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The use of social media and internet by tertiary students at a university in South Africa.

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ABSTRACT Currently, technology plays a critical role and people have become reliant on its use, even for the most mundane of activities. Previous studies have demonstrated the effect of technology on education, which is dependent on the level of computer literacy of students. This level of literacy varies in developing countries such as South Africa. There exists contradictory arguments concerning the use of online tools such as eLearning for academia. Some of these arguments allude to the lack of social interaction, which stifles creativity and students have the risk of diverting from using social media for academic studies to personal communication. Other studies depict the use of social media and the internet in a more optimistic light, where students are not bound by a specific place and time unlike in face-to-face interaction. Online tools have also been found to promote critical thinking. This study focuses on the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), a South African tertiary institute, to determine the influence of social media and the internet on students ability and willingness to apply these tools to academia. The objectives of this study was to examine the level of technological knowledge and skills of students and the preferred methods for teaching and learning among students. A descriptive study was used to describe the prevailing situation by the behaviour and perceptions of students toward eLearning at UKZN by means of a personally administered questionnaire from a sample size of 212 respondents from the Social Science, Information Technology and Agricultural Engineering disciplines. The results display a difference in the level of technical skills amongst students at UKZN. It was also found that traditional methods of teaching and learning such as face-to-face interactions and hardcopy of notes appear to be the preferred method. However, there is an inclination toward online teaching methods. Respondents from the Social Science and Information Technology disciplines were more willing to try online teaching and learning methods, compared to respondents from Agricultural Engineering. Students are willing to try eLearning provided that sufficient support is provided during the process. More effort needs to be focussed on enhancing the eLearning experience to accommodate social media platforms. Traditional face-to-face interaction for teaching is still preferred since it prevents miscommunications and misunderstandings within different disciplines.


Master’s Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.