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Sample Research Paper on the Power of Using Social Media in Higher Education

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Sample Research Paper on the Power of Using Social Media in Higher Education

Abstract

Few people in the world today both in the corporate and social world have failed to take note of the rise of social media, particularly those that have attracted numbers in their user base such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Wikipedia. The advent and proliferation of social media has great impact in the daily lives of people, redefining how humans relate to one another, as well as redefining our relationship with organizations that serve us as humans. Part of the distinctive feature of social media is its ability to transform the end user experience of the internet as it has done in half a decade. With such power, social media is fast gaining entry into higher education, as many of the higher education institutions and educators within these institutions find themselves playing catch to an advancing world where social media is becoming far more than just a tool of social communication. Indeed, social media is widely used in higher education, having been born in the very higher education institutions. Social media use goes beyond just its use among students to even educators, some of who believe that social media has more potential as well as offers value in teaching.

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

Among the most popular phenomena of technology in the 21st century is the dawn of social media. Few in the world today both in the corporate and social world have failed to take note of the development of social media, particularly those that have attracted numbers in their user base such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Wikipedia (Selwyn 2012). The advent and proliferation of social media has greatly influenced the daily lives of people, redefining how humans relate to one another, as well as redefining our relationship with organizations that serve us as humans (Rueben, 2008). So much is the popularity and use of social media that even the most casual of internet users are aware of the existence of social networks, with a huge number of them, although not active users have at least an account on one of the available social media sites (Selwyn 2012). The declaration of social media by Time Magazine as the “Person of the Year” in 2006 perhaps drove social media, through the World Wide Web, into its dominant position of the use of advanced technology worldwide.

Thus, while there are variations in social media use in relation to the geographical location (and therefore cultural significance)—the bulk of the world use Facebook and Twitter, while most of the Chinese population use Renren and NetEase as their version of social media—these sites still play within the same principle (Selwyn 2012). These tools only aim at connecting people, while easing communication between people regardless of their geographical location, cultural background, ethnicity or religion. Social media in the very essence are applications that facilitate user conversation and interaction; creation, editing and sharing of novel forms of textual, visual and audio content; as well as categorization, labeling and recommendation of existing forms of content. In the very least therefore, social media enables the harnessing of the power of the united actions of online user groups as opposed to individual users (Shirky 2008).

Part of the distinctive feature of social media is its ability to transform the end user experience of the internet as it has done over the past half a decade. Through the advent and proliferation of social media, the internet has shifted from its traditional one-way broadcast delivery system that had users download data and other resources provided by the few content providers. Today, the internet has new drivers, who to large extent also determine the very activities that take place on the internet. The new phenomenon has been dubbed many-to-many, a shift from the traditional reference of one-to-many (Selwyn 2012).

Social media and the digital age additionally continue to bludgeon traditional business and revenue earners such as the publication of encyclopedias and books through the provision of abundance, participation by multitudes and democratization of production through the introduction of a new delivery channel that the internet has become (Tapscott 2012). With the dawn of social media, even the internet continues to undergo changes, transforming from its 90s and 2000s era of cyberspace. The new era of the internet, with the existence of social media, has changed to one participatory activity so much that even the language has transformed to more of collaborative, creativity and conviviality as driven by social media.

With such power, social media is fast gaining entry into higher education, as many of the higher education institutions and educators within these institutions find themselves playing catch up to an advancing world where social media is becoming far more than just a tool of social communication. Indeed social media is widely used in higher education, having been born in the very higher education institutions. Social media use goes beyond just its use among students to even educators, some of who believe that social media has more potential as well as offers value in teaching (Seechaliao 2014). However, even with agreement over the worth of social media in learning (particularly higher education), there are seated anxieties over what the internet and social networks will do to traditional higher education. There are fears that with its widespread use, the internet is likely to threaten the university monopoly, with new courses, some of which are free, offered by some of the best educators in different fields (Tapscott 2012). The threat comes from the fact that many are considering the hefty cost of higher education against the relatively cheaper option of online courses, especially given the fact that these third-party education services providers are not only accredited, but also provide valid certificates, diplomas and even degrees. Moreover, some mainstream accredited universities such as Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University in UAE has learning to a different level through its Cloud Campus technology that harnesses social media channels to provide accessible, affordable and quality education. Away from the threats of the internet however, social media offers a wide range of opportunities for better learning in higher education, given a chance by these institutions.

This study is to look into the influence and significance of social media in universities and colleges. The research will therefore help in gauging whether social media has a positive or negative influence on higher education learning, and the thoughts of educators in higher education on the profits of social media in colleges and universities. Moreover, the research will help gauge whether social media is an effective tool for enhancing learning, improving communication and assists in information sharing between educators and students, and among students themselves. The findings from the research should be able to give a more balanced view on the part of social media in learning, and if positive, facilitate the introduction of some elements of social media in graduate and post-graduate level education.

In looking at the power of employing social media in colleges and universities, the objectives of this study are:

  1. Finding an all-inclusive characterization of social media
  2. Finding the power social media has (academic performance)
  3. Analyze the benefits and social media use in higher education
  4. Identify and recommend ways of infusing social network in learning and marketing.
Theory and Hypotheses
a.      Background

Social media has become integral to many people over the past decade. So much has social media penetrated the fabric of society that both individuals and businesses are fast warming up to it, in addition to governments, most of which see the platform as a means of interaction between it and its people (TNS 2015). The initial wave of social media use was largely among the youth. Facebook, the biggest social media platform with more than one billion users, was a major hit among the youth in its initial stages of development. So much was its popularity at its onset, that its founder opened it to the global audience from its confines within colleges. With its popularity, businesses and media have all shifted to the sweeping wave of social media as an avenue of establishing a virtual presence while connecting to their customers and advertising their products and services (TNS 2015).

As a tool, that enables the connection and communication of people through applications and internet sites, social media has become the epitome of interaction in modern times. Moreover, through social media, individuals are able to create, share and exchange information and thoughts in online communities and networks. Although social media and the use of the internet for communication is not a novel idea, as the internet was primarily designed as an interactive portal, the rebranding and re-envisioning of social media and the internet came with Web 2.0 (Selwyn 2012). It is important to note, “Since the early 1970s, internet applications have allowed users to exchange messages with each other, maintain personal profiles, curate lists of ‘friends’ and write blog-like journal entries” (Selwyn 2012, p. 2). However, today’s internet far surpasses the old form of internet in terms of scale of use. Moving from the millions of users of the internet a decade ago, the internet today has billions of uses, with Facebook singularly having more than 1 billion users. With this knowledge therefore, it is prudent to say, “Social media of the 2010s now boast a sufficient critical mass of users and applications to be of genuine collective benefit and social significance” (Selwyn 2012, p. 2).

A peculiarity of social media, and therefore its appeal to different entities, is its rate of adoption by both individuals and business entities. Recent research indicate that social media has one of the highest adoption rates ever experienced (Constantinides and Stagno 2011).The researches into adoption of social media across different countries have come with similar results. According to Constantinides and Stagno (2011), “83% of Americans between 18 and 33 years old are already users of social networks (SNS). A study carried out by Statistics Netherlands (2010) showed that 91% of Dutch youths between 16 and 25 years old were active on SNS in 2010” (p. 8). Moreover, predictions into social media use point to a fast growth of worldwide expenses on social media technology by about 40 percent yearly to reach $4.6 billion in 2013 (Constantinides and Stagno 2011).

By far the largest users of social media are students, particularly those in college. These students have an exposure to many of the cutting-edge technologies in virtually all aspects of their lives. On a regular, college students use desktops, laptops, smartphones and other forms of devices for social networking, blogging, texting learning online and even sharing content over the internet (Guy 2012). The social media use in colleges and universities surpasses the student to faculty members, who also actively participate in social media networks.

One particular institution that has shown competence in infusing the application of social platform for both students and educators for instruction is the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University in the UAEmirates. The university, through its Cloud Campus project, is among the first in the whole Arab region to infuse e-learning with social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts. Students can therefore log on to the Cloud Campus using their social media credential, in essence successfully infusing its use in instruction. However, even with the social media use for both students and faculty members, only a low percentage of these users dedicate their use of these tools for academic purposes (Guy 2012). A study into social media use properly paints the picture for the reasons most of the student in higher education use social media. According to Guy (2012) the study indicates, “85% use such tools for social engagement, 56% use them for direct communications, 48% use them for speed of feedback/results, and 47% use them for relationship building; however, fewer than 10% of the students mentioned using social media tools for academic practice” (p. 4). This is even as most of the students showed great knowledge of social media particularly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

Social media use as a marketing device was also predicted to be on the rise. Constantinides and Stagno (2011) state that studies carried out in 2010 indicated that 83 percent of businesses in Netherlands were using social media marketing. This is addition to reports estimating 80 percent of US business as potential users of social media as an advertisingdevice by 2011. Aside from business, there are predictions that social media may fast be adopted by universities as a recruitment tool. Many view social media as animplement for bridging the gap between the information provided in colleges and universities’ application forms and information relevant to the students about the universities or colleges, besides being an effective and cheap marketing tool (Alexandru 2014; Constantinides and Stagno 2011). Social media in this case will play an important role as a key communication tool between universities and students, as well as potential students who the universities see as key stakeholders (Alexandru 2014).

Engaging social media in colleges and universities as a marketing and communication tool has been predicted to have potential benefits taking cue from social media deployment in business communication. Thus, the past positive influence of social media and the fast adoption of social media amongst the younger generation make a perfect combination for social media employment in colleges and universities (Constantinides and Stagno 2011). Within the business realm, “Improved communications, customer engagement and increasing brand loyalty have been identified as outcomes of this form (social media) of marketing” (Constantinides and Stagno 2011, p. 8). It is only proper, therefore, to assume that by engaging social media for a portion of university marketing, it is possible for such a university to get more enrolment, as well as become assistive to prospective students in making informed decisions concerning learning choice and college selection.

The popularity of social media in colleges and universities cuts across the board of a huge compilation of social media networks. The popularity of some of the platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and Instagram, among others may indeed cloud judgment over the existence of other variations of social media categories. In a review of the Social Media Landscape, Rueben (2008) enumerates the 10 categories of social media. The categories include publication tools, micro-publication tools, social gaming, social aggregation tools, live cast, virtual worlds, social networks, discussion tools, sharing tools and massively multiplayer online gaming (Rueben 2008).

The most popular among the different social media categories are social networks, which take up about 85 percent of the attention of online users. As earlier stated, Facebook is the most popular of all the social networks with 1 billion users. At its launch, the social network was only open to Harvard university student, but membership was later extended to Ivy league universities, then to high school students and later the network opened up to the world with anyone 13 years and above capable of signing up to the network (Rueben 2008). As a social utility, Facebook connects individuals with their friends, colleagues and neighbors, allowing the upload of unlimited number of photos, videos and links. At its core, Facebook operates under six principle components of personal profile, news feed, groups, applications, fan pages and networks. For universities and business entities, the idea of fan pages is particularly enticing as through such pages can these entities advertise by creation of official fan pages and social network presence (Rueben 2008).

While MySpace came before Facebook allowing users to meet friends of friends, the development of Facebook made it more attractive to colleges and universities over the seasoned MySpace. Moreover, with its launch, Facebook gathered a huge following with about 85 percent of students in universities creating their Facebook profiles (Rueben 2008). This following has continued with Facebook gathering traction against MySpace and surpassing it in 2008 to become the most popular social network in the world, as well as the most visited website in the world, a feat that the social network has held to date.

An additionally popular social media platform is YouTube, a tool that allows for online video uploading and sharing at no cost. As the leader in online video, YouTube allows individuals and organizations as well as institutions to upload and share their videos online. It is customary for universities to make videos as a means of increasing their recruitment efforts (Rueben 2008). With YouTube, these universities can not only share their videos to a wider audience, but also do this at no cost.

An equally big score in social media today is Twitter, a hybrid of instant messaging and blogging. Twitter allows sending of short messages (140 characters) to other individual that one follows or to a follower’s private inbox (Rueben 2008). Over the years, Twitter has grown to become the second most popular social media platform after Facebook. It has becoming particularly important in branding and product awareness, content promotion, proving quick feedback, finding new markets as well as in marketing.

b.      Literature Review

Andragogy advocates for peer learning, a new level of learning for adult learners. Through the principles of pedagogy, it is important that learner bring their own experience in the learning environment, while educators allow learners to learn through personal experience as well as through the treatment of these learners as equals. In the current age of digital explosion in the education system particularly in higher education institutions, it is perhaps prudent to accept the ideas of pedagogy in the delivery of education in the current digital age. A milestone innovation in the current digital age is social media, which is fast making inroads in higher education faculties, as much as it is a fad among university and college students. However, even with the proliferation of social media around the world, literature suggests that most educators have been slow to adopt and employ social media for academic practice (Guy 2012).

Despite research revealing slowness in its adoption in academic practice, other research indicates that a large number of faculty members do indeed use social media, although for personal, research or professional purposes (Guy 2012). Most of these faculty members, according to research, use Facebook for making personal connection and LinkedIn for professional communication (Guy 2012). Despite the separation between professional and personal communication, Guy (2012) indicates its use for academic purposes, although under informal, open and self-regulatory reinforcements different from those used in classrooms. In essence, academic participation in the activities is largely optional with a visible absence of conventional assessments such as tests.

The slow adoption of social media for instruction is probably due to lack of technology that facilitates the infusion of social media in instruction. Where there is technology, social media has proven effective in assisting instruction. This is as seen in Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, through its Cloud Campus, which allows students to log onto the system using their social media credentials. The Cloud Campus offers both students and instructors a unique learning experience by providing access to some of the world’s best accredited and recognized online interactive sessions and exercises. This way, learners have access to a library offering professional business skills, language and school content. Moreover, given its connection with social media, students are capable of interacting with the best local and regional experts in the field, under a relaxed social context away from the confines of formality in the classroom.

Looking at the cost and benefit analysis of employing social media in academic practice, Okoro (2012) indicates that social media encouraged the establishment of good friendship, building of interpersonal relationships and constant interaction among the students. Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University’s Cloud Campus project that is open to the larger public and society has taken this a notch higher by offering a platform for interaction to everyone; teachers, university learners, school students, parents and adults of all ages; the society. Even more is that through engagement in collaborative work, many students established partnership in problem solving in addition to individual development (Okoro 2012). Social media avenues such as the Blackboard system moreover encouraged students shy of class participation due to cultural, personal or social differences to submit their work, and in so doing providing appropriate and constructive feedback through which educators could gauge comprehension of course context and content as delivered in class.

Gauging the use of social mean in education through the creation of e-portfolios and web 2.0/3.0 tools according to literature does more than just assist students in their academic lives. Hager (2013) noted that through the encouragement of creation of e-portfolios, students were able to significantly participate in their own education through an aggregation of course material as well as keep track of their academic progress in higher education. Moreover, such social publication tools such as WordPress helped extend students’ skills beyond their academic work to become relevant in their respective jobs (Hager 2013). Additionally, by participating in learning through social media, such as the creation of e-portfolios, students are capable of increasing their skills in the incorporation of the media into program development and documentation (Hager 2013).

However, even with the potential of aiding, albeit through informal means, education, there are considerable issues that prohibit further social media use in academic practice. According to Guy (2012), many of the faculty members have huge workloads, which do not therefore allow their social media use for academic practice. Moreover, most lack enough time even to clear their very workload, making it even more difficult to introduce social media in their academic practice. Further, issues of cyber security are of great concern to many higher education learning institutions. With a connected online framework, many institutions feel they are sitting lame ducks open to any cyber manipulations by hackers who may use the social media forums to scan for vulnerabilities in the systems (Guy 2012). Even more is that the higher learning institutions’’ cyberspaces are rarely protected enough to ward off any sustained cyber-attacks from hackers.

Apart from being highly unregulated (self-regulated) and informal, published literature was of the opinion that social media use for academic practice also opened doors for cyber bullying (Chen and Bryer 2012). Even more for concern over social media deployment for academic use was the fact that like students, most faculty members used social media for their personal communication, which may in the long run lead to distraction to the learning process (Chen and Bryer 2012; Guy 2012). Another concern raised over social media use for academic purposes and as a facilitator for teaching a course was the fact that its use would increase students’ rate of absenteeism and truancy (Okoro 2012). Further, apart from its effect on student truancy, social media was deemed detrimental to individual academic effort, as it did not reflect the student’s own effort. According to Okoro (2012), social networks encouraged teamwork and team development, but at the same time affect individual students’ academic work, self-reliance and creative efforts. Moreover, studies into dependence on collaborative work had a toll on individual students’ ability, initiative and integrity (Okoro 2012).

c.       Hypotheses

The study aims at testing a number of hypotheses relating to social media use in colleges and universities. The first hypothesis is Social media has a positive influence in student learning and academic performance in higher education. In considering this hypothesis, it is important to note that a number of articles have been published over the past few years stating the profits of using social media within higher learning institutions (Constantinides and Stagno 2011; Guy 2012; Hager 2013; Okoro 2012; Rueben 2008). Among the advantages of using the media in higher education, include greater teamwork, contemplative learning, skill development, prompt feedback from instructors among others.

In the learning context, most education model view educators and knowledge gaining initiators. In this position, educators therefore provide a fertile environment for the utilization of web 2.0 and 3.0 in the improvement of knowledge and exchange of information within the learning context. With a dynamic involvement in learning, students are therefore capable of rebuilding their ideas/information they already have, adopting this information as part of the learning process (Al-rahmi et al. 2015). Constructivism theorists advocate for the reconstruction of information and knowledge through their attempts to rediscover their learning environment, a factor that is present in social media use for education purposes. Thus, “among the most noteworthy contributions of social networks to the education context is the prospect of knowledge sharing of students and their capability in using this knowledge along the social networks to overcome their problems and difficulties” (Al-rahmi et al. 2015; Mason &Rennie,
2008).

Within the context of an educational social network, the system should be able to provide education with the opportunity to formulate new content as well as answer students’ questions. This is in addition to the capability of such a social network to provide chances for the learners’ collectively learning within the social media context, with the learning being a product of information sharing among learner through the network (Al-rahmi et al. 2015). Moreover, such a network should allow the creation and sharing of knowledge by the learners within the context of the social network.

Reviewing the second hypothesis, Social media can be a tool for enhancing learning, collaborative learning, communication and information sharing between educators and students and among students. Arguments for this hypothesis attest to the advantage of social media in promoting interaction and cooperation between students; whether these students have similar academic background, similar point of education or come from different academic interests (Al-rahmi et al. 2015). Moreover, faculty members have been known to use web technologies for communication with students as well as for their personal benefit. Studies into social media usage indicate that the bulk of academician read scientific blogs, which in turn keep them abreast with latest research. In reading the blogs, these academicians also simultaneously write their own blogs, and in so doing enhancing the spread of information from them to others with similar interests. This way, communication is enhanced between students and students, as well as between students and faculty members, especially if the two have similar interests (Al-rahmi et al. 2015).

It is common for social relationships to blossom into profession and in this case academic relationships. Through social media therefore, it is easily possible to bring together academicians from similar research areas. At the core of social media is the competence in dissemination of knowledge and information. Thus, in addition to spreading this information, social media affords “the ability to search for unanswered questions in more informal conditions, discovering a formidable ability by web writing, and having an area to deliberate issues in an exposed and public arrangement (Al-rahmi et al. 2015, p. 267; Kirkup, 2010). Even more is that students are motivated to cooperate more dynamically during class through collaborations among the teachers and students and they are encouraged to create an effective involvement with the topic substance” (Al-rahmi et al. 2015, p. 267).

The idea of collaborative learning further is rooted among students using social media in learning. Through this type of learning (which involves coordinated small units with shared targets), students are able to learn even more, a factor that has an optimistic sway on their academic performance. Through collaborative learning, most students get the advantages associated with active learning. Students specifically are motivated to be involved in finding and presenting the solution to a problem, in addition to getting the opportunity to clarify and qualify their views among their peers, in addition to assisting in their analytical reasoning (Al-rahmi et al. 2015). Therefore, within collaborative learning contexts, students collaborate in the conception of their own knowledge and convert themselves into dynamic representatives in their knowledge acquiring process. So, this technique permits students to gain a deep insight into the content and aids them to form new knowledge from prior information (Al-rahmi et al. 2015, p. 267).

Research Methods
a.      Research Design

In carrying out the project, an interview with a staff of Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University was carried out. Interviews owe their popularity and continued use to their versatility, efficiency and generalizability. Many are the researchers who have used interviews in the investigation of different areas including education, technology, social sciences and psychology. The method is specifically instrumental in collection and synthesis of empirical data on the power and usage social media in institutions of higher learning. Interview is additionally employed, as it is replicable, and is a scientific process that aims at minimizing bias by conducting extensive collection of ideas and response from different people (Tranfield, Denyer and Smart 2003). Through an interview, data from the respondents was analyzed to find information on the topic from the respondents.

            The efficiency of interviews stems from the fact that it is possible to measure many variables without the fear of increasing the time or cost. Moreover, it is possible to collect data from as many people as possible through survey interview and questionnaires. In looking at the data therefore, the research will not only analyze the research findings, but also provide an evaluation of the implication of the research findings to the topic, impressing upon the researchers’ points and results from their studies.

The nature and time allocated for the interviews in this research was however, limited and it may therefore present problem with the sample frame.

b.      Sample and Data Sources

The interview was done on one of the staff members of Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University with the aim of finding out the type of social media platforms used regularly, the platforms the staff felt were better suited for academic instruction , and on whether they thought social media had a positive influence on a student’s academic performance.

c. Procedure

The major concern for the research was relevance to the topic in question.  The interview therefore stuck to the questions prepared. Given the lack of statistical analysis on the data provided, since the research is descriptive, no form of tallying was done on any of the responses collected from the respondent. The questions required a wide range of choices and therefore the absence of any multiple choices for the questions asked. Moreover, the staff was required to give a little more detail on the responses, and therefore the lack of any statistical analysis on the responses.

Findings
Categories of social media in place

Responses from the staff expose the usage of social media in higher learning. Among the most often-used social media sites include Twitter, Paper.li, Pintrest, WordPress, Academia, WikiEducator, Delicious, LinkedIn, Dropbox and Slide Share. The most popular among the social media boards available according to the staff for instruction were Twitter and Academia. Wikis and Blogs found a special place in Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University’s Cloud Campus program as they were published within the virtual learning environment provided by the Campus. The most popular among these was WordPress for blogging and WikiEducator, which is largely used for content management, collaborate to use, reuse, adapt, and remix open content. Thus, while Facebook remains the most popular social media sites according to research conducted in India and Thailand Universities, Twitter and Academia were most favored for instruction, even as others considered it (Facebook) as potentially valuable as a resource for student-student communication as well as for lecturer-student collaboration (Chauhan and Pillai 2013; Seechaliao, 2014). This is even as lecturers widely mentioned YouTube and Facebook as having uses for the social media platforms for their teaching practice. Most of the lecturers in the articles from other findings viewed videos found on YouTube and Wikis as valuable tools for teaching.

In corroborating the results of the interview conducted, a study done in the UAE viewed WhatsApp and Twitter as the most effective tools for educational instruction (Alzouebi and Isakovic, 2013). The feeling of the staff interviewed in the study was that Twitter and WhatsApp were more beneficial when used for communication with lecturers. The major reason for the staff’s disagreement on Facebook’s use for instruction was the view that it was too personal and would therefore raise issues of discomfort especially if the content posted by friends is explicit (Alzouebi and Isakovic 2013).

Social Media Use

From the study and other studies, it is apparent that there is widespread social media use among students, lecturers and institutions. Studies aside from this indicate that many lecturers were found to use and even agree on the effectiveness of social media. Many additionally agreed on how easy it is to use social media, its ability to save money and time especially for students undertaking online courses (Seechaliao, 2014). The penetration of social media and its use among students is phenomenal. Statistics from the United Arab Emirates show that the country has the highest number of social media users in the Arab world, most of whom are university students (Alzouebi and Isakovic, 2013). The country reported approximately 54.5 million users on Facebook, with more than 401,000 Twitter users in the country as of 2013. Indeed the incursion of media is at its peak with a prediction of even more users joining the social media bandwagon.

Higher education institutions have also not been left out in social media usage. Most of the higher education institutions are using social media as avenues for recruitment as well as engaging social media as an avenue of university marketing, in addition to becoming assistive to prospective students in making informed decisions concerning learning choice and college selection (Constantinides and Stagno 2011). Moreover, other universities are using social media as branding and advertising avenues, as well as extension of their websites for relational marketing given the collaborative and interactive nature of social media (Chauhan and Pillai 2013; Constantinides and Stagno 2011).

One of the universities that have shown innovation in the utilization of social media not only for marketing but also for providing interaction environments between students and professionals is Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University. Through its Cloud Campus project, the university has collaborated with leading service and business providers to reach the customers of these business entities, offering students interaction opportunities with professionals in different fields through the innovation, as well as ensuring that the learning content is up to date, reflects field practice in various disciplines and is the best around the world. The form of interaction for marketing in this case all depend on social learning offered by the University’s Cloud Campus technology.

Power of Social Media (Academic Performance and Collaborative Learning)

Perhaps the most important social media use from the interview is its potential in enhancing academic performance and encouraging collaborative learning. The staff interviewed saw its prospects in academic practice. The staff particularly saw the potential and opportunities presented for leaning and interactivity by social media. The staff agreed that within the digital world, they understood the world in a different manner than usual texts; they are studying and conforming to the world using a comparatively fine form of communication.

The new forms of communication brought by social media as reported by the interview include:

  1. Connections

Social network media are made purposely for a community or society interactions. Nowadays pupils are access Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn to connect and share and chat with other users. Captivating issues about social network media is that people may interact and chat with each other only via Web presence, pupils with their peers in same areas of interest, and experts in their domain around the world, perhaps never even meeting in person.

  1. Web engagement

Students use social media every day to interact with their classmates and tutors about or concerning class-related subjects. Currently where online engagement is vital for formal and informal learning, these students are becoming experts at developing a sense of Internet presence. Not only do they know how to interact with others on the internet, they know how to use basic and even complex knowledge/functions in order to do so.

  1. Knowledge/information

Social media network fanatics share between themselves every day, giving and receiving information at rapid speeds. This information is more than funny animal clips; they share views and opinions; tips, tricks, case studies, research, and even Do It Yourself projects; and, among students, helpful information for classes. Their ability to assess, analyze, retain, and share information is skyrocketing and they often do not even realize they are developing these skills. People born during the pre Internet age are unlikely to understand or comprehend the magnitude of this new style of communication and importance of social media.

From the interview, the staff agrees that social media usage as a learning tool not only enhances collaborative learning, it also saves time and money and improves students’ project ability. Moreover, the staff indicated that social media encourages interaction between teachers and students, and among students themselves, encouraging active collaboration in class as well as engaging high learning process. Further, through collaborative learning students are able to perform better, as collaborative learning has a positive impact on students’ academic performance.

Even more on the support for social media use in class is the belief that social media use in class has the potential of making teaching and learning more effective and productive. Social media according to the director of Smart Campus, can be used in teaching with blogs used in introduction and other induction activities; Wikis and Google Drive used for collaboration; YouTube for how to guides; Pintrest for visual reading list. The interview is in agreement with literature citing higher learning institutions such as Rollins College, Pennsylvania Mansfield University and the University of Alabama as using social media to communicate academic matters to students (Okoro 2012). The literature additionally points to the fact that faculty members use social media to reach or communicate with students, mentees and advisees. Moreover, social media, if used properly, according to the director of Smart Campus, can be used for student guidance, acting as a FAQs section for an institution. Delicious on the other hand, according to the director, can be instrumental in highlighting key documents and web resources for students, while the students can use Pintrest to help colleagues know who is who in Student Support.

Social media users according to the director can also harness the power of social media and use it in sharing information among peers from research, look for funding for research projects or collaborate with other experts in the field, as well as promote publications such as books, websites, blogs and articles.

Discussion
Theoretical Implications

The research largely uses theoretical underpinnings in its study of the relationship between social media use and academic performance. It however contributes to theory by looking at the relationship between social media; the most widely used social media platforms, and their use in higher education institutions and its effect on performance. The research therefore establishes a strong correlation between social media and the other factors; academic performance and collaborative learning; social media and institutional marketing.

Managerial Implications

The research highlights on the effectiveness of social media in advertising and brand awareness. It should be noted that while social media offers free, cheap and an effective means of marketing, it is not entirely effective, especially to those who are not tech savvy. Moreover, some social media boards, Facebook being one of them, have strict privacy controls and can allow users not to be open to unfriendly pages as well as giving users the option unfriending or unliking pages. This may present a problem to institution, which rely entirely on this avenue for advertisement. It is therefore important to keep open other traditional methods of advertising.

Although social media shows a lot of promise as an instructional tool, not all platforms may work effectively towards this end. Social sites such as Facebook are rife with distractions in gossips, raunchy photos and chat with friends, and may therefore not present an effective instructional tool. Wikis, Blogs and YouTube on the other hand, show a lot of promise as instructional tools as through them students develop important skills. The potential for social media as an instructional tool does not however entirely throw out traditional pedagogical engagement with students. One on one engagement with students and instructor remains far superior to the veiled technological inventions. While they are there to make life easier, they should not replace the very essence of humanity personal contact.

Limitations and Future Research

The research largely relied on a little sample for the interview. Although this is a representation of the staff body, the research still lacks in the traditional research aspects of primary large data collection for reliability. Relaying the findings and drawing conclusions would therefore be much convincing if the real research was conducted. It is important therefore that future research tests the hypotheses presented in this research through real field research and compare conclusions drawn from this research.

Conclusion

This study has revealed interesting effects of social media on higher education. Some of the most prevalent social media platforms discussed here include Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Wikis, all of which are widely used in higher education institutions. In the study, social media has shown huge potential in its use in teaching and learning. So popular is social media among higher education students across the world that harnessing its power into education could go a long way in enhancing teaching and learning in these institutions. It is however imperative to note that the harnessing the sleeping giant in social media takes more than just offering its presence, but managing it in such a manner that it can indeed have an impact on pedagogy and learning. As the world fully embraces the power, presence and potential of social media, it is important that higher education institutions devise means of harnessing this power for educational and marketing purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

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