Social Media to Support Learning in Saudi Arabia

Introduction to the Study

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia usually referred to as Saudi Arabia, is a country in Western Asia. It is the fifth-largest country in Asia and the second-largest country in the Arabic region, constituting a significant share of the Arabian Peninsula (Hamdan, 2005). In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been developing various functional areas, including education (Pavan, 2016). The shift from a traditional oil-based economy to a knowledge-based one prompted the increased role of higher education institutions in the economic development of the country (Yusuf, 2017).

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The changing role of education has been recognized by the government, leading to enhanced state investments in research and education (Yusuf, 2017). As a result, the higher education system in Saudi Arabia has been expanding rapidly over the past decades and grew by 86% between 2005 and 2019 (Ministry of Education, 2019). This growth occurred largely due to the increase in the number of higher educational institutions. As reported by Pavan (2016), 30 public universities, 10 private universities, and 41 private colleges opened in Saudi Arabia recently.

Due to large-scale investment and the resulting developments, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became home to one of the most advanced higher educational systems in the Middle Eastern region, with both new and old institutions working to enhance research and education. King Saud University is a public university located in Riyadh, which was founded in 1957 and is now the largest university in the country. Being the oldest institution of this type in Saudi Arabia, it strives for continuous development in education, using advanced learning and teaching tools and methods to deliver high-quality education to students and prepare them for future careers.

Higher education plays a vital role in achieving the objectives specified in Saudi Vision 2030, and thus the government has allocated a high budget for growing and enhancing the higher education sector (Ministry of Education, 2019). The key goals for higher education include having at least five Saudi universities on the global list of top 200 universities and increasing students’ academic performance following international standards (Barnawi, 2017). Hence, universities all over the country work to develop and apply effective teaching practices while also using modern support technologies contributing to the educational environment as per Saudi Vision 2030 (Barnawi, 2017).

Social media is considered to be one of the modern technologies that could be used to improve education. The incorporation of Web 2.0 technology and social media has become a promising trend in public and higher educational institutions (Elkasseh, Wong, & Fung, 2016). In particular, social media can be used as an electronic learning tool, providing students with opportunities to communicate with and learn from teachers, peers, and professionals. This is because social media platforms enable people to exchange information, ideas, experiences, and learning resources freely, regardless of their location (Brady, Holcomb, & Smith, 2010).

Additionally, social media and Web 2.0 technologies can improve the accessibility of higher education for students from diverse backgrounds, thus preparing students for living and working in the modern age through interactive learning tools (Greenhow, Hughes, & Robelia, 2009; Williams & Chin, 2009).

One of the key benefits of applying social media in education is that this technology is already familiar to students and educators alike. Over the past years, social media has become an important part of university students’ daily life (Al-Rahmi, Othman, Yusof, & Musa, 2015). Recent research into the use of social networks by Saudi students found that they spend one to six hours on social media daily and use it for networking and communication purposes (Oueder & Abousaber, 2018). Therefore, the implementation of social media technologies in education means using tools that are familiar to students and their tutors, leading to beneficial outcomes.

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Both technological and social development prompts the use of modern support technologies in education. According to Boateng and Amankwaa (2016), the use of modern support technologies is necessary for enhancing the educational experiences of contemporary students and increasing learning outcomes. The Saudi Government also supports the development of technology-based educational tools in line with other educational improvements.

The Saudi Ministry of Higher Education encourages Saudi universities to complement traditional instruction with integrated modern support technologies to increase students’ engagement and contribute to the learning process (Alebikan & Troudi, 2010). All in all, the use of social media in education is a prominent theme in recent research that aligns with the Saudi vision for educational development.

Problem Statement and Significance of the Study

The rapid development of social media technologies has changed how individuals, communities, and organizations interact with one another (Tezci & Içen, 2017). The increased use of social media has become a major trend supported by the government of Saudi Arabia. In particular, the government of the country understands the possible positive effects of social media on the education of Saudi students and the community. This had a powerful influence on all aspects of people’s lives, including learning (Tezci & Içen, 2017).

King Saud University in Saudi university has embraced technology to facilitate the content delivery and learning process respectively. King Saud University was the first university in the country at the time of its establishment in 1957. As of now, the university has 61,704 enrolled students and is the biggest educational institution in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Since most students are from generation Z, they are regular users of social media technologies, which aids them in exchanging knowledge, information, and ideas.

According to an article by Turner (2015), members of Generation Z have a unique relationship with technology and rely on it for entertainment, information, communication, and more. Interaction with Web 2.0 technologies has made young students proficient in using various digital tools, and this feature can be used to enhance learning (Greenhow & Lewin, 2016).

Saudi students today are very different from previous generations, particularly in terms of their interest and proficiency in technology use (Van Volkom, Stapley, & Amaturo, 2014). Therefore, using traditional educational methods is not be engaging to them and not meeting their needs. Evans (2014) argues that because modern-day and digital students are spending much of their time using social media technologies for different purposes, they need new, creative approaches to education that consider their generational needs and integrate social media to support their learning. These views are shared by other researchers, and attempts have been made to introduce social media tools into school learning (Greenhow & Lewin, 2016; Mao, 2014).

However, despite the penetration of social media in society, an argument has been advanced that the education sector slowly keeps up with these technologically driven changes (Alkhatnai, 2016).

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Therefore, the obvious differences between past and current generations of learning suggest that the integration of social media into classroom learning is required to enhance teaching by meeting educational goals and the needs of new student groups (Greenhow & Lewin, 2016). However, some studies have investigated the use of social media in educational settings. Some studies show that the use of social media for learning improves students’ engagement and participation in learning (Evans, 2014; Mao, 2014).

However, there is also some research that shows a social media does not support students’ learning and it can hinder the effectiveness of learning (Alwagait, Shahzad, & Alim, 2015). Despite these studies that have examined the use of social media in education show conflicting information, there is a need and lack of studies on the students’ attitude and perception toward social media to support their learning in the context of Saudi higher education, particularly at King Saud University.

Studying students’ attitudes and perceptions toward social media is important because it is relevant to contemporary educational practices. Collecting reliable information on Saudi students’ attitudes to and perceptions about the use of social media in education would help university educators to balance students’ needs with benefits associated with the use of social media for learning purposes. It can help Saudi higher education institutions develop their curricula and programs and keep up to date with requirements for new technology in order to increase learning efficiency.

Theoretical Framework

Given the context of this research, the primary goal is to explore and explain Saudi students’ perceptions and attitudes toward the use of social media as a learning support tool in higher education. The need for the study is evident as perceptions and attitudes have an important effect on decision-making and thus shape people’s behaviors and actions. This applies to the use of modern technologies as per the Technology Acceptance Model, which shows that people’s individual behavioral intentions are impacted by their attitudes to and perceptions about technology (Davis, 1989).

The Technology Acceptance model was developed by Davis in 1989 and relates to social learning theories (Ma & Lu, 2004). Specifically, this model is an information systems theory that shows the factors and forces influencing users in accepting and using modern technologies (Ma & Lu, 2004). The key concepts included in the model are perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and attitude towards multimedia use, and thus the model explains the impact of people’s attitudes and perceptions on behavioral intentions to use various technologies (Davis, 1989). Attitudes toward multimedia use are one of the predictors of technology acceptance since it describes the affective feelings experienced by a person in connection with a particular technology.

Perceived usefulness also influences decision-making as it determines “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance” (Davis, 1989, p. 320). Finally, perceived usefulness also contributes to decision-making and refers to “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free from effort” (Davis, 1989, p. 320). The TAM posits that these factors play a role when a person decides whether or not to use new technology, and thus the model supports the strong relationship between people’s attitudes and perceptions and their behavioral intentions with regards to technology use.

According to the TAM, students’ behavioral intention to use social media for learning purposes is based on three factors: general attitudes towards social media use, perceived usefulness of social media as a learning tool, and the perceived ease of use of social media technologies in learning (Davis, 1989).

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Hence, it is crucial for educational institutions intending to use social media in learning to assess students’ attitudes and perceptions in order to support effective implementation, and research also supports this idea (Leafman, Mathieson, & Ewing, 2013). If educational institutions fail to obtain an adequate view of students’ attitudes and perceptions before incorporating a certain technology into the learning process, they might encounter implementation difficulties (Van De Bogart & Wichadee, 2015). Therefore, by exploring students’ attitudes and perceptions toward social media as a learning tool, educational institutions can predict their behavioral intentions. Purpose of the Study

This study investigates Saudi students’ attitudes toward using social media to support their learning. It also examines student’s perception of the ease of use and the usefulness of social media to support their learning at King Saud University. Another purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of students’ attitudes, perceptions of ease of use, and perceptions of usefulness, on their intentions to use social media to support their learning.

Definition of Terms

Net Generation – Net Savvy: These are used to identify persons who are proficient in the use of technology and engage with it on a daily basis (Turner, 2015). The term focuses in particular on the use of online technologies, smartphones, and computers.

Social Media is a term used to define various networking tools and technologies that enable using the Internet as a means of collaboration, communication, and creative expression (Dabbagh & Reo, 2011). Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) provide the following definition of social media:

“A group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. It is a medium for social interaction as a super-set beyond social communication enabled by ubiquitously accessible and scalable communication techniques”. (p. 63)

The term “social media” is interchangeable with two other terms, “social software” and “Web 2.0.”

Social Networking Sites (SNS): are defined as web-based tools and services enabling individuals to construct a personal profile, compose friend lists, and communicate with people through on-site features (McIntyre, 2014). The features of social networking sites usually include private messages, photo and video sharing, groups, posts, and comments (Gebicka & Heinemann, 2014).

Web 2.0: refers to the technological phenomenon which created possibilities for the formation of online communities and the use of online platforms for interaction, communication, and collaboration (Ellison & Boyd, 2013). The term was initially coined to describe shifts in the online software market following the development and increasing popularity of social media sites (Ellison & Boyd, 2013).

Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study

The Saudi universities work to develop and improve effective teaching practices in accordance with vision 2030 and employing modern support technologies in their educational environment (Barnawi, 2017). Social media is one of the modern support technologies and had a powerful influence on all aspects of student’s lives, including learning.

The purpose of the proposed study is to explore Saudi students’ attitudes toward social media and their perceptions of the ease of use and the usefulness of social media to support their learning at King Saud University. Another purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of students’ attitudes, perceptions of ease of use, and perceptions of usefulness, on their intentions to use social media to support their learning. Knowing Saudi students’ attitudes and perceptions regarding the use of social media to support learning will help to support instructors at KSA in deciding whether or not the integration of such tools is appropriate.

It can help Saudi higher education institutions develop their curricula and programs and keep up to date with requirements for new technology in order to increase learning efficiency. This exploration will help instructors at KSA better understand what might help Saudi students from obtaining the benefits that come from social media technologies and that support their learning.

Chapter 2 will offer a thorough review and analysis of literature related to the topic of social media use in learning. Covered topics will include higher education in Saudi Arabia and social media in Saudi higher education. Furthermore, social media will be analyzed with respect to its definition, history, and popular social media use in higher education. Finally, the chapter will present an in-depth discussion of students’ attitudes and perceptions toward using social media to support learning.

Chapter 3 will explain the methodology and procedures for data collection and analysis. It will relate the methodology to the problem statement, as well as to research questions and hypotheses being tested. The methodology and design of the study will be explained in detail, and ethical and legal considerations will also be covered. Chapter 4 will describe the results of data analysis in a logical way. Tables, figures, and graphs will be used to present information and aid the readers in understanding it. Chapter 5 will discuss the results of the study and explore whether they are sufficient to prove or disprove the hypotheses. It will also describe the implications of the study and make recommendations for researchers and educators based on the outcomes.

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