Distractive or Educative? Social Media and eLearning
Social media have pervaded modern-day interactions. They have opened up a world of communication opportunities between people and within communities of interest (families, friends, thematic interest-groups, etc.). As such, they are increasingly being used for learning in conventional classrooms, for Open and Distance eLearning (ODeL) and other learning situations such as non-formal education (NFE) and informal education.
eLearning specialists have listed a number of advantages offered by social media such as: multiple-level interaction, reduction or elimination of classroom time, boosting participation and collaboration, new job opportunities, opportunities for the development of online communities consisting of people with common training experiences. They are also credited with the capacity to increase the effectiveness and longevity of formal learning, stimulate the engagement of learners, and enhance the social aspects of learning (Pappas, 2013). However, a growing body of research is providing conflicting evidence on the impact of social media on students’ learning and academic achievements. On the positive side, there are studies that indicate that time spent on social media does not affect a students’ academic performance (Ogedebe, Emmanuel and Musa, 2015). On the negative, there are studies that show that the time spent on social media, the frequency of visits and the total number of online friends has a statistically significant relationship with a student’s academic performance (Lorliam and Ode, 2014).
In a study carried out by Chibuogwu V. Nnaka (2016) to investigate the perceptions and usage of social networking sites among distance learning students in Nigeria and presented at the 2016 3rd International Conference of the AVU, the findings revealed that social networking sites are mostly being used by students for purposes such as interacting with friends, family discussing national issues rather than for educational purposes. As a result, performance has been affected negatively because of the reduction of the time spent on studies. This negative impact of social media was echoed by Karadkar (2015) who vehemently stated that “The most important things in a student’s life are studying, learning good habits and gaining knowledge to become a person with moral character. But today, as we see in various studies, this optimal learning process is seriously jeopardized by students becoming entrapped by the ploys of social networking. Students neglect their studies by spending time on social networking websites rather than studying or interacting with people in person. Actively and frequently participating in social networking can negatively affect their grades or hamper their journeys to their future careers”. In addition, the most detrimental aspects of social media that are cited are criminal in nature such as fraud, pornography, hacking, identity theft, etc.