This research report seeks to explore the situation of TSiBA's policy to restrict students from accessing social media sites in the IT labs during working hours, which is from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm as from Monday to Friday. It analysis the results on the research on whether students should be allowed access to social media in the labs at TSiBA and present a conclusion depending on my findings. Based on the findings the report draws conclusion on whether access to social media is a benefit to students' academic performance.
Prior to this research report was my research question on the topic, "IS THERE AN EFFECT ON STUDENTS' ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE WITH ACCESS TO SOCIAL MEDIA DURING CLASSES"? My literature review presented a couple of diverse view points on this topic. While some were in favour of the point that the access of social media during classes is helpful to students others were against. After looking into this topic in relation to the students at TSiBA, it came to my notice that there is more attached to the topic other than students just accessing social media in class.
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The dawn of social media sites in this new era of technological advancement has created an atmosphere for tireless interaction. Students including other internet users use a combination of information and the creation of peer-based gatherings for knowledge sharing while studying. On that note TSiBA cannot be left out of the question because in the recent years the use of social media has become a growing part of their lives. "Students today were born in the technology era. They really enjoy learning like this because it is so simple. It's all about the accessibility of work - Ayesha du Plessis- tutor in the University of the Western Cape (Sapa 2012).
The construction of my scorecard and the methodology involves the assessment of my literature review and also considering the questionnaires and interviews conducted. In order to obtain valuable information from the students I needed to interview two categories of students and from that see if there is any correlation to their responses. These categories I decided to call the top students (those who are on the academic merit list) and the average students.
Arguments in favour and against access to social media, TSiBA's policy and whether students should be allowed access to social media in the labs are also used as key indicating factors to analyse my report.
1.1 Subject of the research report
This report evaluates the decision whether or not access to social media at TSiBA during working hours is a benefit academically to students. A research was conducted looking into this topic with specific indicators based on the advantages and disadvantages of accessing social media from a perspective of different writers. The views of these writers was then evaluated against the findings from students and those interviewed after the scorecard was constructed
1.2 Background to the research report
As Business Communication Management 2 students, we are required to choose a research question of our interest and write a detailed report on. The general idea in the field of study relating to the access of social media by students has been one with vast complexity. The use of social media site by students either at home or at school has presented risks and benefits. During a presentation at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, August 6th 2011, it was made known that even if institutions and business try to limit access to social media students can still access these sites with their smartphones and other devices.
As I will be presenting on my findings almost every student at TSiBA is involved in the use of social media. This can either be directly or indirectly as they own social media accounts and also use social media as their main marketing source. The students own businesses on campus with little or no marketing budget, so social media assist them to reach their target population and also advertise their products or services. A successful business as we are taught at TSiBA does not have a specific period of operation so long as its customers are will to purchase available products. Therefore the report seeks to address the limitation of students' access to social media in the labs at TSiBA during lectures which also happen to be business hours.
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TSiBA's policy of restricting students to access social media sites during working hours has created some friction on the part of the students. Most of them are complaining that they don't see the need of the IT labs if certain sites can't be accessed within a particular time frame. Specifically, my focus on this conversation is not to determine whether the access of social media by students during lectures should be encouraged or not. Instead the research investigates whether or not access to social media is a benefit to students' academic performance. If this turns out to be positive then there is a need for TSiBA to change its policy in order to accommodate the students. On the contrary, if the findings doesn't show a negative effect on students' grade then there isn't any need for TSiBA to change their policy because it won't make a difference.
1.3 Objectives of the research report
The objectives of this report are to;
Present the arguments in favour of access to social media
Present the arguments against access to social media
Look into TSiBA's Policy to restrict the access of social media during certain hours
Analyse whether should students be allowed access to social media in the labs?
Draw conclusions on the findings of my constructed scorecard and interviews to decide whether or not access to social media is a benefit academically to students.
1.5 Scope and Limitation
Time constraints on the part of completing this research topic in relation to spending additional time to other courses have been a major limitation because it doesn't allow me to focus more on my topic. Another limitation is that social media might have an impact not only on the academic performance of students but on different areas in their life. But my research topic limits me in finding out if there is an impact on their academic performance with access to social media during studies. With this, readers won't be able to know if there is an implication of social media on different areas of a student's life except they have to research on different social media related topics.
1.6 Plan of Development
This report begins by revising the literature review on the various viewpoints of different writers on the effects of students accessing social media. A further review on this topic follows with regards to students' viewpoints (through the scorecards) and interviews conducted at TSiBA. Making use of the information gathered from these literature reviews, the scorecard is evaluated to see if there are any connections to those of the writers. After this the report will analyse the findings of how different group of individual use social media and if the access of its sites have any impact on their academic performance. Finally, a conclusion is drawn based on the findings obtained.
Based on various research topics that are related to my topic there are different perspectives about the effects of social media on students. A research conducted in Johnson & Wales University on November 01 2011 shows that there is a negative effect on the grades of the students as majority of them performed poorly because they spend most of their time on social media (W Qingya, C Wei, L Yu, The Effects of Social Media on College Students, Johnson & Wales University Scholars Archive, November 2011, North Miami, United States).
However, another report conducted by Patient Rambe, lecturer at the University of Free State suggests that social media (mostly Facebook) has created an educative and appealing space through which personalities could be contested and multiple voices represented. The lecturer further explains that variations in students' response to one of her colleague's topics suggest that the richness of Facebook comments offered both opportunities for opened engagements as well as limitations to achieving self- interest (R Patience, Exploring the Impacts of Social Networking Sites on Academic Relations in the University, Office of International Academic Programmes, Volume 10, 2011, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa).
Online search, magazines, newspapers and others sources present a variety of views relating to whether access to social media during classes have an impact on students' academic performance. But before concluding on these views, I thought it is a necessity to investigate into the arguments for and against the use of social media during lectures.
2.1 Arguments in favour of access to Social Media
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Access to social media is equipping students with the abilities needed to survive as they get ready to face the professional world. One of the fundamental aspects of developing and building a business livelihood is to maintain connections to many people across the globe (http://socialnetworking.procon.org). That is definitely something that accessing the social media provides.
The amounts of time spend on new technologies by students actually increase their knowledge of becoming more familiar with computers and other electronic devices. With the growing focus on technology in education and business, this will help students build skills that will aid them throughout their lives (http://www.sitepronews.com).
The building of resumes and personal websites have been increasingly used as online portfolios and the ease with which a student can adapt their profile makes them more aware of elementary features of design and layout that are not often taught in schools (Kirsche, Facebook and Academic Performance, vol 26, pg 18) . This is a skill that is acquired through the access of social media and customises the layout and designs of some business web pages.
The ease and speed with which users can upload pictures, videos or stories has resulted in a greater amount of sharing of creative works. Being able to get instant feedback from friends and family on their creative outlets helps students refine and develop their artistic abilities and can provide much needed confidence or help them decide what career path they may want to pursue (http://edudemic.com/2011/07/social-media-education/).
2.2 Arguments against access to social media
The majority of students depend on the convenience of information on social media specifically and the internet in over-all to provide them with solutions. That means a cheap focus on learning and remembering information (Brydolf, 2007, page 103).
Students, who attempt to multi-task, checking social media sites while studying, show reduced academic performance (http://viralms.com/blog/2011/04/how-social-media-affects-students/). Their ability to concentrate on the task at hand is significantly reduced by the distractions that are brought about by YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.
The more time students spend on social sites, the less time they spend socializing in person. Because of the lack of body signals and other nonverbal cues, like tone and inflection, social networking sites are not an adequate replacement for face-to-face communication. Students who spend a great deal of time on social networking are less able to effectively communicate in person (http://edudemic.com/2011/07/social-media-education/).
The reputation of social media, and the rapidity at which information is made available to users, has produced a negligent approach towards appropriate spelling and grammar mostly in the case where students have to copy and write the information by hand. This reduces a student's capability to efficiently write without trusting on a computer's proof-read/spell check feature (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/nov/22/internet-encourages-bad-spelling-children).
The amount to which reserved information is accessible online and the anonymity the social media seems to provide has made students forget the need to sieve the materials they post. Several institutions and probable employers inspect a candidate's social networking profiles before admitting acceptance or interviews. Most students don't continually evaluate the content they're publishing online, which can bring about negative consequences months or years even after they are employed (Qingya, Wei and Liang, Effects of Social Media on College Students, page 11, 2011)
3.1 Documentation research
Online search on different documents, magazines, newspapers and text books enabled me to gather information to assist with my report. After I had relate the findings from these different research topics and see if there is a correlation with the response presented to me by fellow TSiBA students.
3.2 Research Design
In order to assist the findings from my research, a study survey was conducted targeting to gather the view point of students, as to obtain contributing reasons, effects, and responses at individual and group levels. Quantitative data were collected through questionnaires while individual interviews and focus group interviews were conducted to obtain qualitative data.
3.2.1 Quantitative Approach
A research questionnaire with 15 questions will be as a tool guide that will be presented to students in order for them to express how they feel about having access to social media in the labs during lectures. An option to either disclose their identity or remain anonymous will be offered so that they will feel free to express their views. Some of these questions will be designed in a manner that will require the students to express in words how they feel about the topic rather than just ticking/allocating numbers. It should be noted that some of these questionnaires will also be given to staff, lecturers and visitors as their input might be valuable in presenting my findings.
3.2.2 Qualitative Approach
Interviews will be conducted to different groups of students that will express their opinions. These students will be placed under four different categories namely; academically strong students (students on the academic merit list), average performers, members of clubs and societies and representatives of student business. The reason behind such categorisation is to enable me get hold of a variety of students from different academic levels with the views.
Since TSiBA is such a small campus and the isn't enough quite space for interviews to be done, I have decided to use convenient areas such as the games room and free lecture rooms so that the students interviewed will be in an environment where they will feel comfortable in sharing their opinions.
3.3 Findings with regards to Facebook responses
The findings of the study will be presented in this way: Originally, Facebook interactions involving communication with students and how quickly they response. This will be followed with the investigation to the ease at which students share information via social media. TSiBA Education has an intranet system of sending emails to all students and also at times the information is shared on specific Facebook pages. The reason for this method is to see to what extend students gets engaged and participates to information shared through these platforms.
TSiBA AND THE VARIOUS APPROACHES TO SOCIAL MEDIA
4.1 Policy at TSiBA
The justification to my findings cannot be neglected without looking into TSiBA's policy which restricting students to access social media sites during working hours as mentioned above. During my interview with Nolan Beudeker (Curriculum Manager and Leadership Anchor at TSiBA Education) she reiterated the point that the decision for the management to block Facebook and YouTube during working hours is simply because TSiBA do not have sufficient bandwidth to cope with the demand rather than a policy to get the students more focused during classes as they may presume. As a result of this policy, those that use the IT labs during working hours cannot access social media. But ever since the campus went wireless a couple of months ago, the question is; does this policy apply the same for those who have their laptops and are allowed to use them during classes? This is definitely not true because these set of students with laptop can access social media site at any time while within the coverage of the wireless at campus.
4.2 Social Media as a tool for learning
Majority of the students that where interviewed described social media as a new tool for quick learning and easy understanding of recent innovation. Social media, with all its deficiencies, remains a very powerful platform that can really empower people with Just-In-Time learning on anything through the access of different sites (Righteous Mfor, First year student, Bachelors in Business Administration, TSiBA Education).
4.3 Using Social Media as a marketing utensil
Students at TSiBA are involved in different student businesses and even student companies for those in the second year of the degree program. These students argue that a greater percentage of their target market use social media (mostly Facebook) frequently and access to these sites enable them to engage with them on a constant basis. Anele Ngcambaza, marketing director of Hustle Trend (one of the student companies in the second year of the degree level) explains how the access of Facebook at all times on campus has contributed immensely to the profitability of their business. At first before he could purchase his personal laptop, he found it difficult getting the message across to the clients because of TSiBA's restrictive policy to access social media during working hours. But this nightmare that almost caused a downfall to Hustle Trend's business has now become a thing of the past as Anele explains.
4.4 Academic performance v/s Social Media
4.4.1 How has the use of social media during classes contributed to your academic performance?
With the academic merit list that has been posted on the notice board of TSiBA, I saw it as a perfect platform to interview students whose names are appear on the list. Reason being that during the course of my research as presented in the literature review, some writers attributed poor student academic performance to the frequent access to social media during lectures. Contrary to this, I got answers such as;
"My level of academic performance doesn't have any reflection to me accessing social media. All I can say is that it depends on the individual and how they can combine the two and still come out with positive results" Lunga Schoeman, BBA 2 student.
Joseph Maisels, BBA 1 student said his access social media at times during classes only if he really needs it for advertisement or marketing of their student business. Apart from that he is not a fan when it comes to a variety of social media sites.
"I stay connect to my friends on social media through my phone at all times because the account of my most used social media site (Facebook) is linked to my phone" Charlotte Dreyer, HCBA (Higher Certificate in Business Administration) student at TSiBA.
Nadia Williams, HCBA student on her part explains that she finds social media very helpful when it comes to chatting with friends in academic related issues, other than that she doesn't think social media contributes a great deal to her academics.
4.4.2 Reasons why you would use social media during lectures
One of the sample questions in the questionnaire for the report was trying to seek for the reasons why students would use social media during lectures in terms of ratings from 1 - 5.
1 - do not use
2 - use very rarely
3 - use quite often
4 - use often
5 - this is the main way to use these services
To do research
Stay up-to date with friends/family
Share personal experiences
Others (please mention in writing if you choose something else.
The aim behind this particular question in the questionnaire was to evaluate the reasons why students use social media and see if there is any relationship to their academic performance. During the research I decided to interview students who are on the merit list and those who are not. Nadia Williams (HCBA student) on her part made mention that majority of her courses do not warrant her to use social media; therefore she doesn't see the effect it has on her studies. Instead, she explained further that getting addicted to accessing social media while in class might negatively impact a person's academic performance because it possess as a threat to distraction.
Another student in HCBA whom I will describe as an average student (because he is not on the academic merit list) and didn't allow me to share his identity for personal reason also share the same view point as Nadia.
Most of the degree students explained that access to social media is mainly used for staying in touch with friends and close associates through instant chatting and the sharing information. For them it all depends on the individual in question because certain people can multitask - stay online with social media and still be able to focus in class at the same time.
This explains why I have during the answering of the questionnaire many students ticked the columns of getting opinions, stay up-to-date with friends and sharing their personal experiences.
4.5 Views from some staff members
During my interview with some staff members they presented a slightly different view compared to the students' perspective. Firstly, Tyson Wadeley (the Mathematics Anchor at TSiBA) said he doesn't have a problem with TSiBA allowing students to access social media in the labs because it's a matter of choice as to whether they can stay on these sites and concentrate during lectures. Nevertheless, his concern was the manner in which some students abuse the usage of these sites during lectures. He shared a personal experience during one of his Maths lectures in the IT labs, during which a student called him to explain something on his desktop. Only for him to discover that this particular student was busy chatting online with friends after he just explained the same concept for the third time.
Nolan Beudeker (Curriculum Manager and Leadership Anchor at TSiBA Education) says if not of the fact that TSiBA is limited with bandwidth to cope with the demand on social media sites during working hours; she doesn't see any reason why access to these sites should be denied to students. She went forward to explain how she has also been researching on a similar topic and have realised that in this era of the growth in technology, social media is a vital tool used to enhance students' academic life.
4.6 Possibilities for exploration
With the advent of the new elective course at TSiBA (e-marketing), it has become almost impossible to explore the internet without accessing social media. A greater portion of the course requirement entails students to work with social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube for learning practices. "The possibility of exploring different online advertising techniques by us the e-marketing students becomes very difficult while working in the labs," Siraaj Van Der Ross, BBA 2 student.
In the light of the above findings in this report, the following conclusions can be drawn;
5.1 Insufficient bandwidth to cope with increasing demand
TSiBA's policy to restrict students from accessing social media sites in the labs during working hours does not have anything to do with the disadvantage it might have on students' academic performance as many of them suggest. Instead the management is looking into ways of solving this crisis of insufficient bandwidth to cope with the demand because they have noticed how important it might be to the students. During an interview with the IT technician (Kiran) he said if not for the fact that TSiBA's internet provider doesn't supply the institution with enough bandwidth then access to social media in the labs during the day would not be a problem.
5.2 Social media helps to reinforce unstable relations
Contrary to some writers who attempt to evaluate academic performance on the amount of time spend on social media sites (mostly Facebook), majority of the students at TSiBA say social media helps them to stay connected. Their relationships that at one point seem to be lost has been reinforced through social media and with this they obtain assistance, some of which play a positive impact on their studies. "At times I struggle with certain topics and can easily get help from ex-students through an online chat on Facebook which at times require me to watch videos on YouTube for solutions," Rayne Moses, final year degree student at TSiBA Education.
5.3 Social media has created an educative and visual space
With the multiple clubs and societies on TSiBA's campus social media has presented a platform through which identities could be contested and multiple voices represented. An example is the Student Representative Council (SRC) Facebook page which has 198 students of TSiBA as members. On this interactive space they feel free to voice their opinions and request for academic help from their fellow colleagues even without contacting them fact-to-face.
5.4 Students' level of academic performance is not impacted by social media
The information collected from the quantitative and qualitative data shows that access to social media by students in the labs has a mild effect on their academics. They would rather use these sites to assist in their learning process rather than allow them decrease their grades. This response contradicts the idea that there is a negative effect on the grades of the students as a majority of them performed poorly because they spend most of their time on social media (Qingya, Wei and Yu, 2011).