Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Social Media and Higher Education - an International Perspective

Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Social Media and Higher Education - an International Perspective

Article excerpt

Introduction

The impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be seen in almost every area of human activity, ranging from entertainment, information searching, decision making-processes, purchasing, and professional issues in education where traditional styles and methods are often replaced with modern ones that are designed to support and facilitate time-saving, effort and costs in everyday routines (Nichols and Anderson, 2005; Skiera et al., 2015). In keeping with this, we focus on the importance of social media (SM) in the field of education (Gammon and White, 2011; Ngai et al., 2015; Richardson, 2006) from the perspective that individuals expand their knowledge to a varying extent.

SM tools enable involvement and cooperation between students and teachers, as well as peers from different parts of the world (Bartow, 2014; Kim et al., 2014). In this respect the increasing usage of SM by both teachers and students has attracted substantial research attention aimed at assessing, for example, their role in higher education (see e.g., Tess, 2013, for a comprehensive overview of the literature); research that has failed to produce clear-cut results. Thus, some authors advocate greater use of SM in classrooms because of their capacity to enhance creativity and diversity in teaching styles as a means of fostering active learning for students (Anderson, 2007; Selwyn, 2010); enhancing pedagogical choice for teachers (McLoughlin and Lee, 2010); as a lever for promoting learning in a dynamic and networked social environment (Hung and Yuen, 2010); and as a tool to enhance students' interest, engagement, control and responsibility for their education (Blankenship, 2010, p. 12). Other studies advocate a cautious adoption and usage of SM for educational purposes, stressing the necessity of some a-priory literacy in SM. According to a recent US survey carried out among 1000 college and university faculty members, cited by Blankenship (2010, p. 12), attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness and critical consumption are the five main problems that need to be taken into account in order to ensure an effective and well-informed usage of SM. All in all, there are few comparative studies of the impact of SM on individuals' behaviour, and in particular, on their learning habits.

The main aim of the paper is to identify if the socio-demographic variables (gender, age, education level) influence the use of SM for educational purposes for students from various environments such as China, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and the United States (US). This research topic is both important and pertinent given the increasing international composition of the classrooms (i.e., Erasmus programmes, international masters programmes, etc.). In order to design teaching methods that are adapted to the digital environment it is therefore important for teachers to understand how students' socio-economic and cultural profiles influence their preferences for SM's usage. The theoretical analysis has been based on literary studies and empirical data collected in several countries in order to identify the differences and similarities among them. To collect the data for the exploratory empirical study the authors used two research methods: PAPI (Paper and Pen Personal Interview) and CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interview).

The structure of this paper is as follows: first, the relevant literature is reviewed. This is followed by a description of the applied methodology. Then the results of the empirical study are presented and discussed. The paper ends with a discussion of the limitations and suggestions for future research.

1.Literature overview

Social media is an area of interest and research for many practitioners and researchers studying the influence of these media on different aspects of human life and activity (Merrill, 2011; Patino et al., 2012). Although SM were originally intended to enhance social interactions they soon became a tool that was also used by firms, for example, to build brand loyalty, and by other institutions, such as universities, libraries, etc. …

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