Social networking sites such as Facebook have become an integral tool in institutions of higher learning.NST 23 February 2012, KUALA LUMPUR: Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin has welcomed the trend of institutions of higher learning using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter for educational purposes.
"I believe that higher education should grow along with the latest developments in information technology in order to stay current with students. Social networks get the message across effectively and that is what matters most.
"Students usually respond faster to Facebook threads when compared with university portals. Hence, it is a good move."
Khaled said institutions of higher learning should look into using more interactive teaching methods, adding that communicating via social networks was a good start.
Universiti Sains Malaysia Associate Professor Mohd Kamarul Kabilan said the use of social media for educational purposes inculcated a more positive attitude towards learning.
He said his research showed that 67.9 per cent of the students interviewed said they had gained confidence when communicating with their classmates as well as their lecturers.
Kamarul said the question of whether the tool was useful or not depended on the lecturers and students.
"Facebook's features such as the 'wall', 'notes' and 'video uploads' can be used for learning in the form of exchanging and sharing of ideas, thinking critically and encouraging collaboration."
International Islamic University Malaysia macroeconomics lecturer Riasat Amin said communicating with his students through the Internet had a profound impact on the dynamics of his classroom.
"Social networks have definitely helped bridge the gap we had with my students. We connect better in class now."
Riasat explained that online platforms had made the teaching and learning process more interactive as students who were too shy to raise questions during class could express themselves online.
A survey conducted by Taylor's School of Communication found that students tend to respond better through Facebook compared with university online portals.
"When they use student portals, they feel like it is work.
"But communication through social media is a more relaxed process," said Taylor's Communication and Media Management programme director Catherine Lee Cheng Kiat.
She said 99 per cent of her students had Facebook accounts, hence the possibility of students being left out of online discussions was rare.
Students, in turn, have responded positively to this new method spearheaded by their lecturers.
Communications student Hoh May Kay, 22, said social networks had made it more convenient for her to follow course announcements and assignment updates.
She said she preferred chatting with her lecturers through Facebook as she could get an immediate response from them.
Mechanical engineering student Mohd Akram Mohd Yusof, 21, said social media could become an important tool for teachers to reach out to unresponsive students.
"We spend half our time on the Internet and by engaging students here, lecturers get to reach out to those who are beyond the barrier." By Nicholas Cheng and Kanyakumari Damodaran
Read more: Khaled: Use Facebook in varsities - General - New Straits Times