Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

The Potential for Facebook Application in Undergraduate Learning: A Study of Jordanian Students

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

The Potential for Facebook Application in Undergraduate Learning: A Study of Jordanian Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

A social networking site (hereafter SNS) is defined as an internet-based service that gives individuals three major capabilities: first, the ability to construct a public or semi-public profile; second, the ability to identify a list of other users with whom a connection is shared; third, the ability to view and track individual connections as well as those made by others (Boyd & Ellison, 2008). Having managed to surpass its competitors within only five years of its launch in 2004, Facebook is currently the most popular SNS worldwide. According to recent figures released by the company itself, Facebook had over 1.3 billion active users as of June 2014. Approximately 82.2% of monthly active users are located outside the U.S. and Canada (Facebook Statictics, 2013.) According to Arab Social Media Report (2014), the total number of Facebook users in the Arab world was approximately 81 million as of the beginning of May 2014, and the average for Facebook penetration in the Arab world was over 21.5% in 2014, up from 15% in 2013. According to the same report, 67% of Facebook users aged between 15-29 years. Such considerably high percentage of young Facebook users in the Arab world is due to the fact that Arab countries' populations are youthful in general (Arab Media Outlook, 2012). Young Arabs are facing many cultural, social, religious, and political constraints and restrictions. Driven by their human needs of self-presentation, social interaction, freedom of speech and expression, and curiosity, Arab youth seek to liberate themselves from all kinds of restrictions to satisfy their needs through joining SNSs (Al Omoush, Yaseen & Alma'aitah, 2012). In view of that, Facebook could be contributing to a greater revolution in Arabic young people's political, cultural and civic learning (Kassem, 2013).

In Jordan, 2.7 million Facebook users make up to 5% of all Facebook users in the Arab world. With 39.2% of the population using Facebook, Jordan is the second among Arabic countries and considered "a high-penetration country" (Arab Social Media Report, 2014). Consistent with Arab world figures, recent research suggests that the majority of Jordanian undergraduate students, aged between 18- 24, are regularly using Facebook (e.g., Al Doghmi, Al-Shalabi, Jwaifel, Andraws, Awajan, & Alrabea, 2013; Nassar, Hayajneh, & Almsafir, 2013; Socialbakers, 2013). According to Socialbakers (2013) statistics, this particular age group represented the highest percentage (40%) of Jordanian Facebook users in December, 2013. Such undeniable popularity of Facebook amongst Jordanian university students (Al-Debei, Al-Lozi, & Papazafeiropoulou, 2013) drives this paper to raise a number of questions: To what purposes is Facebook used by Jordanian university students? To what extent is Facebook used for learning purposes by Jordanian university students? What is the potential for formal Facebook use in the learning process of Jordanian universities?

While traditional methods, such as tutorials and face-to-face lectures, are still strongly dominant in the Jordanian higher education arena (Al-Adwan, Al-Adwan & Smedley, 2013), Jordanian universities are intensively investing in information and communication technologies to improve the quality of students' learning experience (Abu Qudais, Al-Adaileh & Al-Omari, 2010; AlAdwan et al., 2013). While such technologies, like e-learning for example, require considerable investments, Facebook provides a substantially cost effective and popular alternative for Jordanian universities to enhance the learning experience they provide. Nevertheless, the mere availability of Facebook, or any other technological application, does not necessarily mean its success as an educational method. The favorable perceptions and attitudes of both students and tutors must also be there (Abu Qudais et al., 2010; Al-Adwan et al., 2013; Khasawneh & Ibrahim, 2012).

Accordingly, this paper aims to explore the actual and potential use of Facebook by Jordanian university students for undergraduate learning. …

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