The increase usage and employment of Social Media Technologies (SMTs) in personal, business and education activities is credited to the advancement of Internet broadband services, mobile devices, smart phones and web-based technologies. Informatics programs are technological-oriented in nature, hence students and academics themselves would arguably be quite adept at using SMTs. Students undertaking Informatics programs are trained to thrive in challenging, advanced technical environments as manifestations of the fast-paced world of Information Technology. Students must be able to think logically and learn “how to learn” as “knowledge upon demand” is one of the expected capabilities of Informatics graduates. This rapid change in knowledge and skill sets requires learners to not only be lifelong learners, but to be constantly connected to the field of computing science. SMTs may be the conduit that supports these needs. Despite being an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hub and having advanced ICT Infrastructure nationally, the use of social media beyond young people in Malaysia for education purposes is still relatively new and little is known about the user experience, intentions, perceptions and acceptance of these technologies by students. This paper reports on a work-in-progress that investigates the perceptions, acceptance, usage and access to social media by undergraduate Informatics students in higher education institutions in Malaysia.
Preliminary findings from 331 responses collected from an online questionnaires administered to students, academics and administrators from Informatics and Non-Informatics programs show that whilst students reported SMTs use mainly for personal social activities, the data from online questionnaires show that many students and instructors have started to explore and accept the use of SMTs as a tool for engaging with their Institution and their peers as well as for teaching and learning purposes. The paper also presents a conceptual model based on Connectivism and Communities of Practice (CoP) that has been developed to inform the study in terms of the role SMTs can play in building virtual learning communities. The intended outcome from this study is the development of a design framework for implementing SMTs as supporting tools for student engagement and to inform future practice.