The Application of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) in e-Learning and Online Education Environments: A Review of Publications in SSCI-Indexed Journals from 2004 to 2013

The Application of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) in e-Learning and Online Education Environments: A Review of Publications in SSCI-Indexed Journals from 2004 to 2013

Chia-Wen Tsai (Department of Information Management, Ming Chuan University, Taipei, Taiwan), Pei-Di Shen (Teacher Education Center, Ming Chuan University, Taipei, Taiwan) and Yi-Chun Chiang (Teacher Education Center, Ming Chuan University, Taipei, Taiwan)
DOI: 10.4018/ijwltt.2013070102
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In this paper, the authors reviewed the empirical studies on social networking sites (SNSs), especially those focused on adopting SNSs for students’ learning, published in SSCI journals from 2004 to 2013. It was found that the number of articles has significantly increased, particularly after 2009. Among the 76 published papers, most studies were conducted in higher education, as well as in education domain. Furthermore, the qualitative research method was used more in SNSs and e-learning research. The findings in this study may provide reference and directions for future research, and help teachers to consider using SNSs in their online courses.
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1. Background And Objectives

With the rapid development of information technology, this generation continues to usher in technological advances. Social networking services (SNSs), such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace etc., have dramatically changed the way people share information and interact with each other (Hughes, Rowe, Batey, & Lee, 2012), including communication, socialization, and private versus public information (Cain, 2008). Nowadays, SNSs have become a central, virtually unavoidable medium for social interactions (Gosling, Augustine, Vazire, Holtzman & Gaddis, 2011); they can be regarded as a relatively new research trend and have been reported on regarding their acceptance and use in variety of fields (Roblyer, McDaniel, Webb, Herman & Witty, 2010). Through SNSs, individuals are able to contact family, friends, even virtual strangers, frequently from the ease and comfort of home computers or mobile Internet devices (Myers, Endres, Ruddy & Zelikovsky, 2012). However, SNSs also present particular risks to young people, including exposure to online bullying, inappropriate material, possibility of contact with harmful strangers and opportunities to cause harm to others (Sharples, Graber, Harrison & Logan, 2009).

The history of SNSs is traced in Boyd and Ellison’s (2007) research indicating that following the release of the first SNS in 1997, the growth of these online communities has skyrocketed (Ahn, 2011). SNS is a ‘a web-based service that allows individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system’ (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). It is worth noting that SNSs differ from other forms of virtual communities in that they allow users to articulate and make visible their social networks (Greenhow & Burton, 2011). SNSs have implemented a wide variety of technical features; their backbone consists of visible profiles that display an articulated list of friends who are also users of the system (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). The advantage of technological innovations have given hope that new information and communication technology (ICT) tools will result in the overall progress and well-being of developing countries, in particular with respect to education services (Pimmer, Linxen & Gröhbiel, 2012). In this regard, research on SNSs is becoming increasingly popular, and not only in industrialized nations (Boyd & Ellison, 2007).

In recent years, the education field has experienced tremendous change from traditional classroom-based, location-specific instruction to virtual learning environments (Zandberg, Lewis, & Greene, 2008). In response to the reform, education scholars are now turning their attention to the learning implications of SNSs (Ahn, 2011; Greenhow & Robelia, 2009; Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009). It is found that SNSs such as Facebook are one of the latest examples of communications technologies that have been widely-adopted by students and, consequently, have the potential to become a valuable resource to support their educational communications and collaborations with faculty (Roblyer, McDaniel, Webb, Herman & Witty, 2010). More and more students may discuss educational issues on Facebook, and many people use Facebook primarily for informal learning (Madge, Meek, Wellens, & Hooley, 2009). In terms of students, online social network engagement can help them attain social acceptance and adapt to the university culture, which, in turn, improves their perceived performance proficiency (Yu, Tian, Vogel & Kwok, 2010). The use of SNSs raises serious and significant issues as to how they can best be applied to students’ learning. Therefore, this study aims to review SNS studies published in influential international journals from 2004 to 2013. The research questions of the current study are as follows:

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