The potential of using mobile social media applications for language learning : A case study in Saudi higher education
AuthorsAlshabeb, Abdulrahman Mohammed
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThis study aims to harness young people’s ubiquitous social media use to facilitate language education and explore how mobile devices and social media applications can promote and provide more autonomous, collaborative, motivated, and contextual learning experiences in a Saudi Arabian university setting. Hence, this study is grounded in the tenets of connectivism learning theory of collaboration and autonomy, and a design-based research (DBR) methodological approach, which entails developing solutions to problems and then testing out interventions, has been implemented. The research uses mixed methods approach, in which quantitative and qualitative data were obtained. The groups comprised two classes at a Saudi Arabian university - one with 14 males and the other with 14 females - who participated in a blended learning approach, utilising online educational materials, as well as classroom delivery, as part of the teaching process. The study has drawn on DBR to identify appropriate design principles for use in mobile language learning before investigating the ability of mobile social media applications to facilitate an interactive spontaneous learning environment by exploring whether these technologies can assist EFL students in collaborative learning that takes advantage of students’ familiarity with mobile phones, on the one hand, and social media applications, on the other. It was found that providing rich learning opportunities via the use of mobile apps is useful in the Saudi context as there are typically limited language learning opportunities and socio-cultural restrictions concerning face-to-face student interactions especially between genders due to cultural restrictions. Hence, the moderating faculties of social media applications WhatsApp and Instagram allowed a multitude of media to be shared with and between students, who were better able to connect and collaborate. Therefore, the study’s findings significantly extend the understanding of mobile learning, demonstrating its capability to offer more out-of-class contextual opportunities in scenarios that are characterised by limited language learning opportunities and socio-cultural restrictions of face-to-face student interactions, particularly in traditionally gender segregated societies such as Saudi Arabia. Moreover, communication between male tutor and female students in this way supports the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 program by preparing them for working and further study in mixed environments. Of particular note, students co-contributed to the design change and were motivated and engaged to experience the new learning opportunities afforded through the use of mobile apps, also leading to some improvements in their actual learning. Therefore, this study recommends for ‘reforming’ EFL education in Saudi Arabia by allowing students’ voices to be heard to enhance their contribution to the learning process and meet the needs of the new technologically minded generation. A crucial implication of the study is that independence and autonomy in the practice of learning via social media apps should be encouraged and supported, as while it is contrary to typical approaches to teaching in Saudi Arabia, it was found to be well received by the students in this study. Thus, the findings on the affordance and acceptance of mobile social media applications can facilitate policymaking to counter the authoritarian practices and teaching attitudes prevalent in Saudi higher education.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
SponsorsSaudi Attaché Cultural Bureau.
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