Theories of Social Media and Learning: A Study on the Use of Social Media by Undergraduate Students

Theories of Social Media and Learning: A Study on the Use of Social Media by Undergraduate Students

Lourduraj Ignacimuthu (Karunya Institute of Technology and Sciences, India) and Mallika Vijaya Kumar (Karunya Institute of Technology and Sciences, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3464-9.ch017
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The objective of the study is to find out how students use social media for learning. Theories of social media and learning: social constructivism, heutagogy, activity theory, connectivism, cognitive development, peer learning, and peer tutoring, Cooperative learning is discussed and connected to learning. Social media is used at the college and university level for formal learning. The research methodology was survey research by a questionnaire, personal interviews, and focus group discussion. Youth in general are interested in using the technologies and it is found that they adopt technologies faster than the respondents in the age group of 45 and above. Learning takes place in their own habitats as opposed to formal classroom learning. The study also proves that the social media learners find new web portals to extend their learning and find answers for their questions from,,,, etc.
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Media forms (radio, television, advertising, and film) have evolved over a period of time to now include the Internet and social media, which has greatly changed not only the many forms of media, but also the way students and other learners choose to learn. Digitalization has led to innovations in new media forms and a proliferation of content across the various media forms. Today, the Internet plays a major role in the use of new media by users. New media users are not only youth, as was initially assumed by researchers, but also includes such as middle-aged people and seniors. The researchers of this study have been striving to study the phenomenon of the Internet and activities related to the Internet and how students use it to acquire learning.

Many universities abroad offer online programs using the Internet to conduct courses that are called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). The UGC (University Grants Commission) in India offers courses through SWAYAM, and students in India also take courses through “Coursera” – an online portal that provides courses in different disciplines. In some universities, the courses acquired through Coursera are given credits. A question that would arise in this context is whether a traditional classroom teacher could adequately be replaced by online teachers or content? Or could students acquire independent learning without a teacher? Anderson (2008) states about benefits of learning online (p. 17).

Perrin and Anderson’s research (2019) revealed that Facebook, which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, remains one of the most widely used social media sites among adults in the U.S. Roughly 7 out of 10 adults (69%) say they use the platform. Particularly for these two platforms, there are also pronounced differences in use within the young adult population. Individuals age 18 to 24 were substantially more likely to admit they use Snapchat (73% vs. 47%) and Instagram (75% vs. 57%) than those ages 25 to 29.

Theories are statements based on formulations given by one or more researchers, and they explain certain phenomenon observed in a particular context and generalized formulation. The conclusion of Lievrouw and Livingston (2006) is that new media require to reconsider the longstanding dependence within media research on theories and phenomena of mass society. Tang and Liu (2010) positively described social media as a facade and said that underneath this façade lies consumer content, information, and knowledge, and their most important point was that social media users are producers. Bosman and Zagenczyk (2011), observed that “social media’s capacity to enable people to connect, share, and collaborate has made its use increasingly common in the personal, business, and educational domains” (pp. 3–15). Dron and Anderson (2014) through their acclaimed work, explained the term “social” as an attribute that comes from the fact that social software acquire their value when used by two or more people. The researchers explained that social media sites were tools that were used to support sharing, annotating, discussing, editing, and the cooperative and/or collaborative construction of knowledge among a collection of “learners” and/or “teachers.”

Konert (2015) used Jean Piaget’s perspective of Socio-Constructivism to state that there was cognition and learning when a user used social media for learning. He stated that there were four aspects to Jean Piaget’s model of cognitive development, namely maturation, physical influence, social environment, and assimilation/accommodation. In other words, knowledge is socially constructed and when one interacts with the environment in which he or she lives in, knowledge is produced. This could be through the Internet, using web portals, search engines, and more, thus through assimilation and accommodation.

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