accustomed to social media platforms, and as such, they are likely to experience minimal challenges when using the same in their professional careers, which tend to use more of social media platforms in society today (Hung & Yuen, 2010). Despite the positive contribution of social media to the learning process, questions have been raised about its educational value. This article notes that the use of social media in learning is threatened by the fact that it has very little educational value and that its application is limited to staying connected with others. This means that for learners to use platforms such as Facebook, they have to stay connected with one another, a perspective that promotes more of social connection than academic engagement (Bosch, 2009). On the other hand, the use of social media in learning is seen as jeopardy to how people relate to society because in the midst of proliferating websites, and social connected devices, feelings of loneliness and isolation are on the rise (Davis III et al, 2012). In the real sense, the use of social media is a deterrent to more meaningful social and academic interactions such as meeting lecturers, practical lessons, tutorials, and group study sessions in person (Tess, 2013). However, the impact of this can be addressed to ensure that more learning institutions shift to the use of social media in learning because its impact on improved student performance in recent years remains evident.
Seaman & Tinti-Kane (2013) argue that over the years, it has become increasingly important for people working and taking part in higher education to explore and analyze the opportunities new technologies such as social media bring to students, educators, and the overall learning institutions. The use of social media in learning institutions has been in the spotlight since 2009, and this has seen most institutions shift and gradually adopt the same in learning and teaching contexts (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2013). To adopt social media in learning, it is important for stakeholders in education systems to understand the emerging media, the opportunities they offer to education, and how their adoption can result in the evolution of learning in educational contexts. Seaman & Tinti-Kane (2013) and Wankel (2009) note that social media has brought an exciting reality because it has allowed a new avenue for communication as well as valuable learning and teaching to spring up between learners and instructors and among learners themselves within learning institutions and across the world. Some of the components of social media that have played an integral role in learning include social profiles, avatars, online groups, chats, activity feeds, as well as fully integrated Skype functionalities. Other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ have enabled engagement and interaction among students and between students and instructors, and these have had positive impacts on student performance and overall performance of learning institutions (Selwyn, 2009). This article pinpoints that through social media platforms, educators can rate, tag, share, and give comments on digital assets as they search for and upload them to the repository. Understandably, the need to realize the full potential of social learning has seen a continuous vetting of social media programs and addition of new social media capabilities to learning institutions (Junco et al, 2013). Of course, there are factors or reasons why educational stakeholders insist on the use of social media in learning and teaching. As stated in this article, one of the reasons for the use of social media in learning is that it produces better results for students and institutions. Besides, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter lay a foundation that prepares students to compete in an ever-changing global economy. Moreover, the use of social media prepares and enables learners and instructors to use technology and other digital resources effectively in modern society where the use of technology is becoming compulsory (Selwyn, 2012). Unfortunately, not all educational stakeholders share a positive opinion of social media as it pertains to the teaching and learning. On the one hand, there are people pushing for the adoption and use of social media in learning, and on the other hand, there are those campaigning against the use of the same in learning and teaching processes. Those campaigning against the use of social media in learning argue that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other networking sites jeopardize integrity of student submissions, raise concerns about privacy and confidentiality in the learning process, and are a challenge to students with no skills and knowledge on the use of technology (Friesen & Lowe, 2012). This article also believes that the use of social media platforms in learning is one big challenge as learners may take too much time learning how to use them and that it may result in the inability to measure effectiveness in educational systems.
According to Redecker, Ala-Mutka, & Punie (2010), the increased use of social media in society today can be attributed to the significant developments in internet usage. This article opines that over the last few years, with the inception and rapid developments in the Internet, private and professional lives of European citizens have changed significantly. This is because the Internet has offered people an increasing number and range of opportunities in accessing information, exchanging and gaining knowledge, as well as realizing personal learning goals. In Europe alone, in 2009, an average of 31 percent of the population, of between the ages of 16 and 74, were already using the internet for learning purposes. The rise of the Internet goes hand in hand with the rise of the use of social media, and as suggested in this article, the high take-up of social media applications both within and outside formal educational settings have provided new opportunities for innovation and modernization of learning institutions and have prepared learners for the developments of the 21st century. Brown (2012) and Hew (2011) argue that communication and knowledge exchange are some of the key components in the learning process, and this have been achieved or enhanced through the adoption of social media in learning, which has allowed learners to publish and share digital content such as photos and video discussions as well as submit assignments and other work to instructors. Redecker, Ala-Mutka, & Punie (2010) pinpoint that social media has in several ways contributed to the enhancement of learning and teaching opportunities in Europe and other parts of the world. The use of social media in learning is based on several factors, one of them being that these platforms facilitate current and prospective student access to information thereby making institutional processes more transparent and enabling the distribution of educational material from one point to another. Also, this article notes that the use of social media in learning has resulted in the integration of learning into a wider community as well as linking up experts, researchers, and practitioners in a particular field of study, perspectives which have helped open up alternative channels for learners to gain knowledge and enhance skills. The emphasis on the use of social media in learning is also based on the fact that it provides support for the exchange of knowledge and material, and facilitates community building and collaboration among learners and teachers. Most importantly, Redecker, Ala-Mutka, & Punie (2010) argue that social media is critical to learning because it increases academic achievement with the help of motivating, personalizing, and engaging learning tools and environments.
Dunn (2013) is also of the opinion that there is an increased expectation and anticipation placed on the role of technology in the achievement of effective learning in educational contexts. Among the technologies explored in this article are social media, which is seen to offer a new construct to enhance students’ learning experience. Dunn (2013) argues that one of the social media platforms that should be used in learning is Twitter because it may result in increased engagement and improved interaction between learners and instructors. Other important components in the learning process are a social presence, interactive learning environments, as well as collaboration, all of which can be achieved through the use of social media in the learning process (Barnes & Lescault, 2011). This article goes ahead to mention that to achieve the objective of active learning and deep interaction between learners and instructors, an extended degree of technological engagement is required, and this can only take place when social media is integrated into the learning process. Student motivation and dispositions influence their ability to use social media in learning, and these are the perspectives that instructors must focus on if they are to achieve various expectations or goals in the learning process. According to Dunn (2013), some of the social media platforms that play an integral role in the learning process are Facebook, which is the most popular social network, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Like other scholars and articles, Dunn (2013) believes that the use of social media in learning is based on several factors. First, this article argues that the use of social media in learning is on the rise because it is a way of increasing student motivation and engagement with course material, both of which are emphasized in learning institutions. According to Dunn (2013), other reasons for the use of social media in learning are that it increases student-to-student collaboration, enhances interaction between learners and instructors, accelerates data and information sharing, removes barriers to self-expression and contribution, and provides students with modern-day skills that help their employability and increases levels of satisfaction.
Lim et al (2013) highlight that the use of digital technologies especially in the higher education context is based on numerous assumptions about how affordable technology is for social interaction and learning. This article attributes the increased usage and employment of social media technologies in educational contexts to the advancement of Internet broadband services, web-based technologies, smartphones, and other mobile devices. Lim et al (2013) define social media tools (SMTs) as portable web-enabled tools that are accessible through platform independent web browsers. SMTs are important because they enable sharing of collaborative activities not only in social but also educational contexts as well as business contexts (Chen & Bryer, 2012). The article is of the opinion that social media technologies gave the ability or capability to transform users into creators of collaborative knowledge that forms a collective intelligence. This article identifies some of the categories of social media technologies including text-based, social networking, media sharing, virtual world and games, mobile-based application, mashups, as well as synchronous communications and conferencing applications. The mentioned tools have different purposes or functionalities that suit or meet the needs of students in learning contexts. For instance, text-based applications such as blogs, discussion forums, and wikis could help learners in their individual or group assignments and projects. Also, Lim et al (2013) argue that students can use social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to connect with their friends and instructors.
Friedman & Friedman (2014) argue that the world is changing rapidly and this has seen libraries morph from structures filled with books to repositories of information. Modern educational institutions emphasize on the acquisition of information and knowledge from platforms such as DVDs, eBooks, and YouTube videos (Veletsianos & Navarrete, 2012). In the real sense, the learning process has changed significantly thanks to the inception of the Internet and the social media platforms that have accompanied it. Friedman & Friedman (2014) define social media technologies as tools that encompass a wide variety of web-related communication technologies such as online social networking, blogs, wikis, and virtual worlds. SMTs are critical to communication, collaboration, creativity, community, and convergence, which are all essential elements in the learning process. Arguably, social media has facilitated the gradual shift from the traditional face-to-face learning to online learning, which also requires active engagement on the part of the learner. It is expected that rather than being passive recipients of knowledge, learners should be active participants in the learning process, an objective that is achieved through the use of social media in the online learning process (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010). Social media platforms such as Skype, Twitter, Gmail, and Google+ enable engagement between learners and instructors on a regular basis. Through these platforms, learners can send their discussions, assignments, or projects to instructors and receive feedback on the same (Ebner et al, 2010). Moreover, this article pinpoints that social media is a huge boost to online learning as it enables students to interact and learning from one another just as they learn from instructors.
Briefly, as seen above, the use of social media has gradually been extended to learning institutions in recent years. Many instructors see social media as means through which more social constructivist and student-centered pedagogies may be designed in online environments, and this is because the media allow students to collaborate and contribute to e-learning environments in various ways. Several studies, including those identified in this literature review, give various reasons or factors that have motivated the use of social media in learning institutions. Some of these factors highlighted in articles reviewed above are that social media presents a relaxed, friendly, accessible, and comfortable environment, which results in the promotion of collaboration, student engagement, and social exchange of knowledge and ideas and that they contribute significantly to the enhancement of learning and teaching. An emphasis on the use of social media in learning will result in the motivation of both learners and instructors, and this could see a significant student and overall institutional performance.
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