Are Social Media Sites a Platform for Formal or Informal learning? Students’ Experiences in Institutions of Higher Education

Cedric Bheki Mpungose


By being oblivious to the recent paradigm shift from formal learning to informal learning platforms, higher education institutions (HEIs) disadvantage student learning in the digital age. With the aim of bringing awareness of the need to shift from the use of learning management systems (LMS) to social media sites (SMS), this study explores students’ experiences of the use of SMS for learning science modules. This qualitative interpretive case study was carried out at two universities, with electronic reflective activities, Zoom focus group interviews and WhatsApp one-on-one semi-structured interviews used to generate data. The sample was a total of 47 students purposively selected from science modules in a teacher education programme at two schools of education, one in South Africa and one in the United States of America. Data were thematically analysed and framed by social constructivism and connectivism. Findings indicated that learning of science modules is mainly through LMS, at the expense of SMS which are preferred by the students. The study concludes that since SMS are used effectively for students’ communication and collaboration outside of the lecture hall, then HEIs need to shift to thinking about bringing these SMS inside and putting them to use for effective learning.

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International Journal of Higher Education
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