KAMPALA — Studies carried out by different institutions around the world have shown an increase in social media use since the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, education stands out as one of the largest sectors to embrace social media since lockdown.
The number of students and teachers, who engage on social media for one reason or the other, has increased. While some teachers remain reluctant to use social media platforms for teaching because of its distractions, multiple scholars disagree. A study carried out by Ansari and Khan (2020), a Public University in India, discovered that the ease and effectiveness of social media in collaboration, sharing of learning materials, and interaction amongst teachers and students improved students’ enthusiasm to learn.
According to the State of ICT in Uganda Report by Gillwald, Mothobi, Ndiwalana and Tusu Tusubira 2019, 14% of the population actively uses the internet, with 99% of these on social media. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, TikTok and Instagram register the highest engagement statistics. Having 95% of the social media users above 15 years old indicates an opportunity to exploit social media for teaching and learning.
While social media tends to distract the teaching and learning process, the numerous benefits that teachers and students obtain, improves the learning experience. Conventional teaching, for example, requires teachers to deliver teaching notes to a class while keeping in mind the limited time assigned to deliver per week, term or semester. This method allows the teacher to monopolize the learning process denying students an opportunity to participate freely.
However, some scholars believe that the use of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs encourages students to participate.
According to a study done by Winner Dominic Chawinga in 2017, 52% of the students who studied using social media benefited more from interaction with peers without the lecturer’s help. These students, also appreciated social media as a tool that enabled them collaborate more with their peers at anytime and anywhere regarding school activities.
They enjoyed the instant communication and content sharing that social media offers. For instance, a teacher can create a hashtag on Twitter and share with the students for easy access to all communication regarding class cancellations, teaching notes, and feedback, among others.
A University in India engaged students on Facebook as a way of complementing conventional teaching. The University created a Facebook page and live streamed all classes, including discussions. Similarly, a study carried out amongst students at the University of Malay confirmed YouTube as a source of information, making it an effective and efficient tool to complement learning.
In addition, YouTube live recorded class sessions ease future referencing for both teachers and students.
In conclusion, adopting social media as a learning tool would require caution in order to enjoy its perks and minimise the risks. If teachers or institutions of learning choose to use social media as an alternative or a complement for teaching and learning, clear guidelines on its use should be put in place.
The writer, Shakilah Nagujja, is the Manager of the MUBS eLearning Centre, a lecturer in the MUBS Business Administration Department and a PhD Student at Nelson Mandela University