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Online Social Networking Sites (OSNS) are websites that are used to maintain and improve existing social relationships with friends, family members or colleagues virtually. Individuals can develop new relationships with acquaintances as it provides them with various kinds of information from different sources. Plus, they are stage-like websites that allow the individual to express themselves freely (Yan Yu et al, 2010). This essay will explain how using OSNS for academic purposes can enhance or endanger the student's experience at university. Even though OSNS were based on informal tools of communication, and are a new trend in the current generation, they it can be introduced into the university life.
OSNS were introduced in universities between students in order for them to stay in contact. According to secondary research, university students occupy a large proportion of the total population of OSNS and with usage rates of over 90% per year at most campuses (Yan Yu et al, 2010). Also, based on a survey , students with an average age of 21 use OSNS daily, where they spend an average of 2 hours-logging in at an average of 4 times per day (Yan Yu et al, 2010). Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Kenrick et al, 2010) states that a person needs to accomplish their social needs by being accepted by their peers, friends or family and by receiving affection. Without accomplishing this social need, most people cannot move forward to the next level, which deals with the self-esteem required for an individual to become confident and try to improve their prestige or status between their peers. Yan Yu et al, 2010, states that OSNS provide emotional and psychological support to the student's university life as they expand their circle of friends. In addition, as the student is accepted by their peers, it increases their self-esteem and confidence which consequently improves their performance proficiency.
Currently, students have already blended OSNS in to their academic life-as almost 60% of the university students' use OSNS to talk about education online and more than 50% talk about specific school assignments (Roblyer et al, 2010). Students use OSNS in order to meet online and discuss their group projects, in case they find it difficult to meet up face to face. OSNS are becoming more like self-initiated learning centres by students, where they build or nurture their personal connections. Groups on OSNS for academic purposes have become really popular between students now as they create groups or discussion forums that will provide contacts and support from their other fellow peers (Yan Yu et al, 2010). University students believe that their performance has improved recently, as they are constantly connected to OSNS and thus are always updated with the assignments that need to be completed and submitted, through their friends or class mates (Yan Yu et al, 2010).
Other than using it only educational purposes, students also use OSNS for promoting their extracurricular groups or activities. Forming groups or pages on OSNS such as Facebook, they provide a summary of their activity and contact information which makes it easier for the participants to advertise and attract more students. In addition, all their events and campaigns are usually posted on the OSNS, helping students make announcements in a much cheaper and reliable way, by spreading the word through those websites. Also, for non participants, it becomes easy to contact the group when most of the university students are busy during the day, on the campuses.
OSNS do not just benefit the students personally- they also benefit the faculty members in the university campuses. Teachers use OSNS so that they can establish regular and updated connections in a formal and professional way. It has been indicated that this has improved the communication between different departments in universities due to the feature of sharing on OSNS (Roblyer et al, 2010). Plus, librarians use them to promote their libraries and inform the students on the latest announcements and publications. In this way it becomes easy for the student to ask pass queries or give the librarians suggestions on what books the library should offer or which ones are required by the student body.
Furthermore, it does not just assist the faculty members and students personally- it also helps to enhance the relationship between the teachers and the students both professionally and personally. Teachers and students are now using the blogging and sharing features of OSNS which helps both parties interact with each other, over various academic topics that will benefit students' higher education. Regarding the sharing feature, as students update the university blogs, they can share them with their instructors where they can be edited before publishing using strict, formal English language (Roblyer et al, 2010). The sharing of documents and notes becomes effortless. Students can also remain in contact with their teachers constantly in case they have enquiries concerning any assignments. In addition, teachers can use OSNS in order to announce any instant exam dates or cancellation of classes, spreading the announcement in a more reliable way than when compared to a notice board in the university campus.
Looking at it from a personal perspective, based on a recent survey on social networking 83.3% of students of the group age 18-21 agreed that using OSNS for academic purposes improved the teacher-student relationship. Students stated that using OSNS academically helped students talk to their teacher easily and conveniently, which will result in improved motivation due to the comfortable class atmosphere (Roblyer et al, 2010). It also creates a more effective learning environment as all the students and faculty members will be more aware of information and communication technology. Moreover, as the teacher gets to know the student on a personal level, the student can be handled accordingly and vice versa.
On the flip side of the coin, OSNS being introduced in the universities have faced many disagreements for various reasons. In a recent survey, 80% of participants in a survey claimed that OSNS can be misused when used academically; as students will always be accessing OSNS, they can cause a lot of distractions and procrastination from educational aspects. Also, many parents would be against the idea of blending both academic life and private life. Many people- whether they are students or faculty members- do not like to have an account on OSNS thus forcing people against their will at times. Plus, there will be no line between the private and professional life of the student or the teacher which can lead to a certain degree of depression. As students have the ability to share their work online for feedback, their work can be plagiarised by other students or misused. Roblyer et al, 2010 states that health sciences university students believe that using OSNS for their major would prove to be useless.
Many people have strongly disagreed with using OSNS academically due to the privacy and safety issues (Roblyer et al, 2010). While the students and faculty members share their private information amongst each other, the information is available for large number of people- including teachers and students too, who can abuse the information and misuse it. Additionally, announcements made about exam dates or notes shared may mislead the students, as they might be wrong due to the hacking of an account on the OSNS.
In conclusion, having OSNS introduced to the student's university life is a very debatable topic which has a lot of advantages and disadvantages. However, the advantages of using OSNS outweigh the disadvantages. Most of the issues that can be faced due to the usage of OSNS academically can be fixed by the settings of the website or can be controlled by the individual.