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Social network sites have become a global phenomenon that plays important roles in our society today. It is a social milieu that allows individuals to present themselves, communicate with one another and to maintain relationships. These SNSs (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and MySpace) are rapidly increasing visibly among the University students. Social network does not only influence students learning outcome but it also help the University students to attain social acceptance as well as adapting to University culture which may play central role towards improving their learning outcome. Several researchers revealed that SNS as technological tools can be used to effectively improve student-student and student-teacher interactions in higher institutions. In this regards SNS plays a prominent role in learning environment as a major conduit for getting resources, knowledge, and social support and also provides help for students preparing for or/ finding employment. On the other hand, many researchers observed that students spend several hours in a day attending to different social network sites even during lecturers and library sessions thus creating distractions and reducing the time to focus on their studies. This discourse therefore reviews the benefits and obstacles of social networks on social behaviour and academic performance of students. It also reviews the attitude of students towards the use of technology, SNS and how social network can improve learning style as it portends great promise towards enhancing their academic performance.
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Academic institutions all over the world especially in developed countries have made tremendous investment in computer and internet infrastructure with the hope that this would result in the utilisation of web-based knowledge resources which may leads to significant increase in academic performance and productivity of students or staff (Oskouei, 2010) . However, this investment may not have yielded the desired goals of increasing learning quality and productivity of the students because these resources are used for both academic and non-academic works (Oskouei, 2010). It has been estimated that young adults are the highest computer and internet users in the world population today, about 46% of them uses it for completing school assignment, 36% for e-mail or instant messaging and 38% for playing computer games (DeBell and Chapman, 2006).
Social network sites which are online communication tool that have existed less than a decade allows its users to create public and private profile thus enabling them to interact with people in the same network (Boyd and Ellison, 2008). Social networks can be defined as web-based activities that allow individuals to build public and/or semi-public profiles within a confined system; articulate and connects to list of other users with which they are connected; view and check their list of connections with the ones created by others inside the system(Boyd and Ellison, 2008, Kirschner and Karpinski, 2010). Examples of the new phenomenon of social networks are MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Facebook is the leading social network in many countries followed by Twitter and LinkedIn in popularity. It has been reported that Facebook have 901 million monthly users and more than 125 billion friends connected at the end of March, 2012 (Karpinski et al., 2013).
The positive and negative impacts of social network on students’ social behaviour and academic achievement can be examined by their engagement, collaborative work, creativity, distraction, and grade point average (GPA). Research has shown that students participation on social networks have a positive connection to their engagement, and negative connection to their academic performance. Many researchers indicate that students’ academic performance can be increased by enhancing their engagement, and it has been stated that students’ engagement has a significant predictor of their academic performance (Wise et al., 2011).
The relationship between students’ academic engagement and their academic performance is in agreement with (Junco, 2012). They reported that students’ engagements are powerful forces for psychosocial development and academic success. Social networks have the potentials of improving learning styles, as they provides alternative to traditional teaching format such as creation of online classroom community, and also enhancement of student-teacher and student-student interaction (Merchant, 2012)
Social network increases social interactions and allows easy communication between, families, friends, neighbourhoods and global communities. Most social networks incorporate lots of communication tools like mobile connectivity, blogs, photos and video sharing which allows cross-posting to each other as desired by the users (Merchant, 2012)
It has been reported that social network interactions allows quality relationships, connectedness, positive behaviours and also sharing of relevant information have been observed on social network sites (Martin & Dowson, 2009). Forkosh-Baruch & Hershkovitz, (2012), also reported that lecturers, learners, system/software designers, decision makers and students are coming to social network sites for significant educational activities, and also establishes new innovations using interactive and collaborative online journals. Griffith and Liyange (2008) reported that students use social network in their academic studies such group and team based works.
In this regards social network plays a central role in learning environment as a major conduit for getting resources, knowledge, social support and socialization for learning distribution (Cho et al., 2007). It provides help for students preparing for or finding employment (Connelly, 2011).
On the other hand, researchers have shown that high level of internet usage among adults of certain age group (16-24 years) for social and emotional advancement could be regarded as internet addiction or pathological internet users for the group (Odaci and Kalkan, 2010). Internet addiction is the inability to limit internet usage despite its detrimental effects on social behaviour and academic performance; and also cause of anxiety when internet accessibility is restricted (Odaci, 2013). Young adults that experience difficulties in communication skills in the real life have reported significantly reduction while using social network but in real life their social skill is inadequate and therefore problematic in social behaviour and academic performance (Caldwell & Cunningham, 2010; Caplan, 2010; Odaci, 2013).
Social behaviour is an indispensable constituent of social psychology that can either be positive or negative. It consists of social determinant such as attitude, self-concept, collaboration, communication, violent behaviour and conflict reduction etc (Bertram, 2009). Social network helps to provide information on direct friendships and also generates a better global modelling for social organisation which determines how individual patterns of social behaviour correlate to group characteristics. The behaviour of an individual can affect the behaviours of others within the same social networks. Social behaviour can, for instance, influence flow of information or behaviours throughout a group (Makagon et al., 2012). Social networks do not only provide an assessment of popularity, but they can also be exploited as a vehicle to gain or access important information (Fetta et al., 2012).
According to Lewis et al., (2007), the mass movement of people to the use of social network has instigated researchers into investigating impacts of social networks. It may not be an exaggeration if we say that many modern day young adults, especially students, make use of social network on a daily basis (Boyd & Ellison 2007).
According to Bryant & Bryant (2005), the internet possesses the capability to influence our young adults and students behaviour very easily. This researcher has had experiences with youths/students in the library and classes that spend most of their time chatting and watching sexually explicit resources that might produce negative effects on their behaviour. Arising from the fore going, this researcher intends to study the postgraduate students’ attitudes as regards the use of social network during formal classes and library in Heriot-Watt University.
At the end of the research, recommendations will be made based on the students’ response. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter are chosen for this research study because of the large number of students’ that use these online social networks for chatting and sending messages (Cheung et al., 2010; Golder et al., 2007; Stutzman, 2006). It is essential for the academic institutions to know the positive and negative impacts of social network on students’ behaviour and academic performances.
Benefits and obstacles of social network on educational system
Social network sites (SNS) has become one of the useful tools that can revolutionized educational sector to suit requirement to improved knowledge for both student-student and student-teacher interaction. As an effective new culture of learning, social network site (SNS) offers students opportunity to use informal ways to communication, learn and collaborate independent of time and space (Zaidieh, 2012). It also helps teacher to keep constant communication and get feedback from students which improves learning efficiency. Social network sites play major role between students-teachers by allowing students to be in constant connections with other students, educators, alumni, administrators within and outside the academic environment (Jiang and Tang, 2010; Zaidieh, 2012). SNS has the ability to attract, motivate and engage students in meaningful academic practices, content exchange and other collaborations (Mills, 2011).
SNS provides student-teacher flexibility in learning, teaching and also the ability to join groups in specific subjects or disciplines and enable them to connect, view photos, videos and instructional activities established by other users of the network (ELI, 2007). SNS gives students and teachers the possibility of repetition i.e to either retrieve information immediately or later which is hard when using traditional methods of teaching (Dobrzanski and Brytan, 2007). In contrast to SNS the non-SNS method such as blackboard and module are much focused and lack personal touch and network capacity of SNS. SNS has the potentials to actively encourage online community building and extend learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom (Smith, 2009; Brady et al., 2010).
It provides unique opportunities for educators and instructors to facilitate a very strong sense of community within students and encourages creation of new knowledge and collective intelligence by personal interactions. SNS provides shared forum where students can post or share, and engage in collaborative discussion while sharing common sources like links, video and photos (McCann, 2009). It represents a defined shift towards social and community web-based application that can cultivate and sustain subject specific social networking. It does not only attract people but also hold their attention, propel them, to contribute and bring them back time without number all to get desirable qualities for educational purposes. SNS makes it easy and quick to access, review, update and edit learning materials any time and everywhere (Cheong, 2002) and allows students and teachers to select desirable materials from large quantity of course offered on online.
It allows easy distribution of learning materials and reduces stress and increases satisfaction among students. It gives students opportunity to study at their own self-pace and allow them to join bulletin board discussion any time while visiting classmates and instructors remotely in chat room. It overcomes the limitations of space and time in education and allows accessibility of available materials in their sites and also helps to resolves time table conflicts (Zaidieh, 2012).
The major challenges of SNS in education sector including lack of privacy, miscommunication and taking up times. Privacy is the major obstacles of SNS in education. Nissenbaum, (2004) described privacy as the contextual integrity which refers to the rules of appropriateness, in confines of the nature and types of information about different individuals within a given context, that is allowed, expected, or demanded to be revealed, and the rules of distribution, in confines of the movement, or transfer from one person to another. It simply means that in social network interaction; individuals have expectations concerning what information is deem appropriate to collect and circulate. Thus, specific types of information are appropriate for sharing among a certain groups of friends but may not be good to open to other social network users outside that group (Pai and Arnott, 2012). Its users express concern about privacy of their personal information and are most vigilant about safeguarding it (Dwyer et al., 2007). In social network site (SNS), people have lots of friends and the quality and integrity of these friendship are always in question because they are not always 100% honest and reliable and cannot actually verify personal details (age and location) of their members. It also allows accurate and positive self-profile that can be potentially abused by the openness (Zaidieh, 2012).
Miscommunication: In most cases, learner (students) face difficulties in expressing their ideas and views in writing as most of them prefer to express their ideas and views orally, the approach they are used to for many years of their studies. Face-to-face allows one individuals to perceive physical clues like tones, reflection, body language in an online environment (Zaidieh, 2012).
Taking up time:
Social network users spent much time in Internet, and more time online for their studies and works. Most times this causes lack of motivation towards learning and can be bored sitting in front of a computer for a very long time especially when the learning materials presented is free of audio and visual effects that can attract learner towards learning (Zaidieh, 2012). Lenhart et al., (2010) reported that half of the users’ are idled online for hours from time to time. This finding suggested that the more online time, the more SNS users, took their toll on information consumption through the social network platforms. According to Zhong et al., (2011), more than half of the social network users stated that reading information and watching videos online gave them short time for using non-SNS materials, such as broadcast and printed documents, indicating a move in trend of information from non-SNS to SNS, especially among students.
Many researchers observed that students spend several hours in a day attending to different social network sites even during lectures and library sessions thus creating distractions and reducing the time to focus on their studies. For example, in the lecture or library, most students leave their mobile phone on and silently chat on the social network sites and when the lecturer sets an examination, with high expectation of good grades; majority of the students will not do well. This scenario is ominous for both the students involved and the society at large. If this situation is not put under control, it will affect the students’ focus towards academics and possibly increase the number of students dropping out of school.
Pempek, et al., (2009) studied College Students’ social networking experiences on Facebook using 92 scholars. The study revealed that the students spend minimum of 1 hr. on daily bases with social network. The researchers reported that students spend more time reading the contents from their friends’ responses, uploading pictures and to keep in touch with friends.
Other researchers however, observed that there is no relationship between time spent on the use of social network and students’ academic performance. Hunley et al., (2005) opined that there is no significant between the time spent on the social networks and the Grade Point Average (GPA) of students’. This finding is in agreement with Kolek and Saunders (2008) which observed that social network usage and the GPA of Users have no relationship. On the other hand, Verden Boogart, (2006), reported that social network users have lower GPAs more than non-users. This finding correlates with the report by Flad (2010) that 32% out of 35% of the students’ that use social network have poor academic performance, and concluded that social network is good for students’ socialisation but negatively impact on their academic performance.
Barratt et al., (2009), observed that many students log onto Facebook many times in a day, thus spending valuable time, if spent on their studies would lead to excellent academic performance. It is necessary to examine whether or not social network involvement by students improves their academic works and social behaviour.
How Social network Improves learning style?
In the world today, higher institutions explore emerging technologies such as social network sites as a new or improved tool to enhance teaching and learning. Social network sites support student, and boost the integration in the higher education classes. Even though the infrastructures to support social network presently exist in most universities, instructors are slow in adapting to the tools as an educational one. Recently, Sadaf et al., (2012) studied pre-service teachers’ beliefs about their intent to use social network in their future classrooms. The results opined that half (51%) were committed to the new technology as an instructional tool because it increases student engagement. Brady et al., (2010) studied the use of social network at North Carolina State University. Seventy percent agreed with the notion that SNS made communication skill possible between peers than a comparable face-to-face class. Nearly (82%) indicated that SNS help them communicate outside the class as well. Most users (74%) also agreed that SNS allows them to reflect and comments on other peoples’ work more effectively than a face-to-face class.
In addition, Ajjan and Hartshorne, (2008), reported that Social network sites are viewed as useful tools to improve students’ satisfaction (32%) and also increased student-student interaction (56%). For instance, SNS enables scholars and teachers to remain current in their research areas, and also to explore recent approaches to teaching through networking with colleagues, interacting with different individuals, discussing their research/or work, and also expose their work or research interest to greater audiences. For example scholars use SNS such as blogs to support their scholarly endeavours. Researchers have identified that blogs are used; i) as a debate platform for scholars who seeks a live public intellectuals, (ii) for recording or sharing logs of pure research, (iii) as a type of tongue-in-cheek i.e water cooler to which analytical discussions of only scholarly experience can occur (Kirkup, 2010). Blog usage extends beyond research to include teaching endeavours (Deng and Yuen, 2011). Cho et al., 2007 reported that early Twitter users used Twitter for making instructional information and provide students’ with opportunities to communicate with professional communities outside the classroom.
Future usage of social network
In the past few years, social network sites have attracted the interest of researchers which examine the role this technology plays in higher education. Few of the work have showed the affective outcomes of social network site integration. Some of the studies examined learning outcomes and students’ achievement as related to the educational usage of social sites in college courses. King et al., (2009) described the recent development of an inter-professional team work in the healthcare field that shows how to integrate social networking. The researchers stated that in future integration of an educationally structured social network sites will facilitated growth toward the concept of effective communication which will overcome barrier of distance in learning.
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Some researchers have also reported that in future social network sites could foster scholarship that is social (Chong, 2010; Greenhow, 2009), conversational and open (Oblinger, 2010; Pearce et al., 2010). Social scholarship is the practice in which the use of social tools is an integral part of the research and publishing process that is characterised by openness, fast conversation, and collaboration, accessible, sharing, cheaper and transparent revision (Pearce et al., 2010). Social network sites which provide digital scholarship is more than just using information technologies and communication skill to research for materials; teach students and collaborate with other, but also to embrace the open values, ideologies and potentials of technologies essential for peer-to-peer networking and also a way of working in order to profit both the academic work and society at large.
Picking up the mantle, Greenhow et al., (2009) suggested that today’s student experienced different online identities due to new digital technologies at hand (for example; role playing sites, and virtual worlds). They opined that this new development presents a fundamental shift from the non-SNS to SNS and concluded that in future learner’s participation will be evidenced by inter-connections, content creation and participation attitudes in and out of the classroom.
A modified questionnaire instrument designed will be used in other to arrive at a general perception as regards to students’ opinion to the use social networks, behaviour to academic pursuit and social behaviour (Goodson et al., 2005; Pascarella et al., 2009).
Considering the advantages of the quantitative approach, the researcher uses questionnaires to get many responses on the students’ behaviour towards the use social networks during classes and library sessions. There are 18 questions designed to elicit the participants’ opinion on the use of social network during classes and library sessions, social behaviour and time spent using social networks.
Figure 1. Basic model of social behaviour and academic performance of students’ using social network (Adapted from Paul et al., 2012)
The questionnaires measuring each of the following constructs; time spent on social network, predictors of behaviour, time management skills, academic competency, attention Span, student characteristics and academic performance were developed from literature and discussions with supervisor. For example, questions that best describe the factors which explain students’online networking behaviour were adopted from Cameron, (2010). Questionnaires that are related to factors such as academic competency, Information on GPA, time management skills, study strategies, student characteristics, etc. are adopted from Mizerski and Pettigrew, (2003); Sansqiry et al., (2004); Paul et al., (2012).
The questionnaire adopted five point Likert scale of Strongly Agree, Agree, Undecided, Disagree, Strongly Disagree (Ary et al., 2000). The adaptation of this method is to provide correct and simple grammar in other to achieve the research objectives and also provide answers to the research questions.
CATEGORIES OF SOCIAL NETWORK SITES
There are many social network sites that exist today. The most popular sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn are free registration. All that is required from the prospective users is to provide their profile picture. Social network sites have several categories which are available in the World Wide Web (WWW) (Brown, 2011). Social network categories are the class given to a large groups based on certain functions, features, forms and meaning. Each of the social network categories has their specific focus and functions but all have common characteristics. They have features such blogs, videos, records of members, journal and many more (Othman et al., 2011). Thelwall (2009), reported that social network tools have three main categories as regards to friendship connections, (Fig1.2). The first Category social network is for social communication among members. Facebook, MySpace, twitter, etc. have this feature. Category two, with LinkedIn as example aims at searching for new contacts. Category three is the social navigation network through which specific types of information or resources can be obtained.
Figure 1.2 shows about 22 categories available in social network like discussion, education, and library. Most of the website falls into more than one category such as MySpace which can be categories into music and friendship category.
Facebook was originally introduced in 2004 as an online Harvard social network site which allows students living on University residential halls or students from other faculties of the University to register as users and communicate with their fellow students (Zywicas and Danowski, 2008). In 2006, Facebook was made public for everybody (Urista et al., 2009); and in December 2006 it had over 12 million users and at the end of December 2009, the active users increased to 350 million (Hew, 2011). Today Facebook is the most populated social network site in the majority of the countries with more than 400 Million users. In March 2011, Europe had the highest number of Facebook users’ 234.6 million followed by 163.9 million in North America (Karpinski et al., 2012).
Facebook is a social network site in which individuals or groups can share photographs, personal information, and communicate with friends (Hew, 2011). Facebook is also considered as the leading social network site used among college students. For example, Ellison et al., (2007) reported that in USA, 90% of the Undergraduate students Participate on Facebook. In British undergraduate students, Facebook has also become the most popular SNS used (Madge et al., 2009).
Munoz and Towner, (2009) suggested that Facebook can have positive impact on college student’s life, and further stated that students can use Facebook to communicate with other students concerning their assignments, group work or project, or teachers communicating their students regarding useful information on a specific course links.
On the other hand, researchers have shown concern in regards to possible negative impacts of Facebook usage among college students. For example, Kirschner and Karpinski, (2010) reported that students spending hours on Facebook may adversely affect their academic performance.
Facebook profile can be classified into four main groups: i) control elements, ii) referents elements, iii) preference elements, iv) contact elements. Control elements are fields like the gender of the user, length/period of Facebook membership, and their institutional status. Referents elements include hometown, residence and high school which are based on profile fields or common points of contact among the users. Preference elements are simply based on expression of personal interest and self-descriptive information of the user. For example, About Me, my interests, my favourite Music, favourite movies, favourite TV-shows, favourite books, favourite quotes, and my political views. Contact elements are profile fields such as e-mail address, instant messenger screen name, and the relationship status (Cain, 2008; Lampe et al., 2007).
Facebook users can also create groups and become a fan of a particular page of their interest organization such as football clubs, and celebrities thus allowing users with common goal to get together and support the organization or the celebrity. Facebook also serve as sources of entertainment because of the availability of games and other applications. Examples of such games and applications are Crazy Taxi, My Fairyland, and Facebook for iPhone (Hew, 2011).
MySpace is one of the popular social networks sites in the world today. It was launched in California in 2003 to compete with other networks like Friendster and Xanga etc (Anderson, 2007). It grew rapidly by taking advantage of Friendster’s mistake and failure. According to Anderson, (2007) Indie-rock bands that were expelled from Friendster because of profile problems; moved to MySpace network and began to attract users. There were several advertisements by most popular clubs in MySpace. It is believed that music was not only the key issue that attracted users of MySpace but rather there were symbiotic association between music bands and fans that helped to expand MySpace beyond expectation.
MySpace is unique because it allows addition of features based on the users’ interest (Boyd, 2006). Boyd said that teenagers started using MySpace in 2004 to connect to their friends and not just for the reason that they belong to the bands. MySpace site achieved its highest growth rates with three different groups, namely, the musicians, teenagers and undergraduate students.
Among SNS, MySpace gives greater self-expression than the popular Facebook and Twitter. It allows the users to customize their virtual “space” through an open format in which the designed elements, like text, video, music, graphics and photographs can be used to display their user’s online personality. With this feature users can create self-image that can be communicated to the mass audience. MySpace also gives the users more anonymity by providing the option of using a nickname. (Kane, 2008; Boyle and Johnson, 2010).
Twitter is a free social network site and micro blogging service which enables the users to read and post short text-based message that is not more than 140 words, called tweets. Some people tweet with micro-blog platform, while others regard it as a social networking site (Bake, 2009). A Web service which allows people to post brief messages to other users of the same service is micro-blogging. It derived its feature from Instant Relay Chat (IRC) including instant messaging and handsets.
According to Bake (2009), Twitter is one of the social network web-based applications that allow its users to build their own profile either publicly or semi-publicly. Twitter uses the exact basic features like find people profile and uploading pictures on profile etc. The traditional contacts in twitter are followers and following categories. Twitter does not belong to only SNSs socializing category but also to networking with navigation, (Thelwall, 2007).
This network allows you to follow users (following) and also followed by other users (followers) without any authorization. Messages sent are automatically published on the front page of the users (timeline) (Torreente et al., 2012). Any user may reply or retweet any tweet, which can generate public debate and conversation. Links can also be added to the tweets in order to create additional information beyond the 140 words.
Some key potentials of Twitter are that it is a window to the unlimited source of information and can be regarded multi-focal. It gives the opportunity to create lists of manage tweets by themes, authors and tags which helps users to manage the information and also easier to follow a particular topic. It is an ideal tool to disseminate information and to broadcast live events such as conferences, and any event worldwide. Twitter is fast and viral i.e. anyone can tweet and the spread of information can be unstoppable. One of the features of Twitter is the ability to include links which makes it easier to move from particular content to another (Torreente et al., 2012).
Influence of social network on social behaviour of students
Social behaviour is a kind of influence from specific group of people which may positively or negatively affec
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