Students' Engagmentin Independent Learning and Personal Development: Issues, Attitudes and difficulties from the Female learners Experinces in the Context of Sauid Higher Education

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Saudi Digital Library
Personal access to digital information affects all situations in life, from lifelong learning and careers to teaching and learning practices. Recently, there has been interest in individuals’ uses of social media, its association with personal and academic development, and its extensive use in both formal and informal educational contexts. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), particular research attention has been given to females’ use of social media due to the significance of such easy access to their learning and development in the broader cultural context. However, little is known about the educational implications of such extended personal learning practices. For instance, the issues, attitudes and difficulties of students’ engagement, and the students’ changing needs and expectations under current social media influence, are still not fully understood. This research employs an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to investigate the lived learning experiences of female university students, focusing on their personal use of social media to examine current issues in students’ experiences in Saudi higher education. A group of female undergraduate learners in a Saudi higher education context were selected to offer the learners’ voice and perspective on educational issues related to their own engagement. Students’ personal accounts and different stories of engagement in independent learning and personal development from their use of social media have been collected through two phases. In the first phase, 20 female students participated in in-depth individual interviews and reflective diary reports. In the second phase, 12 female students participated in two focus group discussions to elicit their attitudes and opinions. The (IPA) analysis of the data drawing from different educational theories in the literature was used to understand factors related to students’ engagement and non-engagement from their different attitudes and stories of success and failure when using social media independently. Themes that emerged as drivers and motivations leading to students’ engagement in learning and personal development included self-efficacy and reflection, personal values and beliefs, awareness of opportunity, challenges and transitions, social inclusion and empowerment with learning choice. Several themes were also revealed from the personal accounts as barriers and difficulties for students’ engagement, including personal negative attitudes and experiences, understanding of social media risk, information overload and distraction, organisational, pedagogical and curriculum barriers, lack of social inclusion, technical problems, and time and cost issues. The research concludes with several recommendations for improving all students’ engagement under the current themes of personal and self-directed lifelong learning with matching curriculum and pedagogies adopted in this context to meet current student learning needs.