Technologies Used to Support Educational Learning

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Qualitative vs. Quantitative

There are two data collection and analyses techniques, qualitative and quantitative. They are differentiated since quantitative methodology uses numerical analysis, whereas qualitative methodology focuses on nun-numeric and descriptive researches to understand the situation (Chen & Hirschheim, 2004). Qualitative Research is a comprehensive concept that comprises various systematic investigations. This methodology, as it is in this study, mainly focuses on the meaning of the social phenomena with respect to their meaning or significance of interpretation. Qualitative research is fundamentally interpretive research, and deals with researchers’ acquired knowledge regarding the participants’, such as interviewees’, perspectives (Merriam, 2002). In this study, the underlying focus is on the context and reflections, attained through the data collection procedure.

Data Collection

In qualitative research, the meaning of the phenomenon is constructed and understood by collecting data (Merriam, 2002). In the theory part, a set of frameworks based on social media in educational learning are defined. As Saunders et al., (2007) discuss, this secondary data collection is meant to describe the purpose and content of the primary data and obtain the result. Throughout the study, the topic is funnelled down, whilst the main theme is sustained. Consequently, the primary data, gathered through conducting interviews, is related to the set of theories and frameworks. This is to define the main key issues to lead how to guide the study for the analyses to draw the conclusion.

Secondary Data Collection

Secondary data is mainly collected in exploratory and qualitative studies (Saunders et al., 2007:248); “Documentary secondary data are often used in the research projects that also use primary data collection methods”. In accordance, documentary secondary data covers two sub-categories; written and then non-written materials. Here, the secondary data is collected from the academic resources with high trustworthiness, like scientific journals or other tangible published works like dissertations. In this study, the effort is to be neutral during the data collection and use generally accepted knowledge to follow the line of investigation.

Interview

Interviewing is one of the various existing tools for primary data collection. Any purposeful discussion between two or more people, aimed at collecting valid and reliable data, is considered as an interview (Saunders et al., 2007). Denzin, (2001) describes interview as a device, used by journalists, social scientists, psychiatrists, physicians, social workers and many others, to objectify individuals and gather information. He discusses that interview is a dialogical technique that functions as an explorative and descriptive method to turn experiences into narrative and consumable commodity. Furthermore, it makes interviewers able to collect reflections and make personal ideas public. Interview is an extensive data collection tool that embraces different branches, shown in figure 2-1. An interview may be standardised or non-standardised, formal and structured or informal and unstructured, and one-to-many or one-to-one. When deciding to use interview as a tool, it is important to consider its different types in order to justify which specific type is suited best to the study and why it is chosen.
A structured interview is a predetermined set of questions, not flexible and cannot be restructured. An unstructured interview is an opposite approach, in which the interviewee is able to talk informally and freely about their point of views (Teorell & Svensson, 2007). In between these two extremes, semi-structured is a moderate type that is a non-standardized interview and according King (2004) often is referred to as ‘qualitative research interview’. Thus, since this is a qualitative study, a ‘qualitative research interview’ is used, which has a list of questions that guides the interviews and a specific theme connected to the research question. Conducting a number of semi-structured, though open-ended interviews, is in order to collect interviewees’ reflections in a similar way, which means that questions are always answered within the same context. The interviews are conducted face-to-face, one-by-one, in a non-standardised approach, with English as the primary language.

Empirical Data Collection

“While non-empirical studies help to develop concepts and build theory, empirical studies provide concrete evidence for testing theories” (Chen & Hirschheim, 2004, pp. 205). The process of primary data collection is led by the research question and mainly based on the theoretical frameworks. Since in this study understanding the learners’ perspective and the ways they use social media is important, as Saunders et al. (2007) argues, conducting qualitative interviews is a tool for collecting empirical data.
In this study, eleven questions were pre-defined and developed on basis of the research question and the theoretical framework of the study (questions are available in appendix A). The interviews were conducted in the same way for all interviewees. After the interview-questions were confirmed by the thesis supervisor, twenty interviews were conducted. The interviewees were random undergraduate and graduate students in different subject disciplines at Uppsala University. The interviews were conducted at the student nations, cafeterias and libraries. Each interview took approximately 20 minutes and the answers were transcribed verbatim. Ten (out of twenty) of the interviewees were graduate students and nine (out of twenty) were female.

Discussion and Analysis

As Williamson (2000) states, analysis of collected data is a process that focuses on three factors; order, structure, and meaning. In qualitative analysis the goal is to create a theory. Despite of numeric and quantitative research, in qualitative analysis there is no strict rules; instead there are some techniques to guide the study to ‘make sense of the data’ (Williamson, 2000:293). The key method used in this thesis is to create ‘summaries’, as a helpful method to get the result from the interview transcripts. Saunders et al. (2007) argue that ‘summaries’ primarily focus on the key points and principal theme that emerge from the interviews. The classifying collected primary data is making us able to explore and analyse the data systematically and thoroughly (Saunders et al., 2007).
The analysis procedure, according to Saunders et al. (2007), involves four main vital activities. These activities are categorisation data, unitising data, relationships recognition besides categories development, and finally testing the theories and drawing the conclusion. The collected data is categorised in the discussion section and each category is meaningful and connected to the others. Unitising the collected data helps getting relevant words, sentences or paragraphs attached into the appropriate category. By comparing categories, the data are connected and integrated. Afterwards, by testing the patterns and relations, the conclusion regarding the actual relationships or connections is drawn (Saunders et al., 2007). These processes have been followed in this study in the regarding discussion and analysis.

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Trustworthiness

‘Validity’ and ‘reliability’ are two important issues to be addressed beyond identifying the methodology of data collection. What makes validity of data collection so significant is that the concept denotes how much the research findings are congruent with reality (Merriam, 2002). Merriam argues that when data is called ‘valid’, it gives a truthful picture of the topic that has been studied. Babbie (1990) consequently states that validity refers to the point or degree to which an empirical measurement adequately reflects the real meaning of the concepts under consideration. ‘Reliability’ is a matter of whether a particular technique, applied repeatedly to the same object, would yield the same result each time. It is significant to assess the reliability of the data and outcomes without referring to any bias. In accordance with this, Merriam (2002:27) also writes, “Reliability refers to the extent to which research findings can be replicated”. A face-to-face data collection is a way, that interviewer gets the opportunity of collecting first-hand experiences of the interviewees in their own words. Therefore, interview is an appropriate instrument in this study to increase the validity and reliability. Figure 2-2, developed by Foddy (1994), illustrates the processes, followed here to enhance the trustworthy of this thesis.
Gathering relevant theory and collect trustworthy empirical data through reliable methodologies, is always valuable. Drawing a credible and reliable conclusion in any research is the main purpose of authors. In this thesis, the theories regarding the social media are collected from the original references in scientific journals or books. The empirical data are directly collected from learners and the answers are transcribed verbatim, without influencing by authors’ own ideas. The validity and reliability of data have been issues that are taken into consideration during the entire thesis and the collected data and explanations are written neutral, without any bias.

Social Media Use for Educational Learning

Caraher and Braselman (2010) show “64% of students use social media to ‘connect with classmates’ to study or work on class assignments at least several times per month. 41% use social media to ‘study or work on class assignments’ at least several times per month. 27% use Social Media to ‘connect with faculty to study or work’ on class assignments, at least several times per month” (Caraher & Braselman, 2010:13). According to Hrastinski et al. (2010:659), “Synchronous media were argued to be more useful to support tasks and exchanges such as planning work.” social media is useful for learners’ interactions, which fulfils different cooperative/collaborative purposes, by enabling them to see receiver’s reactions and get the results right away.
The important and related web-based concepts frequently considered and used as social media are Web 2.0, synchronous and asynchronous media alike as e-mail and IM. Web 2.0 according to Kaplan and Haenlein, is a web-based platform whereby content and applications are continuously modified by all users in a participatory and collaborative way. At this time, applications belonging to the era of Web 1.0, like personal web pages, encyclopaedia and content publishing are replaced by blogs, wikis, and collaborative projects in Web 2.0. User Generated Content (UGC) is applications enabling learners to make use of social media, which is usually referring to various publicly available forms of media content that are created by end-users (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Keller and Cernerud (2002) state some of digital social media and e-learning system: web pages, online video conference, as well as utilized tools such as text, graphics, video, three-dimensional objects and animations. Additionally, Hrastinski (2009b), discuss about technologies, like social software and web 2.0, blogs, wiki, virtual world, voice and video technology, online meeting, games, mobile learning, learning objects open source and open standard, web-based supports for literatures, which are used by students to support their studies and educational learning.

Interaction Modes Supported by Social Media

Alexander (2001) argues that all education initiatives aim at supporting students to learn regardless of the media used. There are different ways that media technology significantly supports two-way educational interactions and communications (Bates, 1995). These social interactions, supported by new technologies as the main key, have consequently led to increased learners’ interest in collaborative and cooperative learning (Underwood, & Underwood, 1999). Since educational system has become more learner-based, instructors rather focus on educational learning than covering the content (Mason & Rennie, 2008).
By using social media, learners are enabled to communicate with others engaged in educational learning. Moore (1989) described three central types of interactions in educational learning: learner-content, learner-instructor, and learner-learner interactions, which are the core of this study. Compared to Moore’s model, Anderson and Garrison (1998) have come up with a new model to cover other possible interactions besides those that Moore already introduced. Garrison and Anderson (2003) offer a new idea, beyond one-way interaction between students, contents and teachers, showed in figure 3-1. This model adds interaction perspectives for teacher-teacher, teacher-content, content-content to the existing Moore’s model. Afterwards, Dron (2007) has introduced four further significant interactions: student-group, teacher-group, content-group, and group-group. Social media technology supports all phases, introduced by Moore, Garrison and Anderson, and Dron, to make online interactions possible.

Table of contents :

1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Purpose of the Study and Research Question
1.3 Perspective
1.4 Definition of Key Terminology
2 Methods
2.1 Research Design
2.1.1 Qualitative vs. Quantitative
2.2 Data Collection
2.2.1 Interview
2.3 Trustworthiness
3 Social Media
3.1 What Is Social Media?
3.2 Social Media Use for Educational Learning
3.3 Interaction Modes Supported by Social Media
3.4 Factors Influencing Social Media Use
3.5 Using Social Media to support Educational Learning
3.5.1 Social Media in Collaborative/Cooperative Learning
3.6 Positive and Negative Aspect of Using Social Media
4 Summary of the Empirical Findings
4.1 General Information about the Interviewees
4.2 Technologies Used to Support Educational Learning
4.3 How Students Use Internet-Based Technology
4.4 Students’ Perceptions on Using Social Media
5 Discussion
5.1 Social Media Use for Educational Interaction
5.2 Students Perception on Influencing Factors
5.3 Why Students Are Using Social Media
5.4 Negative Aspects of Using Social Media
5.5 Reflections
6 Conclusion
6.1 Further studies
References

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