Examining the existing reality of using social media as e-learning tools at an Emerging University in Saudi Arabia from the viewpoint of tutors and students

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Social media has become an integral part of today’s societies across the globe. As a consequence, the use of social media in higher education is rapidly expanding, both amongst students and faculties. Saudi Arabia’s higher education is no exception. This study examines dimensions of the reality of social media use in an EU in Saudi Arabia in order to provide new understanding that supports the effective integration of these tools in higher education. The theoretical basis for this study was developed from Bandura’s Social Learning Theory and Davis’ Technology Acceptance Model and explored social media use from the viewpoints of tutors and students. The study employed a concurrent mixed-methods design. Firstly, 407 students and 290 tutors completed questionnaires, and then, to increase validity and reliability, 10 of the tutors were then interviewed. The data were analysed separately, then compared and integrated to identify key results. The findings reveal that the students and tutors who participated in this study had positive perceptions of the use of social media in education. Moreover, a great number of students were highly dependent on social media and viewed these tools as supportive and useful for facilitating learning, communicating, enhancing collaboration, exchanging experiences, generating and improving content, and constructing knowledge. Many tutors expressed the view that they could see the benefit of students interacting with and learning from others through social media. Nevertheless, a large portion of the faculty did not use social media for instructional purposes. The results also indicate that the major barriers to implementing social media tools in higher educational institutions are their potential for distraction, the need for training, privacy issues, and cyber-bullying. These findings highlight the fact that, as social media tools continue to attract student attention, more research needs to be done on the impact of social media on: • student collaboration and social interaction within the learning environment; • student collaboration with tutors; • the ways in which the different types of SM affect student learning and performance; • the negative impact of SMTs on learning environments and how this may also affect student learning and academic performance; and • the different barriers that students and tutors face when they utilise SM for learning, especially regarding their perceptions of privacy and security issues when using web-based applications.