The use of social networking services to enhance the learning experience and academic performance of tertiary level learners

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Da Rocha, R. D.
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Vaal University of Technology
There are many learning paradigms in the academic field, many of which have been used since the advent of universities and other learning institutions. However, the advent and subsequent popularisation of the Internet in the early 1990's has led to the development of new learning paradigms. Simultaneously, students currently enrolled at higher education institutions (HEI) fall under the Generation Z cohort, otherwise known as Millennials. This generation has grown up with widespread usage of the internet, and research has shown that engagement with these students in an educational setting has slowed down. This study endeavoured to establish whether the use of Social Networking Services (SNSs) could aid to better engage student in the teaching and learning process, and if so, whether there would be a measurable improvement in the marks of students enrolled in a final year Information Technology (IT) module at a HEI. Facebook and YouTube were the SNSs chosen as the focus of the study. Data collection was achieved by means of mixed-methods methodology. Semi-structured interviews were held with lecturers to determine their perceptions regarding the use of Facebook from an educational perspective. thematic analysis was performed to identify prominent themes in the qualitative data. Statistical analysis was performed on the result of two groups of students that took the final year module over two semesters. An action research based case study was designed as intervention for students in the 2nd semester involving the use of SNSs. The marks of the two groups were compared and contrasted to determine whether an improvement in results had taken place. Students participating in the action research case study also completed a survey for the purpose of gauging their experiences in the use of SNSs for the action research interventions are also highlighted and discussed, and thematic analysis is performed. After analysis of the gathered data had taken place, it was clear that the majority of participants in the study found that SNSs could add value to the teaching and learning process and there was a small to moderate improvement in results. Guidelines for other institutions that would like to integrate SNSs into their teaching and learning processes are proposed and a model has been developed.
M. Tech. (Department of Information and Communication Technology, Faculty of Applied and Computer Sciences). Vaal University of Technology.
Social networking, Facebook, Action research, YouTube, Model, Research methodology, Survey, Video tutorials, e-Learning, Web 2.0, Generation Z, Mobile