Social media has permeated every sphere of life in the modern world. As access to internet and social media-enabling electronic gadgets such as smartphones and computers continue to rise, almost everybody and every part of the globe is becoming connected through social media platforms. To students, access to and use of social media has had both negative and positive impact. With all the stories on online bullying, harassment, fake information, as well as plagiarism, students’ interaction with and on social media seems to be taking a trajectory turn not only on their academic life but also on their social life. However, studies have also show that social media has tremendous positive impacts on students, including improvement of learning outcomes, enhanced communication, facilitation of collaborative learning, and assist with social-emorional learning.
How Social Media Can Improve Learning Outcomes Among Students
The main concern among education stakeholders in the recent past has been how to improve Learning outcomes in schools. Scholars have argued that social media has the potential of achieving this academic need to improving learning outcomes. Social media can improve learning outcomes in two ways; by enhancing students engagement and improving students’ retention (Banerjee, 2015). Student’s engagement is the psychological investment that students make towards learning. Studies have shown that social media has the impact of influencing students’ psychological attributes and attitude towards learning (Banerjee, 2015). Students who use social media for learning purposes are more prone to be engaged in their learning activities, with the additional effort put in learning automatically translating into improved grades. As Banerjee (2015) found in his study, highschool and college students who use Facebook had improved grades than their counterparts who shunned the use of social media. The argument presented by Banerjee (2015) and other scholars is that social media, as an important component of digital learning, enables students to actively interact with diverse knowledge, information, and network of fellow learners who provide additional knowledge that contribute to learning outcomes. Social media platforms such as web blogs, wikis, or even Facebook and Twitter, contain informative articles and other information barely found on traditional textbooks. Students can use such information and articles as case studies and work cited information or references, adding to their grades.
Social media can also contribute to learning outcomes by improving students’ retention. Clafferty (2011) argues that social networking has the positive impact on students’ retention. Social media, being centered on social networking, therefore has the potential to increase student’s retention rate. The argument presented is that the central themes around social networking are personalization and socialization which means that students have the benefits to gain when they retain studies or complete school. Social media in this case acts as a motivating factor through encouraging social acceptance and inclusion. Consider a case where students share their learning experiences and struggles through platforms such as school Facebook page. In such a case, a student who is undergoing difficult times and struggling with his/her studies will be encouraged through the experiences shared by others, and encouraged to continue with studies instead of dropping out of school. Such case exemplifies the socialization part of social networking and how it can improve students’ retention rate and reduce dropout rate.
Social Media and Communication Facilitation Among Students
Social media also facilities communication and connectivity among students. Indeed, the genesis of some major platforms such as Facebook was to facilitate communities and connection among students in schools. Facebook was created to connect and enable easy communication and interaction among Harvard students, trail blazing the path for other popular social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram among others. Social media has shaped the manner in which students communicate matters relating to studies, creating a conducive platform where information and knowledge can be shared and accessed easily. Studies have shown that social media improves faculty experience by enabling faculty members (staff and students) to communicate easily and effectively with minimal disruption. Through social media, information can, therefore, flow smoothly, keeping every faculty member up to date on what is happening, and what is about to happen. Consider a case where there is disruption in the students’ blackboard due to the system upgrade. In such a case, students can be easily informed of the unavailability of the blackboard, and still be reminded to complete their assignments and discussion posts and submitt immediately the system is restored. This communication can be made easy through social media especially to part-time working students who have limited time interacting with others to know the trends in school. Such is the influence of social media on students’ lives; creating a broad network among students, especially those from the same faculty such that in the long run, there is close coordination of faculty activities and swift communication among faculty members.
While social media has can enhance learning outcomes and communication among students, it can also promote collaborative learning. Collaborative learning involves sharing of knowledge, ideas, concepts, designs, and information, and form project teams that can help improve learning experience among students (Al-Rahmi and Zeki, 2016) Studies have shown that collaborative learning among high school students helps them appreciate creative work of others, enables them to access and provide support towards peer alumni, and have mutual support within the learning setting. By enabling collaboratibe learning, social media has redofined the boundaries through which students can interact with knowledge. Scholars such as Ertmer et al (2011), Lund (2008) among others have all found a positive correlation between usage of social media and improvement in collaborative learning. Lund (2008) for instance found that active collaborative learning activities in Wiki had a tremendous impact on improving student’s performance. In this case, students were able to publish their work on Wiki, receive feedback from peers and colleagues, and include the feedback on the final draft before submitting it. While all these studies point to the importance of social media in collaborative learning, collaborative learning is only substantive when the students have cognitive and cognition skills and abilities. This means that students must first attempt to do their own studies and understand the underlying concepts before sharing with peers or seeking feedback from the social group.
Apart from redefining the learning boundary through collaborative learning, social media has also enabled students to get access to learning information easily and faster than ever before (Al-Rahmi and Zeki, 2016) Collaborative learning enabled by social media means that students can request for academic information any time of the day and get it. It is different from the traditional learning experience where a student might be in urgent need of information for a due research project yet the libraries are closed for the day. With social media, a student can post any question in any Wiki platform such as Quora and get immediate feedback on the topic. Online class discussion groups such as Facebook discussion groups can also be important points of quick reference for information and knowledge. The general argument here is that in as much as social media has expanded student’s level of access to knowledge, it has also transformed how they access this knowledge. Vast amount of academic knowledge and information can nowadays be accessed in a simpler and faster manner than before. All these improvements in the manner in which students interact with crucial academic knowledge and information all contribute to improvement in overall academic output and performance.
How Social Media Assist in Social-Emotional Learning
In addition to the above impacts, social media has also immensely assisted with social-emotional learning. Social media has helped improve emotional learning social a emotional skills in a far much better way than traditional face-to-face interaction (O’Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson, 2011). A good example is how social media has enhanced social participation and emotional balance among the disabled learners. Disabled learners normally have difficult times socializing with their peers. They also have extreme self-esteem issues that emanate from their conditions, most of which affect their emotional balance. Social media enables these students to interact with their peers freely, learning how to accept their conditions from the validation, support and acceptance that they receive from their peers online. Such support and care is rarely available in normal life interaction. The argument here is that social media provides a platform for students (not only the disabled) to master how to socialize with otherwise, and how to master their emotional well-being. The Shari of experiences, emotional support and assistance, as well as the general feeling of acceptance and belonging that comes with social media are all integral in assisting with this process of social and emotional learning.
Overall, social media helps improve learning outcomes, facilitates easy communication among students, encourages collaborative learning, and helps with social-emotional learning. While the usage of social media by students has its disadvantages such as cyber bullying and harassment, it also helps students in accessing vast pool of academic information at an improved record time more faster than before, helps. It is, therefore, only a matter of advising the students on responsible use of social media to reduce the negative impacts and advance the positive impacts that they get from the social media.
Al-Rahmi, M. W., and Zeki, M. A. (2016). A model of using social media for collaborative learning to enhance learners’ performance on learning. Journal of King Saud University Computer and Information Sciences, 29, 526-535
Banerjee, D. (2015). Impact of Facebook on Student Learning Outcomes. International Journal of Research in Economics and Social Sciences. 5(9), 143-150
Clafferty, E.M.(2011), Facilitating social networking within the student experience. International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education, 48 (3), 245 – 251
Ertmer, P. et al. (2011). Student’s Confidence and Perceived Value of Participating in Cross-Cultural Wiki-based Collaborations. Educationional Technology, Research and Development, 59(2), 213-228
Lund, A. (2008). Wikis: A Collective Approach to Language Production. ReCall, 20(1), 35-54
O’Keeffe, S. G. and Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800-804