The study investigated the use of social media for academic purposes by postgraduate information studies students on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). The study was prompted by the recognition, as reflected in the literature, of problems associated with their use and uncertainty regarding their use in the South African context. The study was underpinned by communication theory. The study also employed a quantitative research design in the form of an online questionnaire using Google Forms. Fifty-five post-graduate students were sampled of which 51 participated, giving a response rate of 93%.
Findings revealed that majority of the respondents (94%) indicated that they used social media for academic purposes, and the most used social media for such purposes was WhatsApp and Zoom, mentioned by 83% and 79% of the respondents, respectively. WhatsApp was also the most frequently used social media, followed by Google+, YouTube and Facebook. The two least used social media were Pinterest (10%) and Instagram (15%). Smartphones (96%) and laptops (88%) were the two most used methods to access social media, while 85% of respondents accessed social media for academic purposes from their homes. The main academic purposes for which respondents used social media were learning, personal research/development, personal growth and assignments.
The practical implications of these findings are that students may find it difficult to cope with the disruption to their studies brought about by the global pandemic (COVID-19) as well as take full advantage of using social media for academic purposes to enhance their academic performance. Being unable to do so could have a negative effect on students’ success rate especially postgraduate students at UKZN.