Effect of Social Media on Academic Performance of Students in Ghanaian Universities: A Case Study of University of Ghana, Legon.

Author:Bernard, Kolan John


The advent of the internet in the 1990s led to major developments in the world of communication hence the introduction of social networking sites (SNSs). The coming into being of these sites revolutionized the world of communication and today we celebrate its improvements ranging from education to entertainment. The evolution of the internet has led to its usage as the best medium of communication whereby two-third (2/3) of the internet world's population visit social networking sites (SNSs) thus serving as communication and connection tools. These networking sites are referred to as social media (Boyd and Ellison, 2007).

Social media exploded as a category of online discourse which enables people to create contents, share them, bookmark them and network at a prodigious rate (Jha and Bhardwaj, 2012). This has breached the gab that existed in communication where people had to rely solely on traditional methods such as letters and phone calls as a mode of getting in touch with friends and relatives. Today, communication is as easy as walking into a neighbor's residence to deliver a piece of information or vice versa through the use of social media. Social media is fast changing the public discourse in the society and is setting trends and agenda in topics that ranges from the environment and politics to technology and the entertainment industry (Asur and Huberman, 2010).

The driving factors for adoption of social media are the progressively ubiquitous access, convenience, functionality, and flexibility of social technologies (Brown, 2010; Schroeder, Minocha and Schneider, 2010). These factors have made the adoption of social media very easy and have tremendously improved mankind's life by exposing him to different ways of creating and sharing information. An additional benefit of social technologies provided on the internet is that they are frequently free or require marginal investment, thereby eliminating a potential barrier to adoption (Brown, 2010).

As we know, nothing interesting is ever completely one-sided, so it is for social media as it comes with both positive and negative effects. There is a correlation between social media usage and academic performance of students in universities. There have been various views and opinions which recognize four major advantages of social media use in higher education. These include; enhancing relationship, improving learning motivation, offering personalized course material, and developing collaborative abilities (Wheeler, Yeomans and Wheeler, 2008; Rifkin, Longnecker, Leach and Ortia, 2009). Also, Liccardi et al (2007), argued that students are socially connected with one another and therefore share their daily learning experiences and do conversation on various topics through social media whereas Kuppuswamy and Shankar (2010), reviewed that social network websites grab students' attention and then diverts it towards non-educational and inappropriate actions including useless chatting.

Research has proved the heavy presence of social media usage among students. Wiley and Sisson (2006), for instance argue that previous studies have found that more than 90% percent of tertiary school students use social networks. It is also found out that, students use social networking sites (SNSs) approximately thirty (30) minutes throughout the day as part of their daily routine life (Nicole, Charles, and Cliff, 2007). This shows the level at which students are patronizing these sites and this may bring along both positive and negative effects on students as far as their academic performance is concerned.

Statement of the problem

The internet is today the most important source of information and the growing dimensions of the use of social media by students cannot be underestimated. It has been observed that students devote more attention and time to social media than they do for their studies and they cannot pass their examinations well if they do not learn (Osharive, 2015). Also, the study conducted by Maya (2015), revealed that media use contribute to lower academic performance, low self-perceptions and less interest in college oriented carriers. Academic excellence plays an important role in an individual's life; be it in the family, at social gatherings, at workplace, in an institution or even among peers. Much emphasis is placed on academic excellence because of the role it plays in an individual's life as far as a successful life and respect is concerned in every part of the world. Due to this, many people are concerned with the ways that they can improve their academic performance (Kyoshaba, 2009). Studies have also revealed that social media affects students' use of English. They tend to use short- handwriting to chat with friends and get used to it thereby replicating the same errors during examinations (Obi, Bulus, Adamu and Sala'at, 2012).

Today students at all levels especially tertiary level have been engaged in the use of social networking sites (SNSs). This research therefore seeks to investigate the level of engagement of students of the University of Ghana into social networking sites and also determine the effect of their use on the academic work.

Objectives of the study

  1. To determine the level of exposure of students of University of Ghana to social media sites

  2. To ascertain what students of University of Ghana use social media for

  3. To ascertain how the use of social media has influenced the academic work of students of University of Ghana.

    Literature review

    The concept of social media

    Social media continuously keeps changing and as such it is difficult to assign a fixed definition to it as Jacka and Scott (2011), argued that "there is no single recognized definition for social media". However some scholars have defined it in different perspectives over the past years.

    Kaplan and Haenlein (2010), defined social media as a group of internet- based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. The Oxford dictionary (2011), also defined social media as "websites and applications used for social networking". Another definition of social media is that it is a "communication channel which is very popular, extremely fast and broad, has proven to be highly effective, as well as trusted by billions of people, to share and discover content concerning individuals, brands, information, entertainment and knowhow" (Dearborn, 2014). One theme that all these definitions underpin is that social media involves some form of communication between individuals over the internet.

    Social media began in the late 1990s with the first recognized social media network called "SixDegrees " in 1997 and this technology enabled people to upload a profile and make friends. From 1997 to 2001 a number of community tools; Asian Avenue, blackplanet and MiGente began supporting various combination of profile and publicly articulated friend (Boyd, Danah, Ellison and Nicole, 2007). There has been tremendous improvement since this era and today there exist uncountable social networking sites either developed for local use, specific purpose or international use. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010), classified social media into six (6) different categories as follows;

  4. Collaborative project (wikipedia)

  5. Blogs and micro blogs (twitter)

  6. Content communities (youtube)

  7. Social networking sites (FB, 2go, BB chat)

  8. Virtual game World (world of war craft)

  9. Virtual second world (second life)

    This classification of social media into classes has been useful to scholars and individuals for easy identification and study of a particular social media type but today a difficulty may arise due the high proliferation of social media and one may wonder which group a new developed social media type fits into. Social media is considered to be the fastest growing web application in the 21 century and this rapid development is being backed by technological advancement (Heyam, 2014). Mankind has enormously benefited and continues to benefit from it and as such cannot underestimate its importance as far as...

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