The Impact of Technology Innovation on the Undergraduate Learner: A Critical Perspective

The Impact of Technology Innovation on the Undergraduate Learner: A Critical Perspective

Victoria Palahicky (University of Victoria, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2943-0.ch012

Abstract

Undergraduate learners, as they try to figure out who they are through the process of identity formation, are vulnerable to the damage social media can cause. Yet, social media continues to grow in popularity among users (ages 18-29) and affords the ability to create a more desirable self; sustain current social relationships; and connect with new individuals around the globe. On the other hand, social media use can significantly impact perceptions of “self.” This chapter presents a critical perspective of social media use and the impact it can have on undergraduate learners' mental health and wellbeing. It concludes with a call for innovative supports for the undergraduate learner to address these issues.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Statistics for 2019 indicate an estimated 79% of the United States’ population have one or more social media profiles (Statista Research Department, 2019). More specifically, 90% of the United States’ population who use social media fall between the ages of 18 and 29 (Statista Research Department, 2019). Surveys also suggest four out of five American preteens have a social media account, despite most networks prohibiting any users under the age of 13 (Timberg, 2013). Social media affords opportunities to connect with new people, join groups that share personal interests, create an online persona, and share life experiences. Valkenburg and Peter (2009) suggest that adolescents on social media feel more connected to their current friends and, therefore, identify themselves as part of a community. However, longitudinal studies infer that prolonged Internet use reduces social relationships with others in their environment (Kraut et al., 1998). “Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or participate in social networking” (Heffner, 2016, p. 2) are forms of social media. Also, in the relevant literature, the term social media is treated as both singular and plural. Hence, this chapter will include both singular and plural references within the subsequent discussions.

Indeed, it has been shown that social media enhance communication and interaction among students and between teachers and students. Thanks to these platforms, instructors and students are now able to communicate with each other within or between classes. It has also been found out that social media are an effective way to promote students’ engagement as it enables shy, intimidated or bored students to share ideas and to express their opinions in a more comfortable way. (Faizi, El Afia, & Chiheb, 2013, p. 53)

Mushtaq (2018) conducted a study of 371 undergraduate students in the nine faculties of Alberoni University in Afghanistan on the positive and negative effects of social media. The study shows “there was no statistically significant difference concerning the negative effects of social media on the students' academic performance. From this result, it can be inferred that social media do not affect students' academic achievements negatively” (Mushtaq, 2018). However, research indicates that social media use can significantly impact perceptions of “self” (Manago, 2015; Behm-Morawitz, 2013; Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006), which in turn can impact students’ mental health (Choi and Ferro, 2018) and, therefore, can impact academic performance (Grøtan, Sund, & Bjerkeset, 2019). Grøtan et al. note the following:

Our study indicates that students who report symptoms of severe mental health problems have about four times the risk of experiencing low academic self-efficacy compared with those who report few and moderate symptoms of mental health problems. A situation in which anxiety contributes to worries, motor restlessness, unfounded fear of not accomplishing things, in combination with procrastination and avoidance behavior, may contribute to students developing problems in participating actively in learning and study situations. (Grøtan et al., 2019)

This chapter presents a critical perspective on technology innovation and looks at the impact of social media use on the undergraduate learner. As the author is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Victoria, located in British Columbia, Canada, this chapter offers an authentic undergraduate voice. For the purposes of these discussions, undergraduate learners are part-time or full-time students (18-29 years) taking courses at a college, university, or polytechnical institution towards an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or undergraduate certificate or diploma. “While the plurality of students at both four-year and public two-year institutions are between the ages of 18 and 24, students at for-profit institutions tend to be older: almost half are age 30 or older” (The Hamilton Project, 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Undergraduate Learner: A part-time or full-time student (18-29 years) taking courses at a college, university, or polytechnical institution towards an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or undergraduate certificate or diploma.

Gender Identity: A “person’s self-concept of their gender (regardless of their biological sex) is called their gender identity” (Lev, 2004, p. 397).

Personal Identity: “Refers to self-categories which define the individual as a unique person in terms of their individual differences from other (ingroup) persons” ( Turner, Oakes, Haslam, & McGarty, 1992 , p. 3).

Social media: “Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or participate in social networking” ( Heffner, 2016 , p. 2).

Learner Identity: “How [the] individual feels about himself/herself as a learner and the extent to which he/she describes himself/herself as a ‘learner’. This may be affected by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, such as personal motivation, a sense of belonging, support and encouragement from others and previous experiences of education” (Lawson, 2013, para. 14).

Social Identity: “ Refers to social categorizations of self and others, self-categories which define the individual in terms of his or her shared similarities with members of certain social categories in contrast to other social categories” ( Turner, Oakes, Haslam, & McGarty, 1992 , p. 3).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset