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nt. J. Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 5, No. 1, 201
7
Copyright © 2017 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.
Social media adoption in higher education: a case
study involving IT/IS students
Kerstin Siakas*
Department of Informatics,
Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki,
P.O. Box 141,
Thessaloniki 57400, Greece
Email: siaka@it.teithe.gr
*Corresponding author
Pekka Makkonen
Faculty of Information Technology,
University of Jyväskylä,
P.O. Box 35,
Jyväskylä 40014, Finland
Email: pmakkone@jyu.fi
Errikos Siakas
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
IT Centre,
University Campus,
Thessaloniki 54124, Greece
Email: esiakas@it.auth.gr
Elli Georgiadou and Harjinder Rahanu
Faculty of Science and Technology,
Middlesex University London,
The Burroughs,
London NW4 4BT, UK
Email: e.georgiadou@mdx.ac.uk
Email: h.rahanu@mdx.ac.uk
Abstract: This paper discusses the adoption and use of social media in Higher
Education (HE). The aim of the research reported in this paper was to identify
the main factors and problem areas in the adoption and use of social media in
HE. Our study included a survey involving students of Information Technology
and Information Systems in Greece and in Finland. In order to verify the
findings from the survey, a follow-up survey was also undertaken. The unified
technology adoption approach was identified to be a suitable underlying theory
for this study. The analysis of viewpoints of students was needed in order to
understand converging and diverging viewpoints. The results showed that
infrastructure is the most important issue in the planning of learning/teaching
Social media adoption in higher education 63
activities based on social media, followed by the role of social influence. Based
on the analysis, guidelines for planning social-media-based learning activities
are proposed. Indications of further work complete the paper.
Keywords: case study; IS students; IT students; learning; social media; social
media adoption; social media in higher education; social networking; social
network sites; teaching.
Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Siakas, K., Makkonen, P.,
Siakas, E., Georgiadou, E. and Rahanu, H. (2017) ‘Social media adoption in
higher education: a case study involving IT/IS students’, Int. J. Social Media
and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp.62–78.
Biographical notes: Kerstin Siakas is a Professor at the Department of
Informatics at ATEI of Thessaloniki, Greece. She is engaged in research in
Multidisciplinary Approaches of Software Engineering. She has a particular
interest in the social, cultural and political approaches and their effect on
society, as well as on the subsequent challenges for managers, educators and
governments.
Pekka Makkonen has been an ICT/IS professional since 1985. Internationally,
he has worked as a Teacher in various European universities as the head of ICT
School in Afghanistan, a Teacher Trainer in Saudi Arabia, a Training Expert in
South Sudan and an e-learning expert in Tanzania. He has developed e-learning
and created student-centred/driven approaches for collaborative learning on the
internet. He has also worked intensively with local companies in Finland to
create working-life-oriented ICT/IS education.
Errikos Siakas holds a BSc in Software Engineering from the Department of
Informatics at ATEI of Thessaloniki and MSc in Networks Communications
Systems Architectures from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Currently, he works as an IT Specialist at the IT Department of Aristotle
University. He is an ECQA certified social media Networker and Valorisation
expert.
Elli Georgiadou is a Fellow of the BCS, a Quality Management consultant and
a Visiting Academic & EU Projects Advisor (having managed several large
European Research and Knowledge Transfer projects) at the Faculty of
Engineering and Information Sciences, Middlesex University, London, UK. She
has over 30 years of teaching in Higher Education as a Principal Lecturer and
has published widely on Software Quality Engineering, and Education.
Harjinder Rahanu is a Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems from
the Faculty of Science and Technology at Middlesex University London. He
holds a PhD in ethics and artificial intelligence. His primary teaching is focused
on object-oriented analysis and design. His areas of research include computer
ethics, information literacy and technology supported learning.
This paper is a revised and expanded version of a paper entitled ‘Adoption of
social media in the teaching of IS/ICT: Comparing students to faculty
members’, presented at the 27th annual conference of the Society for
Information Technology and Teacher Education, March 2016, (Site2016),
Savannah, Georgia, US.
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1 Introduction
Communication, collaboration and sharing are the foundation of social media. The term
social media is interchangeable with the terms Web 2.0 and social software (Dabbagh and
Reo, 2011). In the last 5 years, social media platforms (SMPs) have been established both
in academic and public use. SMPs mainly include internet and mobile-based technologies
used to turn communication into interactive dialogue among individuals, communities
and organisations. They enable users to create, engage and share new or existing content,
in digital environments via multi-way communication denoting multiple paths, channels
or configurations (Davis et al., 2012). SMPs consist of factors that establish virtual social
spaces encouraging communication and interaction.
In recent years, technology-enhanced learning has become a fundamental part of
higher education (HE) (Siakas et al., 2011). Rapid advances in information and
communication technologies (ICTs) have initiated fast and easy access to new electronic
learning environments. In particular, SMPs have become an integral part of modern
society. They have completely changed the way we communicate, share and co-create
information. Social networking is accomplished through a bottom-up approach and
crowd-sourcing (Siakas et al., 2014). Engagement in SMPs usually means that
stakeholders become active participants to a higher degree. This is partly due to the fact
that learning becomes fun and is akin to leisure activities that these young people
participate in, as opposed to remaining as spectators. The objective of motivating students
to actively participate in their learning process has reached a higher level in comparison
to tradition settings since more participants (students) engage in all forms of social
discourse by multi-way communication and action.
The expression, social networking sites (SNSs), is used as an umbrella term for all
social media and computer-mediated communication, including but not limited to
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. SNSs offer a new bottom-up type of channel among
internet users for collaboration, communication, creativity and socialising with each other
(Abedin, 2016; Mooney, 2009). A bottom-up approach works from the grassroots - from
a large number of people working together, usually causing a decision to arise from their
joint involvement (Dubois, 2002). In our study, the bottom-up approach refers to students
who are expected to actively collaborate for increased learning. Despite the fact that most
SNSs appear to be similar regarding their characteristics of co-creation and knowledge
sharing, many of them are different in terms of their purpose and the types of users they
attract. Now, Wikis, Blogs and social networking are as important to learning as the
lecture theatre and campus infrastructure in a traditional University campus (Daniel,
2012). They take the form of discussions via fora, blogs and microblogging (mainly
Twitter). When using SNSs in HE, learners are expected to take initiative and to play an
active role in their learning process.
Cachia (2008, p.7) argued that most users of SNSs use them to ‘social search’ people
they have met offline and to stay in touch and consolidate relations with core friends’.
Others extend their networks, using their online visibility to augment professional
opportunities, amplify weak ties and to exploit their few minutes of fame.
Figure 1 depicts that SNSs are characterised by ease of use and bottom-up activities.
People use SNSs to interact with each other within a common information space and to
participate in diverse interactive and social activities, such as posting content, sharing
pictures and videos, tagging and organising events (Pallis et al., 2011). Due to the fact
that these technologies are embedded in, and are integral to, the everyday lives of young
Social media adoption in higher education 65
people, they are likely to increase the engagement of students in an online learning
community (educationally, they can have encouraging academic outcomes (Deng and
Tavares, 2013; Graham, 2014; Hrastinsk and Aghaee, 2012; Junco, 2011; Junco et al.,
2013; Oradini and Saunders, 2008; Welch and Bonnan-White, 2012). The results of
different studies seem to indicate that for social media to achieve its full potential,
students need to be inculcated, nurtured and encouraged to engage with this form of
learning (Graham, 2014). In particular, in online courses, achieving student engagement
may be more important than it is in on-campus courses because online students have
fewer ways to be engaged with the institution and probably also greater demands on their
time and attention (Meyer, 2014).
Figure 1 Characteristics of SNSs (see online version for colours)
Source: Adopted from Cachia, 2008, p.7
Figure 2 Basic theoretical model on user intention and actual use of social media
Source: Adopted from Venkatesh et al. (2003), p.427
The use of SNSs in HE is rapidly expanding. Social networking in HE has the potential to
enable new pedagogic, student-centred ways through their bottom-up approach for
supporting knowledge activities that harness collective intelligence as opposed to
hierarchical teacher-centred approaches (Georgiadou et al., 2014).
The objectives of universities are to ensure that all their students are in a position to
make educational progress. Progress requires that the students are helped to be successful
in their tasks. Educators, along with millions of other online adults, are joining social
networks and adopting a variety of content-sharing tools for personal, professional and
classroom use.
The use of social media in HE is a recent trend for increasing the motivation of the
students and for enhancing their education. Social media and digital literacy are high
among young people. The use of social media in HE is likely to increase the means to
persuade and influence, and the ability to reach a wider audience. Students are no longer
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just consumers of information and teaching material, but potential active content creators
and distributors.
Seaman and Tinti-Kane (2013) reported in their results from a survey including 7969
responses that in total 59% of faculty members consider that better learning outcomes can
be achieved using social media. At the same time, however, 56% of faculty members
consider that these technologies can be distracting in HE. Because of this disharmony
concerning the role of social media in HE, we should comprehend that social media tools
are technology tools and applications similar to any other business or educational
software (Makkonen et al., 2016).
These issues and particularly the issue of social media adoption in HE require
investigation. Innovative technologies (infrastructure as well as applications) are likely to
follow the same cycle of diffusion as other technology innovations and their adoption.
New generations of students are likely to belong to the category of early adopters as
defined by Rogers (2003) in his innovation adoption theory and illustrated by among
others Keesee and Shephard (2011) as self-adopters.
This paper considers the opinion of HE students from IT/IS departments at the
University of Jyväskylä, Finland and at the Alexander Technological Educational Institute
of Thessaloniki, Greece regarding the adoption and use of social media in HE. The paper
presents an analysis of responses to a survey which identifies and ranks important factors
affecting the adoption and use of social media in HE. Also guidelines for planning social-
media-based learning activities are proposed.
2 Social media in HE and IS/ICT education
Seaman and Tinti-Kane (2013) have studied the use of social media in teaching and
learning. They assert that over 70% of faculty members use social media at least once a
month or more and 41% use social media in their teaching activities (Seaman and
Tinti-Kane, 2013). Active use of social media in the classroom, which has been primarily
passive or consumptive in the past (e.g. in the form of watching an online video), is on the
rise. The positive impact on learning communities is significant based on the volume of
social media use. In particular, the use of blogs and wikis has affected teaching activities
significantly. On the other hand, podcasts, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are less
significant (Seaman and Tinti-Kane, 2013, pp.7–9). Another aspect that requires
investigation is the quality of learning. Lau et al. (2014), for example, show the
significantly positive effects of social media used on the quality of learning in terms of
learning performance and motivation.
The real benefits of social media used in HE are based on understanding learning
theories. Social constructivist theory explains how and why social contacts and
interaction are vital for learning (Vygotsky, 1978). Connectivism as a learning theory
clarifies the prevailing technical point of view in which human beings are more connected
using different media and social media (Siemens, 2005). Technology, in general, and
social media in particular, create a learning experience that makes students more
interested in the learning process. Numerous online courses now include social
networking in order to augment collaboration and learner interaction. In many learning
management systems, social networking is assembled into units through embedded html
scripts. Social media tools facilitate more effective and engaging collaboration with
teachers and peers. Today, pedagogical tendencies, such as learning to learn, seem to be
Social media adoption in higher education 67
considered to have greater impact on future experiences than the construction of domain-
specific knowledge itself (Grodecka et al., 2009).
The use of SNSs by students is more dominant outside the university, during leisure
time. Networked students increasingly use Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter,
Skype, Viber and YouTube among other social media tools to communicate. The Net
Generation students have grown up with the technology, computers, video games and the
internet. Because of this, they share common experiences and a culture that is defined by
certain attributes and is related to how they interact with ICTs, information itself and
other people. New learning experiences need to adapt to the new generation of learners by
supporting a more collaborative, social, user-generated content view of the world.
New SNSs emerge every day, including new opportunities and new challenges.
Teachers are increasingly using social media tools to support teaching and learning in
traditional classroom environments in order to provide new opportunities for enriching
existing curriculum through authentic, creative, flexible and non-linear learning
experiences. According to Deng and Yuen (2011), participants who use social media
build an active audience engaged in collaborative content creation. This aligns with the
constructivist learning paradigm, which views learners as active creators of knowledge,
and learning as a social process. Using social media implies that both students and
teachers become more active and involved on a personal level (Faraon et al., 2011).
Scholars have also identified increased academic success as a result of social media use
(Grover and Stewart, 2010; Rodrigues, 2011). Students have enumerated the usefulness of
SNS as an e-learning tool that has led to improved learning success. These include
(Dabbagh and Kitsantas, 2012) the following:
Downloading teaching materials as images on SNSs in order to gain better
understanding assignments.
Exchanging information and experiences with teachers and peers.
Forming specialised groups related to each topic in a syllabus.
Creating dedicated pages facilitating access to uploaded learning materials related to
specific topics that students can read while using SNSs.
Using a forum where students can clear doubts concerning learning and completion
of assessments, including online trouble shooting for practical projects.
Proponents of the use of SNSs as a conduit for teaching suggest that a core reason for
social media’s ability to lead to improved academic success in HE is its enabling power to
allow for the creation of personal learning environments that empower students with a
sense of personal agency in the learning process (Minocha and Kerawalla, 2011).
3 Technology adoption theories
A lot of theories deal with technology adoption. Diffusion theories of technology can
partly explain the drivers of social media adoption. The first diffusion theory for
technology innovations includes innovation diffusion theory (Rogers, 2003). It emerged
in the 1960s and comprehends the adoption of an innovation as a social process. Another
explanation for technology adoption is the theory of reasoned action (TRA). TRA has its
background in developing technology diffusion and adoption theories (Ajzen and
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Fishbein, 1980). According to this model, a person’s activity is the result of their attitude
and personal norms. In turn, the attitude of a person is based on values and beliefs. The
personal norms are based on motivation to act according to accepted norms. In order to
understand the factors and the processes affecting intention of people to use and adopt
SNSs, it is necessary to understand the underlying theory. Theoretical models on user
acceptance of Information Technology (e.g. internet) articulate intention to use and actual
use as the main dependent variables (Venkatesh et al., 2003).
Intention to use IT is a valid predictor of behaviour regarding future use and adoption
of technology.
There are several models that explain behavioural viewpoints of consumers regarding
new technology and intentions to use that technology, as for example:
TRA (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975).
Attitude model of Fishbein, which consists of three sub-models: the attitude towards
the object model, attitude towards the behaviour model and the theory of reasoned
action (see for example Onkvisit and Shaw, 1994 or Schiffman and Kanuk, 1994).
Technology acceptance model (TAM) (Davis, 1989).
Theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen, 1991).
Innovation diffusion theory (Rogers, 2003).
Combination of models (Nysveen et al., 2005).
The TAM (Davis, 1989; Davis et al. 1989) discusses practical technology use issues.
TAM emphasises usefulness in addition to user friendliness. Mathieson et al. (2001), for
example, emphasise that the TAM model should be expanded by adding available
resources. Similarly, Venkatesh and Davis (2000) expanded TAM further to include the
concept of perceived usefulness. This model is called TAM2. Subsequently, the unified
theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) were presented by Davis et al.
(1989; 2012). The UTAUT deals with the social aspect which is a notable aspect in the
emergence of social media in various areas including education. The major intentional
factors of the UTAUT theory include the following (Venkatesh, et al., 2003):
performance expectancy
effort expectancy
social influence
facilitating conditions.
Other factors that influence intention to use and actual use are:
gender
age
experience
voluntariness of use.
Social media adoption in higher education 69
4 Our studies
The objective of our study was to explore what is important to the adoption of social
media in HE based on both the views of students and teaching staff (Instructors).
The research question considered which factors influence the adoption of social media
in HE. In order to investigate this, we carried out a study in the academic year 2014–2015
including a structured survey towards graduate and postgraduate students of two IT/IS
faculties in one university in Greece and one in Finland, as well as IT/IS faculty members
with teaching responsibilities (Makkonen et al., 2016). The fact that all respondents were
either students or teaching staff from the IS/IT field ensures a degree of homogeneity and
familiarity with new technologies.
In this paper, we concentrate on the results from student responses so that instructors
can find out where to put emphasis when creating social-media-based learning activities.
Content developers need to especially be aware of what tools make sense in a current
educational setting.
We selected the UTAUT approach for this study (Makkonen et al., 2016) because it
covers the various drivers for technology adoption. In this paper, we concentrate on social
media adoption amongst IT/IS students.
The items (or social media services) for the survey were selected from Seaman and
Tinti-Kane’s (2013) reports. Thus, some newer services such as Instagram are not
included in the study directly. We studied the items in the light of UTAUT.
In order to verify the findings, we also carried out a follow-up study in 2014–2015 in
the same IT/IS department in Greece. The target group consisted of both undergraduate
and postgraduate students including those who also had responded to the main
questionnaire.
This paper presents only results from the students. A comparison between results of
students and faculty members is presented in Makkonen et al. (2016).
The aim of the main study was to understand what teaching staff should concentrate
on when creating social-media-based learning activities for their students. In this, it is
important to know what promotes the use of social media and what impairs it.
Derived from the UTA, the major variables were as follows:
gender
age
experience in the use of social media
voluntary use social media
infrastructure for using social media
meaning of social influence
ease of use of social media applications
help (benefit) of social media in a task or a study.
A questionnaire including these main items concerning the adoption of social media was
designed and distributed to IT/IS students and teaching staff in two universities in Finland
and in Greece. In total, 71 Finnish students, 20 females and 51 males, with mean age 25
years (range: 19–57 years) and 101 Greek students, 22 females and 79 males, with mean
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age 23 years (age range: 18–52 years) completed the questionnaire. The respondents rated
each item of social media adoption on a Likert scale of 1–5 (1 = not significant and
5 = significant).
In order to confirm the findings and further investigate the use of social media by
students, a follow-up study including an electronic online questionnaire with 239
undergraduate respondents was undertaken in the spring semester of 2015 (Tsitsekidou,
2015) comprising 23.4% female and 76.6% male students. In total, 57.3% of the students
were 20–25 years old and 40.6% under 20 years old. No teaching staff were included in
the follow-up study.
The aims of the follow-up study were to derive information that can lead to a better
understanding of the issues for implementing social media in the education and learning
processes.
Factors, such as time spent on social media, motivation of use, evaluation of
application of social media regarding educational aspects and their learning processes,
specification of concerns regarding social media use in education were investigated.
Furthermore, we examined the use of a Facebook group among 42 postgraduate
students and measured the contribution of the Facebook group to the students’ learning
process by factors, such as students’ engagement, students’ motivation, students’
collaborative learning and students’ satisfaction. In addition, we examined any significant
correlations between our variables. The postgraduate students that participated in this
study were members of a Facebook group which had been created to support them in their
postgraduate studies of the ‘Web Intelligence’ course. The Facebook group was created
and managed by the students and was being used exclusively by them.
In total, 21 postgraduate students enrolled in 2014, aged from 25 to 40 years old,
6 females and 15 males. They were experienced Facebook users. In 2015, a total of 21
postgraduate students enrolled in 2015, aged from 20 to 45 years old, 3 females and 18
males, considered themselves as having medium Facebook experience. Both of the
Facebook groups were used to facilitate the students’ learning experience as well as to
promote their communication and interaction in an online environment outside the
classroom.
Table 1 outlines the research process and provides geographic and demographic
information.
Table 1 The research process and demographics
Main study Follow-up study
Level of
students
Graduate and
postgraduate students
Undergraduate students Postgraduate students
Number of
students
71 Finnish
101 Greek
239 Greek 42 Greek
Aims of study To explore what is
important to the adoption
of social media in HE
To validate the
results of the main
study
To further
investigate the use
of social media by
students
To examine the
use of a Facebook
group used by
students
Social media adoption in higher education 71
Table 1 The research process and demographics (continued)
Main study Follow-up study
Research
question
Which factors influence
the adoption of social
media in HE?
What social media tools
have a positive impact
on students learning?
How does a Facebook
group influence the
students’ learning
process?
Research
factors
Experience in the
use of social media
Voluntary use of
social media
Infrastructure for
using social media
Meaning of social
influence
Ease of use of social
media applications
Help (benefit) of
social media in a
task or a study
Students’
Time spent on
social media
Motivation of use
Concerns
regarding social
media use in
education
Viewpoint of
social media in
education
Viewpoint of
social media
influence on
learning processes
Students’
Engagement
Motivation
Collaborative
learning
Satisfaction with
use of Facebook
group
5 Main findings of the two studies
5.1 Findings from the main survey involving 172 students
Initial findings from the quantitative survey showed the importance of the different
aspects of the UTAUT model when applied to the adoption of social media in HE
(Makkonen et al., 2015).
The results showed that the first priority when planning to use social media in HE is
the need to pay special attention to ICT infrastructure before implementing social media
solutions. The second issue concerns the selection of the most suitable platforms in terms
of usability. After this, an educator should discuss how e-learning on social media should
be organised in order to support learners’ development in their work and/or studies. We
also found that the students consider the social influence highly important. This should be
looked at while creating social-media-based learning activities. We must especially be
aware what tools make sense in the current HE. In order to investigate what tools are
suitable according to students in the same educational settings, a follow-up study was
carried out aiming to increase the understanding of social media tools that students prefer
in their leisure time and in their learning environment. In this way, we can create learning
activities in which the students can experience contemporary learning with modern tools
which they prefer. Using popular social media tools, students consider useful for their
learning, it may motivate them in further steps of their studies.
When comparing male and female students, no significant difference was found
except in the general experience in social media. Male students were more experienced
than female students. Other studies have found similar results (Statistics, Finland, 2010).
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The follow-up study did not find any relationship between the gender of students and the
activity reported by students regarding their use of Facebook (Tsitsekidou, 2015).
Pearson’s chi-square tests were used for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
5.2 Findings from the follow-up survey involving 239 students
The follow-up study towards undergraduate students (Tsitsekidou, 2015) confirmed that
69.9% of the students believe that the use of social media in HE is important, and
facilitates learning in a positive way. In particular, students consider that Facebook
groups are useful as a collaborative learning tool. According to the students’ statements,
the first three benefits of using social media in learning are unconscious, namely,
learning, knowledge sharing and organisational skills.
The social media tools that students use in their private lives were ranked according to
their popularity. YouTube was ranked as the most popular by the students with 99%,
Facebook followed second with 93% and Skype third with 75%.
The three social media tools that are considered most important for learning by the
undergraduate respondents are as follows:
1 YouTube comes first of social media tools with 94% of the respondents rating it
important for learning (18% of the correspondents state that YouTube can have a
little contribution to their learning process, 28% fair contribution, 29% big
contribution, 19% very big contribution, whilst only 6% believe that YouTube is
unsuitable for their educational needs).
2 Facebook comes second with 81% of the respondents considering that it contributes
to their learning (40% of the students state that the contribution of Facebook is little,
25% fair, 10% big, 6% very big, whilst 19% do not consider Facebook a suitable
learning tool).
3 Blogs are considered as an important social media tool in learning by 77% of the
respondents (17% of the students state that Blogs help them but a little, 28% that
Blogs are fairly helpful, 10% very helpful, 5% immensely helpful, whereas 40% do
not support the idea of applying Blogs in their daily learning sources).
The percentages for perceived importance of social media use in HE are slightly lower
than the actual use in private life reported by the respondents. The results show that
YouTube and Facebook are both popular in students’ leisure time, but also consider as the
social media tools that provide the highest potential learning outcome.
Table 2 shows the rating by the undergraduate students of social media tools
according to learning aspects.
Table 2 Learning aspects in different social media tools
The three most important social media tools according to learning aspect
Unconscious
learning
Knowledge
sharing
Organisational
skills
Team
spirit
Meeting
peers Visibility
1 Second life Forums Wikis/Google+ Skype Facebook YouTube
2 LinkedIn Facebook LinkedIn Facebook Skype Instagram
3 Instagram Blogs Blogs LinkedIn Twitter LinkedIn
Social media adoption in higher education 73
From Table 2, we conclude that YouTube, which was considered the most important
social media tool for learning, has the highest ranking in visibility. Facebook that was
considered as the second most important tool for learning has the highest ranking in
meeting peers and the second highest in knowledge sharing and team spirit.
5.3 Findings from the postgraduate study involving 42 postgraduate students
The follow-up study examined which social media tools are considered helpful to their
learning by students: Facebook was considered as the most important for sharing and
generating tacit knowledge amongst each other because it is easy to use and familiar to
students. This is in agreement to the findings by Ractham and Firpo (2011) who state that
there is a great potential for informal learning environments where users utilise Facebook
as a centralised space to communicate, collaborate and achieve complementary learning
to the in-class material.
For each group of postgraduate students (enrolled 2014 and 2015), we calculated the
average score of four constructs consisting of three parameters. The results are shown in
Table 3. For example, the engagement is calculated according to numbers of hours spent
weekly on the Facebook group, the rate of visiting frequency on group and the type of
member activity within the group.
Table 3 Percentage of the students’ average score for each construct
Group 2014 (%) Group 2015 (%)
Engagement 54 41
Motivation 63 67
Collaborative learning 69 61
Satisfaction 59 58
Table 3 shows that the contribution of the Facebook group to the students’ learning
process by factors, such as students’ engagement, students’ motivation, students’
collaborative learning and students’ satisfaction, is rather high.
Our study indicates that a Facebook group is an important tool for enhancing students’
learning and can highly support the collaboration between them.
6 Guidelines for planning social-media-based learning activities
It was evident from both the literature review and our investigations that teaching staff
who lag behind new largely digital native generations need to acquaint themselves with
new technologies and approaches to ensure smooth and effective introduction of social
media in HE. Also social media could provide opportunities for disadvantaged groups
such as the disabled and dispersed people in rural communities to participate in education.
We propose the following guidelines for this purpose:
1 Organisation of a social media strategy in teaching modules/courses: Teaching staff
should discuss how e-learning on social media should be organised so that it supports
learners’ development in their studies. Our study showed that students appreciate that
the meaning of IT infrastructure and social influence are highly important
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(Makkonen et al., 2015). The usability issues are also important. These should be
looked at while creating social-media-based learning activities. In particular, we
should take into consideration what tools make sense in the current education. The
strategy should include these elements as well as the selection a right tool (or tools)
for each teaching and learning context (Tsitsekidou, 2015). By canvassing their
students in order to determine what social media tools they prefer to use in their
leisure time, this knowledge can be used to advocate what social media tools to use in
their respective learning environment.
2 Analysis of learning conditions of students: Because, as teaching staff, we are not
aware of the conditions of infrastructure at students’ homes, the learning conditions
of learners should be analysed as the first step in developing new learning activities
based on social media. Whitney et al. (2011) reported that many changes have been
occurring in identifying vulnerable groups who are subject to social disadvantage as a
consequence of age and disability as well as other factors such as low educational
achievement, poverty and living in remote rural areas. These groups of people despite
often living in developed countries usually with strong economies are not included or
are not keeping pace with technological developments and opportunities. Thus, it is
important that digitally excluded learners are not disadvantaged further by the
introduction of social media in HE.
3 When an instructor is deciding what social media tools to use in teaching, it is vital
that they take into consideration what learning aspect they attempting to focus
on/assess. For example, if they are attempting to foster organisational skills in their
students’ learning, then the appropriate social media tools should be used, as
suggested in Table 2. The learning aspect must be aligned with the most appropriate
social media toll in order to gain maximum efficacy.
4 The quality and reliability of the social information used: Teaching staff need to
instruct learners in their studies to be information literate. Information sourced, and
used, via social media, and the internet may come to a learner in unfiltered formats,
which elicits questions about the information’s authenticity, validity and reliability.
Thus, staff introducing social media in HE must, in addition, teach learners the ability
to evaluate information, i.e. become information literate.
5 If an instructor is attempting, in a traditional classroom setting, to engender in their
students learning the ability to unconscious learning, knowledge sharing and
organisational skills, then our findings suggest that they could make effective use of
social media, e.g. Facebook, which learners tend to see as tool that can invoke these
highlighted abilities.
6 Consideration of the ethical and legal issues invoked by the use of social media in
HE: Teaching staff, alongside learners require a code of conduct that will explicitly
state what is, or is not, acceptable ethical behaviour in the use of social media in HE.
Such a code should cover issues such as online harassment/abuse; intellectual
property, authenticity of participants, privacy, etc.
7 Security and service disruptions: Potential security risks involved in contributing
content should be addressed. Risk management including contingency plans should
be created for potential service disruption.
Social media adoption in higher education 75
7 Conclusion and further work
Our main study interpreted the meaning of the different aspects of the unified technology
adoption model when applied to the adoption of social media in HE. Based on the
UTAUT model, our results show that the first priority is the need to pay special attention
to infrastructure of ICTs before implementing social media solutions. Another issue is
that we are not aware of the conditions at home. Thus, the learning conditions of learners
should be analysed as the first step in outlining new learning activities based on social
media. The second most important factor is the selection of the best platforms in the light
of usability. After this, an educator should discuss how e-learning on social media should
be organised in order to support learners’ development in their work and/or studies. We
found that the students consider the social influence highly important.
The follow-up studies investigated what social media tools are preferred by students
and if they have a positive impact on students’ learning.
Finally, we investigated in more detail the use of a Facebook group and its impact to
the students’ learning process in terms of factors, such as students’ engagement, students’
motivation, students’ collaborative learning and students’ satisfaction. The results show
that a Facebook group is a contemporary social media tool preferred by students for
enhancing their learning. The study shows that Facebook groups support the collaboration
between students and contribute positively to their learning process.
Based on our results, we also proposed guidelines for planning social-media-based
learning activities.
In future, we are going to present further analyses of data from our studies and other
similar studies we have carried out in order to build a complete picture of major success
factors in social-media-based learning. In particular, we are interested in understanding
what social media skills of teaching staff should be developed to run successful social-
media-based learning courses. Ravenscroft et al. (2012, p.177) suggested that given the
pace of change in the possible social media configurations, or ‘digital ecosystems’, that
can be deployed in support of informal and formal learning, it is clear that we need to
focus on a more future-proof concept than the technologies themselves, which will assist
us in both better understanding and realizing learning, or new forms of learning.
In addition, we are going to apply the theoretical framework developed by the US
Content Subcommittee of the Impact CS Steering Committee (Huff et.al., 1995) which
specifies six moral and ethical concepts (quality of life; use of power; risks and reliability;
property rights; privacy; and equity and access). In doing so, it will allow us to
comprehensively identify the professional, social, legal and ethical issues invoked by the
use of social media in HE. In turn, this insight can be used by both instructors and
developers to develop and deploy ethical and legally sound learning materials, to be
supported by social media.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank students, teaching staff and researchers at both ATEI of
Thessaloniki and Jyväskylä University for providing the Greek and Finnish data and for
useful comments regarding the results of the survey. We would also like to thank Maria
Tsitsekidou, postgraduate student from Alexander Technological Educational Institute of
Thessaloniki for the follow-up data and valuable discussions of the results.
76
K
. Siakas et al.
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