Social media (SM) have dramatically improved teaching, learning and research (TLR) in universities. For instance, many universities in both developed and developing countries are using social media to improve TLR. However, despite the wide diffusion, adoption, and use (DAU) of social media for TLR, we do not have a clear picture on the DAU of social media in many universities particularly in developing nations. This study used Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model as a theoretical framework to answer the following questions: What types of SM technologies faculty members (FMs) are aware of in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria? What are the perceptions of FMs on the Adoption and Use of SM for TLR? What factors facilitate the DAU of SM by the FMs in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria? How can the UTAUT be used to explain the perceptions of FMs on the DAU of SM for TLR? Finding answers to these questions is critical to the successful adoption, use, and implementation of SM to enhance TLR in universities within the context of developing countries. A qualitative research methodology was adopted to answer the research questions raised through maximum variation sampling technique and in-depth interviews with 12 FMs who have had life experiences with using SM for TLR from various faculties in ABU, Zaria. A manual thematic analysis technique of these interviews provides perceptions of FMs on the DAU of social media in TLR. Findings from this study revealed that, the FMs were aware of everyday life SM and academic SM. Faculty members also have favourable perceptions on the adoption and use of social media for TLR in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria but unfavourable perceptions on the existing facilities. Accordingly, FMs perceived low use of SM for TLR in the University. It was also found that being technologically savvy, SM as a tool for interactions and collaborations, FM’s exposure abroad (training), familiarity with the technology, family relations, academic colleagues, SM benefit, SM relative security, its wide acceptability and the affordability of data subscription and devices were found to be the factors that facilitate DAU of social media for TLR by the FMs. It was finally found that UTAUT provided useful explanations on the perceptions of FMs for academic use of social media in the University. The study recommended that the University management should introduce conscious programme aimed at promoting the application of social media in TLR in the University and policy guides lines on its usage should be designed for proper use and successful implementation. Training programmes in the form of workshops, seminars and symposia on how SM is to be utilized for academic use should be organized regularly. Most of all, the University should improve on its existing power supply and network facilities for the successful take up of this media. Finally, the study has recommended that the UTAUT Social Influence construct should be expanded to include both influence from within and outside the organization and to consider influence that may come from either senior or junior colleagues, staff, students or family relations. It was concluded that the UTAUT constructs were useful tools for studying perceptions of FMs on the DAU of SM in TLR for this group of participants. This study provides methodological contributions to knowledge as it is among the pioneer research to employ UTAUT to interpret the perceptions of FMs on the adoption and use of SM for TLR in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-Nigeria.
Keywords: Perception, faculty members (FMs), diffusion, adoption and use (DAU), social media (SM), teaching, learning and research (TLR), Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT)
1.1 Background to the Study
Social media is revolutionizing teaching, learning and research (Uloma et al., 2011; Gikas et al., 2013; Liman, 2014; Balakrishnan et al., 2015; Chen et al., 2015). It promotes active, collaborative learning (Harris, 2002). Active learning is a constructivist pedagogical approach that stresses the critical role of social interactions in the learning process (Prince, 2004). Collaborative learning is a major feature of high ranking universities; they mostly achieve this through using Social media (Babson Research Groups, 2011). However, despite the advantages of Social media in promoting collaborative learning, we do not have a better understanding of the adoption and use of social media for teaching, learning and research (TLR) from the perspective of faculty members within the context of universities in developing nations, particularly in Nigeria (Dar es Salam, 2011; Liman, 2014).
Lack of understanding of Social media from the perspective of faculty members may restrain the management of Nigerian universities, particularly the units responsible for general planning and oversight of academic activities, from taking good decisions and applying effective strategies for the adoption of this technology in teaching, learning, and research (TLR). This could directly slow down management from adopting Social media for academic purposes, thereby losing an important opportunity to improve learning. To accelerate the use of Social media for TLR, scholars have buttressed the need to uncover the perceptions of communal members about social media, Seaman et al. (2013) and Zgheib et al., (2013). This study specifically explores the perceptions of faculty members on the adoption and use of Social media for TLR.
1.1.1 Perceptions and Behavior of Faculty Members
Perception is the process whereby people select, organize, and interpret sensory stimulations into meaningful information about their work environment (Rao and Narayan, as cited in Unumeri et al., 2009). They emphasized that perception ranks among the most important cognitive factor[s] of human behaviour or psychological mechanisms that enable people to understand their environment. In essence, perception is the act of being aware of one’s environment, which denotes the individual ability to understand.
Understanding the perceptions of individual faculty members is critical in studying the adoption and use of new technology in institutions of higher learning. This is because perception determines human behavior. Understanding the perceptions of individual faculty members about new technology will determine their tendencies to accept or reject the new technology. It will, therefore, help in identifying conceptual constructs that will be used in designing programs to change beliefs and attitude towards the adoption and use of a particular technology. Furthermore, it is important to note that for any organization to be successful, it must embrace the use of technology. For technology to improve productivity and to enhance performance in an organization, the employees of the organization must accept and use it (Venkatesh et al., 2003).
1.1.2 Social Media in TLR from the Lecturer’s Perspectives
Many studies on the use of Social media technologies in the learning environments in developing countries have examined the adoption and usage behaviour from students’ perspectives, Balakrishnan et al., (2015); Chen et al., (2011); Gikas et al., (2013); Liman, (2014); Uloma et al., (2011). These studies indicated that the majority of students make use of Social media technologies for social interactions more than for academic purposes, but agreed that the use of these technologies has a positive influence on students’ academic performance. A good number of these studies recommended that to maximize its educational potentials, students should devote more of their time spent on Social media to academics than to social interactions.
In order for students to adopt and use Social media for academic purposes, faculty members, must adopt and deploy this technology effectively. Since faculty members are the drivers and principal actors in the application and promotion of relevant methodologies/technology adoption and their subsequent integration in higher institutions of learning (Mohammed, 2015), they must be convinced of the feasibility of using a particular technology before adoption and integration can occur (Sugar, Crawley, and Finn, 2004). In addition, Dooley and Lynham (2003) asserted that to improve performance, one must first understand the current system and that without this understanding, change and its outcomes become unrecognizable.
From the foregoing, faculty members’ perceptions and experiences in the use of a particular technology play an essential role in the successful adoption and implementation of the technology (Muhammadali, 2012) by both faculty members and students. However, not many have conducted studies on the use of Social media from the perspective of faculty members, and so there is very little information about their use and or nonuse, and their perceptions on the adoption and use of this media in TLR. This is why this study attempted to provide an understanding of the perceptions of the faculty members of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) regarding the adoption and use of Social media for TLR.
1.1.3 Social Media for TLR in Higher Institutions of Learning
The use of social media in higher institutions of learning has transformed TLR in significant ways. For instance, the interactive nature of social media allows students to share information and generate dialogues with their teachers and other students at the same time. It also gives an opportunity for both faculty members and students to build professional networks and create a better learning environment (Mhunpiew and Purayidathil, 2015) in which they
learn from and share knowledge and information in their fields of specialization in colleges of education, polytechnics, and universities. Universities and colleges are rapidly embracing these new technologies and leveraging them not only to enhance their traditional curriculum, but also to extend course offerings beyond the college campus (Li and Pitts, as cited in Enonbun, 2010).
Social media technologies provide an opportunity for both faculty members and students to download and upload video files on different topics from the classes of experts across the globe. Using these technologies in TLR also helps students to develop the 21st-century skills (digital media skills) needed for successful recruitment after school. Social media give opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous communications in the learning environment. These opportunities help in addressing the problem of large classes through creating virtual classes for students. Besides, they also promote the effective adoption of widely accepted, student-centered approaches of teaching, the constructivism which promote and improve students’ learning. Therefore, the use of social media in the learning environment creates harmony between faculty members and their students by enabling a teaching methodology that further enhances both students’ and faculty members’ performance. Thus, faculty members’ use of Social media to promote student-faculty interaction, which, according to Endo and Harpel as cited in (Association of College & University Telecommunications Administrators (Association of College & University Telecommunications Administrators, 2010), has a notable impact on students’ academic performance. Furthermore, as Social media technologies continue to progress and new ways of thinking, interacting, and learning evolves, it is becoming important for educators to become familiar with what Social media offers. Social media technologies include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, Skype, podcasts, WhatsApp, etc.
In sum, Social media provide a learning environment that enhances critical thinking, communication skills, digital literacy skills, leadership, teamwork, time management, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills (Jenkins et al., 2009). In this regard, the advantages of social media are enormous, which makes it imperative for every learning institution to use Social media for academic purposes.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Nigerian Universities have high student enrollments. However, this high number is not commensurate with the teaching facilities (Udoh, 2008). This results in high student/teacher ratios and overcrowded classrooms, resulting in inadequate attention given to students, with students learning passively. Part of the ways to overcome overcrowded classrooms and passive learning by students is for faculty members to adopt and use Social media in teaching, Udoh, (2008); Adamson, (2012); Johannes et al., (2014); Mohammed, (2015). Teachers use Social media to reach hundreds of students. Many institutions in the developed and developing countries have taken the advantage of Social media in this way. For instance, many institutions in the United States have adopted Social media for academic purposes (Babson Research Survey Group, 2011). Similarly, 94% of teachers in Croatia are familiar with Social media, and 60% used it for teaching (Matesic et al., 2009). In the same vein, 90% of teachers in the South East European University in the Republic of Macedonia are aware of Social media, out of whom 52% used it in teaching (Bexheti et al., 2013).
In spite of the wide diffusion, adoption, and use of Social media for TLR, there is a paucity of research in Nigeria on the adoption and use of Social media for scholarly activities (Gulati, 2008; Liman, 2014; Zanamwe et al., 2013). In particular, there is little understanding of faculty members’ perceptions on the adoption and use of Social media for TLR in ABU, Zaria (Liman, 2014). To embed the use of Social media in TLR successfully, understanding the faculty member’s perceptions is critical. This is because perception influences people’s
behaviour (Rao and Narayan, as cited in Unumeri et al., 2009), along with willingness and readiness to adopt and use the new technology. Moreover, faculty members are the principal actors in the adoption and use of technology in institutions of higher learning. They must be convinced of the feasibility of using a particular technology before adoption and integration can occur (Sugar, Crawley, and Fine, 2004).
This study explored the perceptions of faculty members of ABU, Zaria on the adoption and use of Social media technologies in TLR, through the lens of a widely-accepted technology acceptance model called the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT).
1.2.1 Justification for the Choice of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria as a Case Study
This research endeavor, in its conception adopted, single case study approach. The choice of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, as a single case, was informed by some vital arguments below.
The University is one of the oldest among the first generation Universities in Nigeria (ABU News, 2015, and ABU News, 2017). It is founded on the 14th October, 1962 by the Government of the then Northern Region of Nigeria with the explicit mission to impart knowledge and learning to men and women of all races without distinction on the grounds of race, religion or political beliefs (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Annual Report, 2016). In the same spirit it became a federal university in 1975. Being the oldest University, it has gained some stability in maturity and many of its programmes are matured. The faculty members therefore have gone through many faces of adoption of teaching methodology. Having attended that maturity makes the University also to likely have highly experienced faculty members who have seen the transmission occurrence within the University regarding the various teaching methodologies.
In terms of academic programmes, the University offers both undergraduate and postgraduate diverse courses in Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine, Public Administration, Business Administration, Engineering, Environmental Design, Education, Biological and Physical Sciences, Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Humanities, Law and Social Sciences (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Annual Report, 2016). Some of these courses are amenable to technological methods. Some of which are driven around networking and information sharing. This diversity and mix in discipline will help determine answers to a number of questions regarding DAU of social media for TLR in the University. It will help determine the nature of influences determined by the nature of the disciplines.
The University also has one of the largest postgraduate academic programmes amongst Nigerian Universities of about 500. This size provides a large population from which to explore the likely hood of influences that exist associated with the maturity of the student body associated with the hierarchy of academic programmes (undergraduate and postgraduate).
The University also has the advantage of being the leading Nigerian University with vast ICT logical and physical infrastructures necessary for this kind of study. The vast ICT infrastructures available would naturally give the researcher an opportunity to have in depth appreciation of the subject of interest.
The university’s comparative strength lies also in its large population (ABU News, 2017). It has been confirmed that, the University is one of the largest Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa (Müller, Salim, Ssemwanga, Nyomakwa-Obimpeh and Lee, 2012, Dikko, 2017) with the largest number of faculty members as well. It has current academic staff strength of about 3,000 out of which 485 are professors of varying disciplines. Therefore, the study of the application of social media as TLR tool in a large population based University would be highly practical. It would allow users to conversely and actively generate content and share across the large population of faculty members within a short period. Thus, uncovering
perceptions from such population would provide more promising results compared to a university with a smaller population of faculty members.
1.3 Research Questions
In order to uncover the perceptions of faculty members on the Adoption and Use of social media for TLR, the following research questions were raised:
- What types of social media technologies are faculty members aware of in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria?
- What are the perceptions of faculty members on the adoption and use of social media for TLR?
- What factors facilitate the diffusion, adoption and use of social media by faculty members in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria?
- How can the UTAUT be used to explain the perceptions of faculty members on the diffusion, adoption and use of Social media for TLR?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The study has the following objectives:
- To identify the types social media faculty members of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria are aware of.
- To determine the perceptions of faculty members on the adoption and use of Social media for TLR.
- To identify factors that facilitate the diffusion, adoption and use of social media in TLR by faculty members in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,
- To understand how can the UTAUT be used to explain the perceptions of faculty members on the diffusion, adoption, and use of social media for TLR.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study though, not the first of its kind, has adopted a unique approach in the sense that it is teacher centered whereas most previous works are student centered. It has made its principal target population to be the faculty members only.
The recommendations from this research would guide university managements in designing programs and strategies for the successful adoption, integration, and use of Social media for TLR in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. This is because having a good understanding of key conceptual constructs about the perceptions of faculty members with regards to the adoption and use of Social media technologies for TLR would directly reveal their use and or nonuse; their likelihood to accept or to reject Social media. This will allow management to design programs for integrating Social media in universities.
This study would also help faculty members to gain a better understanding of the factors that determine social media acceptance for TLR. This would help in transforming teachers’ beliefs and their intentions to adopt this technology for TLR, and this transformation would further facilitate teachers’ and students’ academic use of Social media technologies which in turn, promote student-faculty interaction, which has a notable impact on students’ performance. Furthermore, the study would serve as a basis for further research. It would, therefore, help faculty members, students, and other researchers with the knowledge about Social media adoption and use for TLR, thereby providing an addition to the body of knowledge on the subject matter.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The main focus of this research work is on Social media diffusion, adoption and use in TLR by faculty members in ABU, Zaria. The research was conducted within the larger context of the second generation of web technology (i.e., web 2.0) and education. However, the
research focused on the faculty members of ABU, Zaria Samaru and Kongo Campuses. Furthermore, theory was used as a tool in this research to help explain the perceptions of faculty members on the adoption and use of social media for TLR not as a guide to the study.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
The following terms are defined within the context of this study:
- Adoption: is the act of accepting social media innovation to make full use of it as the best course of action available. It represents the positive outcome of a decision process that ranges between rejecting and accepting social media for TLR.
- Diffusion: is the process by which social media innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among faculty members. It is simply refers to spread of social media information to the University faculty members.
- Learning: is the process through which faculty members use their experience to deal with new situations and to develop relationships.
- Research: is a systematic investigative process employed by the faculty members to increase or revise current knowledge by discovering new facts about reality. It all about finding, determining, exploring and or confirming about reality by applying scientific method and procedures.
- Social constructivism: is a theory of learning that stresses the critical need for mental construction and reconstruction of social reality in relation to acquiring and imparting knowledge through reflection and collaboration among faculty members and their students.
- Social Media: are group of Internet-based applications that allows for the creation and exchange of faculty member’s generated content. Social media applications, therefore, allow faculty members and students to converse and interact with each other; to create,
edit, and share new forms of textual, visual, and audio content. They include Facebook, Twitter, blogs, MySpace, wikis, Skype, Podcast and WhatsApp etc.
- Teaching: is the process of attending to student’s needs, experiences and feelings, and making specific interventions to help them learn particular things. It involves the interaction of three elements: the teacher, student and the object of knowledge
- Technology: are group of internet based applications available that facilitates, and sustains the effective and efficient performance of tasks of TLR in Universities.
- Use: is the act of consuming or positive application of social media innovation to enhance the work of TLR in Universities.
- Web Technologies: are Internet-based devices, tools, systems, and services that support and facilitate easy retrieval, and dissemination, of information online without a barrier to user location and time, especially in a real-time network environment.
- Web 2.0: refers to the second generation of web development and design that facilitates communications and secures information sharing, interoperability, and collaboration on the World Wide Web.