Owusu-Agyeman & Pillay

The Use of Social Network Sites to Enhance Relational Teaching in Higher Education

Yaw Owusu-Agyeman, University of the Free State
Semira Pillay, University of the Free State



Emergent scholarly studies on the use of social network sites (SNSs) in higher education have focused mainly on how SNSs could enhance effective teaching and learning. However, very few studies have explored how social relationships between teachers and learners could serve as a learner-centered approach to promote teaching and learning through SNSs. To address this gap, the current study gathered and analyzed qualitative data from 27 teachers and 51 students in a public university in South Africa. The findings show how the outcomes of the use of SNSs in the university are also linked to learner-centered approaches which include: the development of the knowledge, skills, and attributes of students required for the twenty-first century; students’ demonstration of good social skills, teamwork, individual selfesteem, and confidence; and empowering students through their scholarly voices in the social network environment. To the teachers, the use of SNSs enhances their relational skills, enables them to be innovative in the use of digital technology, and allows them to create new pedagogical approaches. The study also reveals that when teachers interact and share knowledge with students in the social network environment, they serve the learning needs of all students, including those from low socio-economic backgrounds and first-generation students, through leaner-centered approaches. This paper adds to the literature on social constructivism by highlighting how the development of good social relationships between teachers and learners through what the authors term as digital relational pedagogies could serve as a learnercentered approach to effective teaching and learning, especially when facilitated by SNSs.

Keywords: social network sites, social constructivism, social relationship, learner-centered approach, digital relational pedagogies

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