Ubiquitous Technologies and Learning: Exploring Perceived Academic Benefits of Social Media Among Undergraduate Students

Ubiquitous Technologies and Learning: Exploring Perceived Academic Benefits of Social Media Among Undergraduate Students

Theodora Dame Adjin-Tettey, Daniel Selormey, Hannah Aku Nkansah
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.286758
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This study makes an original contribution to the literature on social media usage for learning purposes through the phenomenological approach of enquiry. It examined the general motivations for social media usage; how social media is used to meet academic needs; perceived academic benefits; and how social media usage disrupts studies. A total of 24 undergraduate students were engaged in rigorous focus group discussions. Results showed that social media has been adapted to suit the academic needs of users through the process of appropriation. It was found that although social media could be a viable platform for inter-university-collaborative-learning, respondents hardly engaged in that. It was suggested that students create inter-university social media groups for collaborative learning. There were accounts of negative implications of using social media, like addiction and distractions. Students must adopt tactics to handle distractions which could prove helpful in out-of-school settings like the workplace.
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Internet-enabled digital communications technologies, such as mobile phones, are considered disruptive technologies because they are creative and at the same time have displaced or chipped away how humans originally communicated or interacted, while at the same time shifting how organisations operate, [nearly] sweeping away the communications systems or habits they replace because of their noticeably superior features (Smith, 2020). Digital communications technologies can also be considered ubiquitous because they have become pervasive, permeating every facet of our lives. Their ubiquity is propelled by their ability to enable individuals, groups, or communities to communicate and participate for various purposes, including learning. The devices that house the various digitally enabled communications platforms are typically small and [sometimes] inexpensive and utilise telecommunication [internet] networks to connect people and devices locally and globally (Brown, Keller & de Lima, 2018). These platforms are also easily accessible and delivered in a manner appropriate to the location and context (Greenfield, 2010).

Social media are interactive digital tools that allow for the creation and sharing of information, interests, ideas and other forms of expressions or communications with the public (Kietzmann et al., 2011). As a disruptive technology, it has transformed the interaction and communication of individuals throughout the globe and is fast changing society’s public exchange of ideas or interaction. Being a medium for social communication, the sense of being in a community and interacting with people who share similar interests is deemed the major reason for the success of social media (Kumar, 2014). Due to its reach, speed and ease of operation, social media enhance engagement of a multitude of topics, including entertainment, politics and environmental concerns. Widespread network access eliminates time and location barriers, meaning users can access social media globally and around the clock (Asur & Huberman, 2010, p.1), no matter the location of participants and time. This has resulted in the acceleration of a set of media practices that are very much rooted in other media modalities, such as television viewing, making social media a common feature of young people's everyday lives (Swist, 2015). Mobile communications technologies are also ubiquitous in settings where learning occurs (Lepp, Barkley & Karpinski, 2015). However, there is a likelihood for interruptions to occur when learning takes place in spaces where mobile phones are being used at the same time. In the case of using social media for learning purposes, the disruptions could be even greater as messages or alerts that are non-academic related could disrupt learning. Thus, although social media can be used to enhance learning, it can also interrupt it.

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