Adoption Of Social Networks As Learning Tools Education Essay

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Rapid changes in technological innovation have led to a new way of communication; it can now be carried out anytime, anywhere, in real space or through technology (Cascio & Shurygailo, 2003). Individuals and organizations find themselves in situations where their expenses are high than their income because of the current economic recession, and requires organizations to be resourceful in finding ways to cut the costs. One area which is often examined is travelling in order to be at a particular place at a particular time to share knowledge. In the past, the only way to communicate and build relationships with potential clients or suppliers was to travel to where they are located, even if that meant traveling across the world. However, with today's technology, there are other options instead of having a face-to-face meeting. The introduction of social networks have really weakened geographical constraints and changed the interpersonal communication dynamics (Lee, Cho, Gay, Davidson and Ingraffa, 2003). It is possible to interact via Skype, videoconference, Facebook, and Twitter or even through advanced technologies. Therefore, businesses and individuals are considering which type of communication works better for them. However schools are either not sure or uninformed on how these technologies could be adopted to enhance learning. On the other side we have academies that still believe the traditional classroom teaching is the most effective way to reach out to students (Liu, 2010).

Social networks sites have made communication between different and distant people cheaper and quicker. Social networks sites such as Facebook and twitter which could be easily and cheaply be accessed on mobile phones have really became part of our lives. Most Research has been conducted on how use of social networks for social purposes affects the student's performance at schools. However the aim to this study is to investigate how social networks could be adopted to enhance learning at schools. There is no doubt that information technology plays a role in enhancing learning; however we have many questions than answers about the determinants of the use and acceptance of technologies. Hence we believe that theories such as TAM and TPB could help in investigating factors affecting the adoption of social networks as learning tools. Although TAM and TPB have been tested in areas other than education, but because they allow us to investigate things such attitude, intent, behavior that gives us a reason enough to adopt them in this study.


For the past years the focus about social networks has been about the possibilities of dilemmas and risks that the use of social network will have on the student's studies. And the fear that most learners spent much time communicating with friends, families on social related matters and nothing positive could come out of the use of social networks except strengthening relationships. But in recent years many researchers have become more and more anxious about how social networks could be used to enhance learning but schools are still reluctant to adopt this idea. Although these technologies were not developed for learning purposes, but because this is the area where both learners and teachers find themselves, it will be rewarding to integrate these technologies into teaching and learning processes. Hence the aim for this study is to investigate their reluctancy to adopt. The adoption of social networks as learning tools could have a great impact on teaching and learning output if their effectiveness is well discovered by schools.


1.2.1 Defining Social Networks

The term social networks is used to wrap up an extensive series of social sites such as Facebook, wiki, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter which are used to connect friends, families and colleagues (Mathieu, 2007). Social networking sites are the convenient and effective way in which these 21st century generation use for social communications.

Communication is the method by which people share their ideas, information, opinions and feelings (Crandall and Wallace, 1998). Communication is an essential part of human interaction. The benefits of effective communication are many and obvious as they enhance all aspects of our personal and professional lives (Downs and Hazen, 1977). Ineffective or misunderstood communications in our personal lives may give rise to problems or embarrassment but in our professional lives the results of misunderstandings may have much more serious results. There is enough evidence from literate that communication is one of the most important concerns for every organization (Cascio, 1999, 2000; Fritz et al., 1998; Staples, 2001b; Townsend et al., 1998) and is one of the largest barriers to effective telecommuting (Ruppel and Howard, 1998). Early studies of communication systems in virtual technologies suggest that effective communication is very important (Conner, 2003; DeSanctis and Monge, 1999) because the virtual communication alters the familiar pattern, content and context of organization communications (Engkavanish, 1999; Nilles, 1998; Townsend et al., 1998).

1.2.2 Proposed factors influencing adoption of Social networks.

1. Technology Acceptance Model

In order to capture and understand the user's behavior towards the new innovation, we must understand technology adoption process (Davis, Bagozzi, and Warshaw, 1989). Beliefs, attitudes, and intentions are important factors in the adoption of computer technologies (Davis, 1989). While contemporary representations have focused on explaining the act of using computers, the role of learning to use the computer needs to be better understood within the overall adoption process. TAM consists of two beliefs the perceived ease of use and is does not require effort to use, and perceived usefulness. Perceived of use describes that users will feel a lot comfortable if they perceive that the new technology is easy to use. Perceived usefulness articulate that users will be happy to accept the technology if it meets their needs and increase the performance. Miller, Rainer, and Corley (2003) conducted a research on online class delivered by interactive modules and their findings are that students' of courseware were significantly affected by the perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness.

External variables

Perceived usefulness

Perceived ease of use

Behavioural intention

Actual system use

Source: Venkatesh (2003), Davis (1989).

2. Theory of planned behavior

This theory articulate that people's behavior is motivated by behavioral intentions , where behavioral intentions are a function of an individual's attitude toward the behavior, the subjective norms surrounding the performance of the behavior, and the individual's perception of the ease with which the behavior can be performed (Ajzen, 1991).



It is well known that individuals in South Africa are the late adopters of internet and its applications such as social network technologies (Mattila, Karjaluoto, and Pento, 2003). Very limited study has been conducted on factors affecting use of social network technologies such Facebook, Skype, Twitter and Mxit. Although WebCT, LMS and E-Campus and student personal e-mails are available to learners and teaches at certain school, there is still limited and inconvenient communication between teachers and learners, teachers and teachers, and learners and learners.

Internet technology changes the way people communicate and how study content can be delivered. Despite availability of communicating tools in the market and their efficiency on communication these tools have not been utilized to their full potential at the universities and schools. Therefore, there is a need to understand the users' acceptance and perceived behavior of such technologies and a need to also understand their perceptions about these technologies. This research is important because the answer holds the clue that will help schools in both urban and rural areas to enhance and improve communication which will ultimately improve the learning output.

Against this background, the research problem for this dissertation is discussed in details below;


Teaching and learning it is not accessible outside a formal learning situation or after normal school hours.

In most rural and urban schools communication between a learner and a teacher it is a challenge after the normal school hours, with regard to teachers giving assignments to learners or learners enquiring clarity on a lesson taught or assignment given in class. If some learners didn't attend school they need to wait for the following day in order to catch up or enquire about the lessons done on that particular day. This has somehow affected or limited the bottom line of education.


The research question to be researched within the ambit of this dissertation, reads as follows:

What are the factors affecting the adoption of social networks as learning tools?

In sustentation of the research question the following investigative questions will be researched:

How can social networking sites be encouraged to be adopted by school as learning tools?

How can the adoption of social networking sites improve teaching and learning activities?

What are the perceptions of both the teachers and learners about social networking sites?

What are the relevant social networking sites to be adopted by schools?


In most urban and rural schools the interaction between a learner and teacher is limited to the traditional way, whereby learning could only take place during normal school hours; hence the aim of this research is to investigate factors affecting the adoption of social networking sites as learning tools.

The study is an attempt to provide more meaning understanding of the effectiveness of social networking sites in teaching and learning activities.


To identify the key factors influencing the adoption of social networks in the schools.

To underpin how the use of social networking sites as learning tools could improve interaction between learners and teachers.

Based on the findings of the investigation a model or framework will be developed, the model is aimed at improving the learning output.

To assess and promote effective use of social networks in teaching and learning amongst urban and rural schools.


The research methodology to be followed in the study will be based on the following: Research design, Unit of analysis and sampling, Data collection techniques, Literature study, Interviews, Questionnaire, and Data analysis.


Research Methodology is an organized way comprising of sequences, procedures and systems to manage and execute a research project (Welman & Kruger, 2004).It focuses on the individual steps in the research process and the objective procedures to be followed. In this research the positivist and phenomenologist paradigms will be used.

According to Welman et al (2007:6) positivist approach "holds that research must be limited to what can be observed and measured objectively" and it is also known as the Quantitative research approach. Welman et al (2007:6). The Quantitative method seeks to establish relationships and to explain causes of changes in measured social facts (White, 2003).

Welman et al (2007:6) Further states that the human behavior research cannot be separated from the phenomena being observed. This approach is also known as the Qualitative research approach.

A case study method will be used. Woodside & Wilson (2003:493) describe Case study research as "enquiry focusing on describing, understanding and predicting and or controlling the individual". Eisenhardt (1989: 534) supports the view of Woodside & Wilson (2003:493) and add that "the case study is a research strategy which focuses on understanding the dynamics present within single settings". The reason the case study method is selected in this research is because it allows the gathering of in-depth data relative to a single individual, and the case study allows the use of different data collection methods such as interviews, Questionnaire and Observation.


Currently there are two most commonly used primary data collection methods in these types of research: i.e. the Questionnaire and the Interview. According to Cooper & Schindler (1998) the questionnaire and the interview are data collection instruments that enable the researcher to pose question to subject in his/her search for answer to the research questions.

Saunders et al (2002:280) maintain that it is generally good practice not to rely solely on questionnaire data but to use the questionnaire in conjunction with at least one data collection instrument.

In this study data collection will be done in forms of Questionnaire and Interview. A pilot study will be conducted using a teachers and learners in both rural and urban schools.

A pilot study based on the theory of planned behavior (TPB) and technology acceptance model (TAM) as guiding frameworks will be conducted using 150 teachers and 50 learners. The final questionnaire will consist of two sections, one gathering demographic information such age and gender and the other collecting respondent perceptions about social networking. The second section uses likert-scale with anchors (1) strongly agrees to (5) strongly disagree to investigate factors affecting their adoption of social networks as learning tools.


The study is based on the Theory of Planned Behavior and Technology Acceptance Model to investigate including attitude, subjective norm, behavioral intention, perceived behavioral control, perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use.

1. Technology Acceptance Model

1.1. Perceived ease of use- describes that users will feel a lot comfortable if they perceive that the new technology is easy to use (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980).

1.2. Perceived usefulness- articulate that users will be happy to accept the technology if it meets their needs and increase their performance (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980).

2. Theory of Planned Behavior

2.1 Behavioral Beliefs (Attitude toward Behavior) - meaning their beliefs about the possible outcome of the behavior.

2.2 Normative beliefs (Subjective Norm) - meaning their beliefs about the normative expectations of significant others.

2.3 Control beliefs (Perceived Behavioral Control) - meaning the beliefs regarding absence or presence of factors that might facilitate or impede the performance of the behavior (Ajzen, 1991).


After the collection of data one needs to analyze and interpret the data collected. In this research secondary and primary data collection will be undertaken. A series of descriptive analysis techniques will be conducted on the data collected.


"The researcher is ethically responsible for protecting the rights and welfare of subjects while conducting a study" McMillan & Schumacher (1993:23). According to Babbie (2005:62) ethical behavior refers to general agreements shared by researchers about what is proper and improper in the conduct of scientific inquiry. Babbie (2005:62-69) describes some of the most important ethical considerations in research:

Voluntary participation: No one should be forced to participate in a research. In the most general terms, the scientific goal of generalizability is threatened if subjects are all the kinds of people who willingly participate in such things.

No Harm to the participants: Social research should never injure the people being studied, regardless of whether they volunteer for the study. The participants will not be exposed in any danger and lastly the potential benefits of the research will not be used to justify the possible adverse consequences on the participants.

Anonymity and Confidentiality: A research project guarantees anonymity when the researcher not just the people who read about the research cannot identify a given response with a given respondent. Confidentiality is guaranteed when the researcher can identify a given person's response but essentially promises not to do so publicly.

Deception: Deceiving people is unethical, deception within social research need to be justified by compelling scientific or administrative concerns.

Informant consent: According Mason (1996)."The informed consent of the participants is very critical to the research ethics ".Every participant will be given a clear understanding of the nature and the consequences of his/her participation before He / She engage in the research.

Analysis and Reporting: Researchers have an obligation to make any of the research short comings known to their readers- even if admitting qualifications and mistakes makes them feel foolish.


The Study is divided into the following 5 chapters:

Chapter 1: Overview. This chapter provides an overview which introduces a reader to the study. It consists of Introduction to study, the background, and the problem statement, as well as the objectives, purpose of the study, the research design and methodology. The chapter is used as a guide of what could be expected in chapters to follow.

Chapter 2: Literature Review. This chapter comprises of literature review. It provides more information about the social networks, theoretical frameworks (TAM and TPB).

Chapter 3: Research Design and methods. The chapter comprises of research methodology applied, the data collection methods as well as data processing and analysis.

Chapter 4: Research results and discussion. The chapter presents the data and the findings obtained from the research methods.

Chapter 5: Conclusions and Recommendations. In this chapter conclusion are drawn and recommendations are presented.


Records will be kept in paper and digital format at the Tshwane University of Technology library and with the researcher of this dissertation.