Introduction and Theoretical Framework
The present research aims at analyzing the perceptions of Saudi students toward the use of social media in their education as a means of supporting the learning process. Investigating students’ understanding of social media is crucial since it is closely associated with contemporary educational methods. Acquiring more facts about Saudi students’ attitudes will promote instructors’ perception of the possible advantages that students may gain with the help of social media technologies. Students’ feedback can stimulate the King Saud University to make positive changes to its curricula and help the establishment to remain aware of preconditions for new technology to enhance learning efficiency (Henderson, Selwyn, & Aston, 2017).
The focal point of the paper is to review, evaluate, and discuss peer-reviewed sources concerned with students’ opinions on the use of social media in learning. The research will start with an overview of the Saudi Arabia system of higher education and the advancement of technology in this sphere. Further, the definition of social media will be offered, along with the exploration of its history and its application and recognition in higher education. The discussion will concentrate on the positive and negative attitudes of students toward the application of social media in the learning process. Finally, the gaps in current literature will be singled out, and insights and resolutions will be based on the main question of the literature review.
Within the framework of this paper, it is significant to clarify the diversity of Saudi students’ perceptions of social media use in the promotion of learning. Such judgments perform a vital function in the process of decision making. As Davis (1986) argued in his Technology Acceptance Model, learners’ individual behavioral goals were affected by their perceptions (Davis, 1989).
The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) was introduced by Davis in 1989. This division of social learning theories may be defined as an information systems theory that formulates users’ acceptance of technology (Ma & Liu, 2004). The TAM is applied in the information technology sphere to investigate the anticipated usefulness, the perceived simplicity of multimedia use, and the effect of the attitudes and opinions on the individual’s behavioral intention to employ multimedia (Davis, 1989).
The model implies that when users first face new technology, their decision about exploiting it is affected by numerous factors. Perceived usefulness is defined as “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance,” which can have a profound impact on one’s behavior (Davis, 1989). The perceived ease of use is another central issue that is “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free from effort” (Davis, 1989). Taking these definitions into account, it is viable to presume that there is a substantial connection between learners’ perception and their behavioral intention.
TAM’s principles suggest that students’ behavioral decision to exploit social media to promote their learning outcomes is imposed directly by their expectations of the ease of use and the applicability of this option (Davis, 1989). Findings of some studies demonstrate that when colleges and universities aim to employ social media as a new technological method for enhancing their students’ learning, they should analyze learners’ perceptions first. Students are the primary prospective users of new approaches, so it is crucial to find out their attitude toward it first in order to make the implementation process successful (Leafman, Mathieson & Ewing, 2013).
Educational facilities may face challenges when putting new technology into action if they do not have an understanding of their students’ perception of the suggested innovation (Van De Bogart & Wichadee, 2015). Hence, the assessment of students’ perceptions toward the use of social media will make it possible to evaluate their behavioral intention and the results of the implementation.
Higher Education in Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia initiated the first educational program in 1932. At that time, there were 12 schools and approximately 700 students (Alamri, 2011). However, the situation changed considerably in 1938, when oil was found. Therefore, by 1950, 42,000 students were attending 365 schools in the KSA (Alamri, 2011). Later, the Ministry of Education was established by the government.
The Ministry aimed at developing and introducing the K-12 educational system, but only for male students. In 1957, the first university of the KSA was founded in Riyadh, which made it possible for students to obtain higher education not abroad but in their native country (Pavan, 2016). Still, King Saud University allowed only men to apply for education. In 1960, however, the first school for girls was opened in Riyadh (Hamdan, 2005). At present, gender segregation can still be vividly noticed, although there is a considerable number of female schools in Saudi Arabia.
Education in the KSA establishments is free for all citizens, and students receive stipends at all levels of the higher education system (Rabaah, Doaa, & Asma, 2016). The main purpose of introducing the scholarship was to convince parents to send their children to universities without being afraid that they would not be able to pay for education (Rabaah et al., 2016). Within two decades after the establishment of King Saudi University, six more universities were founded. With the number of students proliferating, there emerged a need to create the Ministry of Higher Education (Alshuwaikhat, Adenle, & Saghir, 2016; Pavan, 2016).
Functions of the Ministry included suggesting the institution of higher educational establishments, founding, and governing colleges and universities, arranging communication between institutions, and regulating the collaboration with other ministries with regard to their concerns and needs (Pavan, 2016).
As the website of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education informs, the KSA’s higher education has experienced colossal progress over the past ten years. The system of higher education now includes 23 government universities, 80 primary teachers’ colleges for women and 18 for men, 37 colleges and instituted focused on healthcare education, 33 private colleges and universities, and 12 technical colleges (Pavan, 2016). In 2015, the Ministry of Higher Education changed its title to the Ministry of Education. Currently, it has jurisdiction over K-12 and higher educational institutions at all levels (Higher education statistics, 2018).
Saudi Arabian universities cover all levels of higher education, such as Bachelor’s Master’s, Ph.D., and fellowship degrees (Alhareth, Al Dighrir & Al Alhareth, 2015). The Arabic language is used in all classes except for science, technology, and medical courses, which are predominantly taught in English. As the most current statistics offered by the Ministry of Education indicate, in 2017-2018, 1,680,913 students were enrolled in higher education programs (Higher education statistics, 2018). To teach these students, 83,884 faculty members were employed in colleges and universities during the same period (Higher education statistics, 2018).
Additionally, the KSA government has been financing the education of some students in certain majors in Western educational institutions (Pavan, 2016). The most extensive overseas educational endeavor, called the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, was initiated in 2005. The program’s major purpose is to satisfy the presently “unmet need for Saudi faculty members and requirements of work markets in the KSA” (Pavan, 2016). The King Abdullah Scholarship Program provides financial support for learners pursuing higher education at all levels, from Bachelors’s and Masters to doctorate ones in a variety of majors. Also, the program comprises medical fellowships in the most renowned universities in the world (Alhareth et al., 2015).
Saudi Arabian students who obtained the opportunity to receive education abroad got to know new modes of learning, such as online and hybrid education. Also, they learned about and new instructional activities and methods within face-to-face classes (Lefdahl-Davis & Perrone-McGovern, 2015). The obtained skills allowed graduates to shape innovative ways of teaching and learning that had not been employed within the traditional system of education in Saudi Arabia before (Mitchell, & Alfuraih, 2016). Still, the Ministry of Education strives to enhance the quality of higher education further. With this aim, it has recently initiated the reinforcement of technology use in learning and teaching.
The Development of Educational Technology in Higher Education in Saudi Arabia
ICT has become an indispensable element of people’s daily lives in the 21st century. The significance of ICT in humanity’s development, including the sphere of education, cannot be overestimated. In economic respect, Saudi Arabia is the leader in the Middle East ICT market (Almutairi, 2015). Hence, the country’s government has made considerable attempts to intensify the use of technology within all vital systems. For instance, in 2008, Saudi Arabia announced the need to create a national plan for implementing information technology across the kingdom. One of the vital suggestions expressed in the plan is to launch distance learning and e-learning, along with their potential applications in the system of higher education (Unnisa, 2014).
In 2007, the Ministry of Higher Education reacted to the government’s call by authorizing the National Center for e-Learning and Distance Learning (NCEL). This entity concentrates on different projects bolstering Saudi Arabian universities to promote educational proximity by employing communication and information technology (Al-Hila, Alhelou, Al Shobaki, & Abu Naser, 2017). The NCEL also helps colleges and universities to arrange the necessary training required for conducting online lessons.
To make its effect more beneficial, the NCEL created the Saudi Center for Support and Counselling (SAEED), the main duties of which include the arrangement of academic and educational support and the promotion of recommendations related to e-learning beneficiaries (Al-Shehri, 2010). The NCEL has also initiated several campaigns, the function of which is to improve e-learning in Saudi universities. Among such endeavors, there was the learning management system, JUSUR, which creates the appropriate learning management options in Arabic so that Saudi educational establishments could employ them.
JUSUR utilizes the Learning Content Management System (LCMS), with the assistance of which it is possible to improve the delivery of e-learning content. The LCMS contains a scalable platform to distribute the necessary data to researchers and students (Alghamdi & Bayaga, 2016). The promotion of e-learning in the KSA is supported by a variety of services offered by the NCEL. Each of the services available is employed to satisfy the training and technological needs of the country’s colleges and universities.
One more example of positive innovations in education is the Saudi Digital Library (SDL). The SDL strives to improve the educational opportunities of society by offering electronic courses for Saudi students and academics, including the masters’ and doctoral theses of Saudi students studying in different countries of the world. Apart from these programs, in 2011, the Ministry initiated the Plan for the Future of University Education in the Kingdom (AFAQ) (Abouelenein, 2017).
This plan is one of the most significant improvements in higher education. It is viewed as a strategic policy for the implementation of e-learning and other crucial technological innovations. The project was organized to promote and enhance the higher education system quality in the Kingdom over the next 25 years. Among the key goals of the AFAQ, there is the improvement of ICT use among students and professors of Saudi colleges and universities.
Another crucial objective is the promotion of different learning styles adoption so as to concentrate on the integration of technology into the process of teaching. What is more, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, hosted four international conferences focused on distance learning and e-learning in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015. The coordinator of these conferences was the Ministry of Education – Higher Education. Such promotional activities of the Ministry endorsed the adoption and improvement of technology in the Kingdom’s higher education system (Al Gamdi, & Samarji, 2016).
While technology, in general, is currently established at a high level within the KSA, its implications for higher education institutions need more consideration. At a global level, technology occupies a pivotal place in universities (Isman, Abanmy, Hussein, & Al Saadany, 2012). Since the KSA endeavors to arrange the educational process in its leading institutions in accordance with world standards, it should employ up-to-date technologies.
Thus, the application of technology in Saudi educational establishments bears a high level of actuality because of the potential benefits for learners and teachers (Noaman, Ragab, Madbouly, Khedra & Fayoumi, 2017). Meanwhile, students and educators do not seem to deploy technological tools equitably. The country’s universities have quite different levels of skills in the sphere of technology use. Therefore, the significance of applying innovative technologies in the educational environment is evident.
Definition of Social Media
Social media is a significant twenty-first-century phenomenon that has become part of many people’s daily lives. The term “social media” is used to describe various networking instruments and technologies that use the Internet as a tool for cooperation and creative expression (Fuchs, 2017). The terms “social software” and “Web 2.0” are often used synonymously with social media, although “Web 2.0” is better defined as the overall trend toward the creation of online communities through new technological features (Fuchs, 2017).
Social media is defined as “a group of Internet- based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (Kaplan, 2015, p. 197). It is a tool for social interaction that goes beyond interpersonal communication with the help of universally accessible and scalable interconnection techniques (Fuchs, 2017). Social media websites pursue the goal of enabling users to connect with one another and create opportunities for social interaction through accessible technological tools for communication (Gebicka & Heinemann, 2014).
History of Social Media
Historically, the development of social media can be traced back to the 1970s. Although some people consider e-mail technologies to be part of social media, the first Internet-based discussion system, Usenet, did not appear until 1979 (Sajithra & Patil, 2013). Usenet enabled users to create discussion boards by sending categorized messages to many users simultaneously and allowing users to leave comments and post responses (Sajithra & Patil, 2013).
Another major development occurred in 1988 when the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was created. The primary function of IRC was to enable users to chat with one another in real-time, both in groups and through private messages (Sajithra & Patil, 2013). The introduction of Usenet and IRC led to the creation of hundreds of personal websites and online discussion groups, which were similar to modern-day social media both in their purpose and functionality.
The first website to be classified as a social media platform was SixDegrees.com, which was launched in 1997 (McIntyre, 2014). This website enabled users to connect with new people from all over the globe and employed features such as personal profiles and instant messaging (McIntyre, 2014). Despite its promising concept, the website shut down after less than three years of operation. Over the next few years, between 1997 and 2001, the Internet saw the creation of the first of many social networking platforms, including Friends, Asian Avenue, BlackPlanet, and MiGente, which were established for the purpose of creating personal and dating profiles (McIntyre, 2014).
New developments in the field of social media also saw an increased focus on professional collaboration. LinkedIn, Xing, and Ryze were all launched in the early 2000s as professional networking platforms (Razmerita, Kirchner, & Nabeth, 2014). Starting in 2003, the number of social networking sites began to rapidly increase as platforms were launched for various interests and purposes. The term “YASNS” (Yet Another Social Networking Site) was coined by software analysts at the time to describe the increasing number of social networking sites that were available to society (Gebicka & Heinemann, 2014).
As the educators of Saudi universities report, they tend to assimilate social platforms into the process of teaching. The most popular social networks used for this purpose are Twitter (Microblogging), Facebook, and YouTube (Media Sharing). Applications such as Wikis and blogs, as well as video-sharing tools, are becoming more and more popular with students and teachers as ways of enhancing the process of education (Yusuf, Almadah & Alam, 2016).
In 2004, Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg, whose mission was to bring together people with different backgrounds and encourage interaction. It began as a closed social network for students attending Harvard University (Goff, 2013) before expanding to other colleges and universities. However, Facebook required each user to have a university email address in order to register, which limited access to the site.
Facebook remained closed until 2006 when it became an open platform for all members of the public (Goff, 2013). During the first three months of 2017, the global number of Facebook monthly users reached 1.94 billion, with a 17% year-over-year growth (Hoffmann, Proferes, & Zimmer, 2018). This social network allows its users to keep in touch by generating personal data profiles, encouraging their friends and colleagues to join their friends’ lists, and exchanging instant messages. Such personal profiles can contain any range of data, such as photos, video files, audio recordings, and blogs (Kotzaivazoglou, Pascaloudis, Sylaiou, Nerantzaki & Mantzirtzi, 2017).
At the same time, there is a stable tendency to employ Facebook for teaching purposes. With the growing number of students using Facebook, universities find it beneficial to join the trend. In the KSA, there are over 8 million active Facebook users and 3.7 million Twitter users (Ajina, 2019). Out of those keeping a Facebook profile, 59% are estimated to be females (Marino, Gini, Vieno & Spada, 2018).
The structure of Facebook’s operations makes it possible for students to be involved whenever it is convenient for them without being pressured by the traditional classroom environment. Evidently, such engagement is crucial to gain a productive learning experience. One of the Kingdom’s universities, Imam Muhammad bin Saud University, reports positive outcomes of exploiting social media in general and Facebook in particular in its educational process. For instance, one of the instructors generated a Facebook account for the course and invited students to join it. The page was further employed to discuss ideas and exchange opinions, along with the possibility to upload and download educational video files. The experiment gained positive feedback both from the university’s authorities and students (AlNaji, 2013).
Twitter appeared in 2006, a year after the launch of YouTube. This is a type of social media allowing users to communicate by means of microblogging. Twitter gives the possibility to look for information, share news, and describe one’s everyday life. Users can post tweets – 280-character messages (the number of characters doubled in 2017; previously, the limit had been 140) (Weng, 2019). Twitter was created as a fun social media platform for keeping one’s friends updated on one’s routine.
However, with years passing, the site turned to be out much more than its original function assumed. Twitter is the generator for business, communication, marketing, and even education due to allowing users from different parts of the world to share ideas, collaborate, and exhibit the result of their work. The recognition of this platform among young people gave educators the idea that it could be employed as a learning tool both in the classroom and in other professional dimensions (Carpenter, Kimmons, Short, Clements, & Staples, 2019).
To be able to follow the youth’s involvement in technology, educators need to make use of Twitter and apply it in the process of learning. According to statistical data, the number of Twitter users in the KSA has increased by “more than 3,000% from 2011 to 2012,” and currently, users tweet around 50,000,000 posts per month (Alotaibi, Albalawi, & Alwakeel, 2018). Researchers report that 53% of Twitter users on the global scale are females, and 77% of them are fifteen-twenty five years old (Alotaibi, Albalawi, & Alwakeel, 2018). Nearly 33% of Saudi Arabia’s Internet users have Twitter accounts, and the country holds first place among ten different countries in the number of users. However, the application of the platform in the educational environment is not sufficient.
Along with Facebook, YouTube is another type of social media allowing users to share content. Upon being purchased by Google in 2005, YouTube quickly became institutionalized (Landoni, 2018). As a video-sharing platform, YouTube lets its users reach out to the global community through posting and viewing video content (Singh, 2019). Due to the possibility of sharing videos all around the world, traditional stereotypes of populations began to decline. Due to offering the option of participating in discussions, video conferences, and comment threads, YouTube has turned into the global change agent (Singh, 2019).
There are about 78 million registered users of YouTube, and over 150,000 videos are uploaded every day (Singh, 2019). Many organizations use videos to promote their products or services to potential buyers all over the world. Other goals pursued by YouTube users are those of entertainment, influence, or information (Singh, 2019). According to Borges and Silveira (2019), YouTube enables people to access a variety of videos for free, including the ones with educational content. Individuals can pick sources depending on their personal needs, thus both random video bloggers and accredited universities can interest users in their content.
As Singh (2019) notes, such an option as a video response enables users to communicate through videos. People begin by opening the original video file, and then they can generate sequences, receiving responses from many other users.
Use and Popularity of Social Media in Higher Education
The use of social media technologies in higher education has increased recently. As Lenartz (2013) notes, individuals and educational establishments have started to experiment with innovative methods of applying social media in a variety of educational functions. One of the pioneering universities in this respect is the City University of New York (CUNY). CUNY has formed a closed social network for its faculty, staff, and graduate students to create a connection between the university’s campuses and generate online communities (Kaya, 2010).
One more such institution is Arizona State University, which employs social websites to warn learners and educators about emergencies (Mendoza, 2010). London School of Business and Finance is known to offer materials on its Master’s in Business Administration course on Facebook. Among them, there are lectures, message boards, and discussions, which help students to register and pay for the selected course (Kaya, 2010).
The University of Nevada has become widely known due to its student activity in the development of a social media application aimed at the simplification of the financial aid generation process. According to Lenartz (2013), Devin Valencia, a Nevada student, “won a College Affordability Challenge grant for a Facebook application she developed to help students locate financial aid.” Valencia’s application allows connecting financial aid databases to Facebook, thus making it possible for students to seek financial support, refer options to one another, and “announce aid they have applied for or received” (Pratt, 2011, p.19).
Aalborg University in Denmark employs an open-source social networking environment titled “Ekademia” to generate networks within classes between learners and educators to provide them with the necessary tools (Lenartz, 2013). As Ryberg et al. (2010) report, students of this educational establishment utilize the mentioned tools for social interaction and communication, as well as for making announcements about parties and sports events.
Ellison et al. (2017) have analyzed Michigan State University’s students’ use of Facebook as a virtual learning platform. Scholars report that learners mainly exploit Facebook to create and maintain bridging social capital, which is defined as “useful information or new perspectives” (p.1146). The increase in Facebook’s popularity with students for bridging social capital has been related to the elevated role of the platform as a virtual learning community. Hilscher (2014) notes that the use of Facebook in colleges and universities has gradually occupied some of the activities that have always been associated with non-virtual learning communities. Such an innovative approach may be interpreted as a way for teachers and students to remain in constant contact while employing the methods preferred by traditional learning communities.
A faculty member at King Abdul-Aziz University, Mrs. Hayat Alguraibi, announced in 2013 that together with her social studies course students, she created a Facebook account to post information, exchange feedback, and publish posters and slogans related to the social life in the KSA. As Aydin (2012) notes, the increased interest in social media usage in general and Facebook specifically makes the platform a tool that many students employ. However, learners’ use of social media for academic goals requires further analysis to utilize such innovations more effectively and make every student able to benefit from digital innovations.
Social media sites are used in education to support and facilitate learning, given their popularity among students. There are various social media tools that could be used for different educational activities (Munshi, Mostafa, & Alam, 2018). As several studies have demonstrated,
Facebook is the largest social media site. It allows people to make connections, share interests, and join groups and is the most widely used social media platform within education (Munshi et al., 2018; Sobaih, Moustafa, Ghandforoush, & Khan, 2016). Munshi et al. (2018), for example, conducted a study to determine which social media sites are most widely used by students in education. As part of this study, a survey was distributed among students to gauge their use of social media sites. An overwhelming number of survey responses indicated that Facebook is the most widely used learning tool.
Facebook is the primary tool, and one of the most popular social media sites, used specifically for learning, as it facilitates the educational process and benefits students by acting as a resource for sharing educational information (Munshi et al., 2018). Additionally, Sobaih et al. (2016) identified Facebook as the most-used social media tool among assistants and professors within the educational practice. The results of this research suggest that social media tools, like Facebook, are effective for supporting learning (Sobaih et al., 2016).
However, another study found that the most popular social media site used as a learning tool is Twitter (El Bialy & Jalali, 2015). The objective of a study conducted by El Bialy and Jalali (2015) was to determine the most-used social media site within education. As part of this study, a survey was distributed among academic staff and students. The results of the survey showed that Twitter was one of the leading social media platforms within the context of education, as it can increase students’ motivation and involvement in the learning process (El Bialy & Jalali, 2015). Furthermore, Twitter can be adapted for educational purposes and used as a medium to share videos and take surveys. Thus, staff and students use Twitter extensively to facilitate and enhance their learning and teaching (El Bialy & Jalali, 2015).
Although some studies have found that social media sites are used in education, a number of other studies have demonstrated that social media sites are not frequently used within the context of education (Lahti, Haapaniemi-Kahala, & Salminen, 2017; Manca & Ranieri, 2016).
For example, Lahti et al. (2017) developed a survey to determine how, and for which educational needs, students use social media. The findings of this study indicated that students do not use social media. The study concluded that social media is not popular as an educational platform (Lahti et al., 2017). This finding was supported by Manca and Ranieri (2016), who conducted a study to determine the educational uses of social media.
Manca and Ranieri (2016) indicated that using social media in education remains limited and that instructors do not integrate such tools and components into their teaching practices. Some arguments against the use of social media are that it is inappropriate for educational purposes, it creates pedagogical issues, and it is inconvenient for use within institutional constraints (Manca & Ranieri, 2016). However, the various research analyzed under this theme suggests that there are differences regarding the popularity of social media use in education.
Students’ Perceptions of Social Media Use in Education
The studies discussed previously indicate that educational institutions are actively using social media to improve student instruction. Therefore, discussing the research related to students’ perceptions of social media usage leads to improvements in instructional practices and available learning tools. The perception of learners is a crucial to reveals students’ positive and negative perceptions toward social media which have an effect on their use. (Arslan, 2018).
Many studies have demonstrated that students have a positive view of social media and emphasize the benefits and usefulness of these platforms to improve the learning process (Al-Rahmi & Zeki, 2017), (Kitchakarn, 2016), (Souza, et al, 2019). Kitchakarn (2016) performed the analysis of students’ perception of Facebook in terms of its usability, appropriateness, and perspectives to use the platform. Also, the scholar aimed to find out whether the mentioned factors were correlated. The research utilized a questionnaire and a proficiency test to collect data. Findings indicated that the overall mean score of students’ perceived usefulness and ease of use was at a high level.
Additionally, students had a positive disposition concerning the use of Facebook in various activities. Kitchakarn (2016) reported that there was a positive correlation between the perceived usefulness and the decision to perform activities on the social website. Since such perceptions influence students’ likelihood to exploit social media, the study paved the way for integrating social media in learning (Kitchakarn, 2016).
Some studies have shown that students view social media as a tool that provides them with quick and efficient access to information which contributes to improving the learning process (Kitchakarn, 2016),(Souza et al., 2019). For instance, Souza et al. (2019) found that social media platforms provide support for pedagogical activities by creating a digital space for information sharing and grouping of students. Students perceived social media as a significant practical utility for providing ease of access to published didactic material and interactively shared content among them.
They stated that social media is advantageous in the speed and ease of access for didactic material, allowing to use of virtual content and images to assimilate the subject matter more effectively (Souza, et al, 2019). The study by Elkaseh, Wong and Fung (2016) focused on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), which incorporates both perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness along with behavior intention to employ new technologies. Scholars tested the issues impacting the use of social media networks for e-learning in Libyan higher education.
The authors used a quantitative research approach and chose a survey as a data collection tool. Elkaseh et al. (2016) gathered data from a sample of students studying at four different universities in the Libyan sector. The structural equation model was utilized to evaluate the predictive behavior of the research model’s proposed factors. Scholars found that the perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness were crucial factors for predicting learners’ behavioral intentions to use social websites. The findings indicated that learners and educators who used social media on a daily basis had more positive perceptions of e-learning.
Furthermore, research emphasized a strong relationship between social media ease of use and e-learning acceptance. Elkaseh et al. (2016) concluded that individuals exploiting social networking media regularly had a higher likelihood of accepting innovative technologies in the learning and teaching process.
Students have shown that using social media will give multiple opportunities for accessible collaboration on academic projects and display a willingness to connect with their peers (Berthoud & Gliddon, 2018; Hazari & Rutledge, 2013; Pai et al., 2017). For instance, Hazari and Rutledge (2013) conducted a study to examine the effects of social media on learning and evaluate students’ general perceptions of blogs used as a learning tool.
The participating students stated that using blogs for their assignments helped them interact more with their peers than traditional methods did and stated that social media enhanced their classroom experience by encouraging cooperation and greater interaction with course content. The participants of this study stated that social media encourages discourse among peer groups, increases participation, and improves deep learning, critical thinking, and cognitive development in a media-rich environment (Hazari & Rutledge, 2013).
A similar study by Berthoud and Gliddon (2018) investigated students’ perceptions of various social media site’s use, e.g., Wikis and Twitter, to determine the extent of peer collaboration and interaction in team projects for the fulfillment of a bachelor’s degree. Student teams from various disciplines and academic years were provided with social media tools, and their perceptions of and the usefulness of these tools were then surveyed. The students indicated that social media was a helpful and preferable tool for collaborating with their peers on design projects (Berthoud & Gliddon, 2018). Although each of these studies used different social media tools, their results indicate that students found using social media helps to promote collaborative learning among students.
In other studies, students have indicated that social media helps to improve their academic achievement, performance, and skill development (Arslan, 2018; Asif-Ur-Rahman, Junayed, & Masoom, 2015). For example, Asif-Ur-Rahman et al. (2015) discuss students’ perceptions regarding the use of social media and its effect on their educational performance. Participating students indicated that, because they used social platforms to support learning, social media had a positive impact on their academic performance.
The researchers found that most students highlighted the positive benefits of social networking; students indicated that social media can be used for a wide variety of academic activities, including reading, exchanging information, commenting on texts, and discussing course material, all of which can help students improve their skills and understanding (Asif-Ur-Rahman et al., 2015). However, some of the students who participated in this study stated that social media usage had no impact at all on their academic performance (Asif-Ur-Rahman et al., 2015).
Arslan (2018) found that students perceived social media as beneficial for communicating with peers regarding academic issues and that this led to an improvement in academic performance, including contributions to class discussions, attention to lectures, participation in in-class group activities, and completion of assigned classwork and homework. A positive correlation between social media use and undergraduate student academic performance and achievement was also found (Arslan, 2018). Both studies showed that social media can have a positive influence on students’ performance; however, some students in one of these studies stated that social media had no noticeable effect on their academic achievement, indicating that there is a need for further research.
Motivation is a fundamental aspect of successful learning (Al-Rahmi & Zeki, 2017). A number of studies have shown that many students believe that social media, including Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, are an effective tool for enhancing motivation and increasing interest in the learning environment (Al-Rahmi & Zeki, 2017; Sheeran & Cummings, 2018; Soufi, Saad, & Nicolas, 2015). Soufi et al. (2015), for example, conducted a study to investigate students’ perceptions about and the educational benefits of social media platforms.
The results of this study indicate that blogs can nurture critical thinking and enhance motivation among students, who stated that their interest in the content grew by visiting blogs, and they were more inclined to read, write, and improve their learning skills due to social media. Social media has a big impact on students’ motivation and can be used as a motivational factor within the learning environment (Soufi et al., 2015).
A similar study conducted by Al-Rahmi and Zeki (2017) used a different research method (quantitative research) to study the students’ views and the advantages of using social media for students, including improving their engagement and motivation while meeting their needs. Learners stated that social media provided them with a high level of learning enjoyment (Al-Rahmi & Zeki, 2017).
Students have indicated in other studies have demonstrated that social media not only contributes to peer interaction but also builds effective communication and rapport between students and instructors (Aljaad, 2016; Raza, Soroya, & Babar, 2017). Students who participated in a study conducted by Raza et al. (2017), which was focused on undergraduate and graduate students, reported that social media helped improve their communication with instructors. The students reported that social media allowed them to communicate with their instructors, ask questions, receive feedback, share their needs and concerns about academic issues, and improve relationships with their teachers.
The students also reported that social media gave them the opportunity to network and build relationships with other students or scholars in their respective scientific fields, allowing for an efficient exchange of information and experiences (Raza et al., 2017). This study demonstrates the important role that social media plays in establishing and enhancing communication among peers and between students and instructors.
At the same line, Aljaad (2016) conducted a study aiming to identify the student’s perception toward using social media as a communication tool in education using students’ perspectives. The results demonstrated that social media enhanced communication with others in academia and raised awareness of social responsibility. Students indicated that social media platforms allow them to follow and obtain new information regarding academic specialty or gain access to specialized scientific consulting.
Furthermore, students stated that social networks provide them with opportunities to network and form relationships with other students or scholars in their respective scientific fields, allowing for an efficient exchange of information and experience (Aljaad, 2016). Conclusively, the studies demonstrate the important role of social media in establishing and enhancing communication among peers and between students and instructors.
The majority of the literature discussed in this section emphasized the positive perceptions of students regarding the implementation of social media within education. However, there are also concerns and negative perceptions, which should be addressed in order to form a more comprehensive understanding of the student’s perception of using social media in education.
The aforementioned research findings indicate that students consider social media to be a supportive learning tool that helps them achieve their educational goals. Social media enhances and promotes students’ learning and performance. However, some students have indicated that social media does not benefit them in their learning and they have negative views regarding using social media in education (Flanigan & Babchuk, 2015; Talaue et al., 2018).
Some studies have shown that social media distracts students from their academic activities and learning processes instead of enhancing their education (Al-Harrasi, & Al-Badi, 2014). Students have indicated that social media can include a variety of distractions, such as opportunities to upload photos and chat, which can easily shift their attention to other sites. Thus, social media reduces students’ attention and ability to focus on their learning (Al-Harrasi, & Al-Badi, 2014; Demirbilek, & Talan, 2018; McCarthy & McCarthy, 2014).
For instance, McCarthy and McCarthy (2014) conducted a study to determine whether social media aids students in their learning or serves as a distraction, and while some students indicated that social media was beneficial, numerous other students noted that social media sites like Facebook serve as a distraction from studying and require students to have a specific set of skills in order to remain focused.
The students who participated in McCarthy and McCarthy’s (2014) study believed that the primary issue was that utilizing social media for education leads to distractions, such as playing games and engaging in numerous social activities via Twitter and Facebook, that ultimately divert the students’ attention toward external websites where their engagement is focused not on the learning features of social media but rather on the features of these external websites (McCarthy & McCarthy, 2014).
Moreover, according to Al-Harrasi and Al-Badi (2014), students have expressed concerns regarding social media being used as an education tool. Some students have indicated that social networking can negatively impact their attention, distract them from the task at hand, and threaten their privacy (Al-Harrasi, & Al-Badi, 2014). Studies related to the use of social media for learning have produced mixed results, with some students indicating a positive impact and others claiming that social media leads to distractions.
Although the literature examined earlier in this paper demonstrates students’ positive views regarding the ability of social media to improve educational performance, there are also students who have indicated that social media has reduced their performance and negatively impacted their academic achievement (Flanigan & Babchuk, 2015; Talaue et al., 2018).
Flanigan and Babchuk (2015) examined the perceptions of university students regarding the impact of social media on their educational experiences and found that students consistently reported reduced achievement levels due to social media usage during their educational activities, which increased the time required to complete tasks and decreased the students’ abilities to retain information from their courses. Students noted that social media distracted them from learning and had an overall negative effect on their ability to complete educational tasks, which served as a barrier to improving their academic performance or achieving success (Flanigan & Babchuk, 2015).
A mixed-method study conducted by Talaue et al. (2018) found that students have different perceptions about the use of social media in facilitating academic achievement. Students indicated that they chose to utilize social media like Facebook for communication and entertainment rather than for learning; this choice can lead students to engage in non-educational activities rather than focus on learning or enhancing their skills. The majority of students indicated that Facebook usage during class reduced their achievement and negatively impacted their academic performance (Talaue et al., 2018).
Another negative opinion is that social media leads to time-wasting and procrastination. For instance, Mohammad and Tamimi (2017) investigated students’ perceptions of, using social media for learning purposes. The researchers found that, although some students indicated that social media could be beneficial for networking and information sharing, numerous students objected to its use, viewing it as an unnecessary consumption of time. The students indicated a reduced ability to manage their time for learning activities and tasks when they were engaged with social media for educational purposes (Mohammad & Tamimi, 2017). Therefore, social media could be considered a waste of time.
The goal of this paper is to critically discuss the perception of using social media in education. Employing social media as an educational tool is critical in order to meet the needs of Generation Z, who no longer find traditional teaching methods to be relevant, engaging, or useful. Therefore, this discussion and literature review examines a variety of perspectives regarding the use of social media throughout the learning process and includes fundamental concepts, the history of social media, popular uses within education, and student perceptions, both positive and negative. The research has found that, while Facebook and Twitter are regularly used as learning tools, social media has yet to be fully integrated and continues to lack popularity within educational environments (El Bialy & Jalali, 2015; Munshi et al., 2018).
As the discussion illustrates, students have a variety of perceptions toward the use of social media in education, both negative and positive. Students who expressed positive opinions toward social media as a learning tool emphasized the beneficial aspects of its use in education (Al-Rahmi & Zeki, 2017; Arslan, 2018; Berthoud & Gliddon, 2018). These students emphasized the positive impact social media has had on their academic performance and their motivation for, and engagement with, learning (Al-Rahmi & Zeki, 2017; Soufi et al., 2015).
Additionally, the positive perceptions expressed by students were focused on the collaborative nature of social media as a learning tool, which allowed students to communicate with each other and with instructors and to participate in group discussions (Arslan, 2018; Raza et al., 2017). Furthermore, most students indicated that social media was simple to use and provided easy access to information and resources, which enhanced their learning (Berthoud & Gliddon, 2018; Hazari & Rutledge, 2013).
While there are some positive aspects to the use of social media, some students possess negative opinions toward using social media in education, citing negative impacts on their learning (Flanigan & Babchuk, 2015; Talaue et al., 2018). Students have noted that social media platforms create a distraction from their education, offering many opportunities to engage in non-learning activities and requiring students to direct more effort toward staying focused (McCarthy & McCarthy, 2014).
Students have also stated that social media has had a negative impact on their educational performance and achievement (Flanigan & Babchuk, 2015). Finally, some students have indicated that educational use of social media has contributed to time-wasting and procrastination, which have also negatively impacted the students’ learning processes and efficiency (Mohammad & Tamimi, 2017).
This literature review has revealed students’ different perceptions toward the use of social media as a tool for learning. However, the overall student perception regarding the use of social media as a learning tool cannot be determined because the studies have all provided different results. These differences in students’ perceptions highlight the need for further investigation. Obtaining more information regarding students’ perceptions of social media would help support educators who wish to integrate social media into education. Students’ perceptions can also aid educational institutions with their curriculum development and program modernization in order to keep up to date with the requirements for new technology and tools that can increase learning efficiency. Thus, studying students’ perceptions is essential for understanding and increasing the use of social media in education.
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