The use of social media for academic purposes by postgraduate Information Studies students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Kutu, Idowu Febishola.
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The study investigated the use of social media for academic purposes by postgraduate information studies students on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu- Natal (UKZN). The study was prompted by the recognition, as reflected in the literature, of problems associated with their use and uncertainty regarding their use in the South African context. It was anticipated that the findings of the study would contribute to the debate and literature on the use of social media for academic purposes. The theoretical framework underpinning the study was provided by the new “paradigm of collaboration and communication” and rooted in communication theory. The study employed a quantitative research design in the form of an online questionnaire using Google Forms. Fifty-five post-graduate students were sampled of which 51 participated, giving a response rate of 93%. Findings, in the form of frequencies and percentages, were presented via tables and charts. The vast majority of the respondents (94%) indicated that they used social media for academic purposes, and the most used social media for such purposes was WhatsApp and Zoom, mentioned by 83% and 79% of the respondents, respectively. WhatsApp was also the most frequently used social media, followed by Google+, YouTube and Facebook. The two least used social media were Pinterest (10%) and Instagram (15%). Smartphones (96%) and laptops (88%) were the two most used methods to access social media, while 85% of respondents accessed social media for academic purposes from their homes. The main academic purposes for which respondents used social media were learning, personal research/development, personal growth and assignments. Finally, the high cost of data bundles (78%), poor Internet connectivity (77%) and high cost of social media enabled phones (69%) were identified by respondents as the main challenges to the use of social media for academic purposes. The practical implications of these findings are that students may find it difficult to cope with the disruption to their studies brought about by the global pandemic (COVID-19) as well as take full advantage of using social media for academic purposes to enhance their academic performance. Being unable to do so could have a negative effect on students’ success rate especially postgraduate students at UKZN. Recommendations made included the need for the government, in collaboration with institutions of higher learning, to investigate the increased distribution and provision of laptop computers and Internet data bundles. University library staff need training and awareness-raising on how staff and students can be kept up-to-date in using, integrating and taking advantage of social media application software in their teaching and learning. Library staff can then offer such training as part of their user education services. The study ended with suggestions for further research.