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Net Generation Students and their Use of Social Software: Assessing Impacts on Information Literacy Skills and Learning at a Laptop University

Author: Gabor Feuer

Abstract: Social Software is potentially a disruptive technology in Higher Education, because it proposes changing the instructional paradigm from a formal, structured curriculum based model to a more open, informal, borderless learning model. The purpose of this study was to explore this potential in the context of participating Net Generation students in a technology oriented, laptop based university located in southern Ontario. Net Generation students, are broadly characterized as the first digitally native generation who grew up with information and communication technologies, and that they demand more technology in all aspects of their lives. The study was interested in the efficacy and pedagogical impact of social software technologies to support students’ learning experience. The review of the literature highlighted the paucity of empirical studies examining the utility and value of these software in the higher education environment. This dissertation explored the participating students’ views and attitudes regarding SSW, their behaviours regarding the adoption of these tools in the learning environment, and the effects of SSW in their performance as measured by information literacy test scores and students’ perceptions of their learning. The study used a quantitative method, employing questionnaires and a quasi-experimental design to answer the research questions. A total of eighty students participated, 24 in the treatment group using SSW during the instruction phase, and 56 in the control group, using a Learning Management System (LMS). A pre-test showed a relatively moderate use of SSW technologies among the participants, with the exception of social networking technologies – whose adoption was almost universal. Academic use of these tools was even less pronounced in the pre-test phase. Students showed moderate willingness to employ SSW for the support of their learning. Barriers to the adoption of these technologies were discussed. Study findings could not demonstrate that the use of SSW would lead to different information literacy scores, compared with more established technologies such as the LMS. However, SSW use also formed an undercurrent of student behaviour, and in the aggregate SSW use was associated with different outcomes. The role of factors contributing to these differences, and recommendations for future research are discussed.

Source: University of Toronto - TSpace

Size: 1.58 MB
Last Updated: August 4, 2015