International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET)
Volume 10, Issue 03, March 2019, pp. 1141–1150, Article ID: IJCIET_10_03_110
Available online at http://www.iaeme.com/ijmet/issues.asp?JType=IJCIET&VType=10&IType=3
ISSN Print: 0976-6308 and ISSN Online: 0976-6316
© IAEME Publication
Scopus Indexed
Dr Kehdinga George Fomunyam
Mangosuthu University of Technology
Technology has proven in recent times to hold alternative pathways for responsive
education. The continuous rise of educational technology in the educational landscape
and the increasing recognition of its potential to improve the overall educational
experience is a driving force in the academic milieu. With ample evidence from
interviews, group discussions and questionnaires, this paper theorises social media as
a learning platform within the framework of educational technology in the
Cameroonian higher education system. Findings from this paper articulate social
media as a pathway for continuous knowledge. With the current socio-political
upheavals in Cameroon, social media has proven to be a vital technological tool for
both information and disinformation. With schools increasingly becoming inaccessible
in certain areas as a result of armed conflicts, social media is a readily available and
free learning platform in Cameroonian higher education.
Key words: Social Media, Learning Platform, Cameroon, Education, Communicative
Cite this Article: Dr Kehdinga George Fomunyam, Theorising Social Media as a
Learning Platform in Cameroonian Higher Education, International Journal of Civil
Engineering and Technology 10(3), 2019, pp. 1141–1150.
During the last century, some of the most compelling technological developments have been
in the field of communication. According to McLanghlin (2006), communication is a process
of sending and receiving messages which function to convey information between persons or
groups. Communication only occurs when someone successfully sends a message that can be
understood by someone else. Communication demands that interlocutors be knowledgeable in
language development and evolution to achieve comprehension in the different situations in
which they interact. This view is supported by Bloom and Bloom (2004) who state that
language is a social phenomenon which develops and evolves as people use it for different
purposes. The use of social media for different communication purposes is one of the recent
evolutions that have occurred in language today. This evolution has caused a great debate
around the world. Social media has been part of a new culture that facilitates communication
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Dr Kehdinga George Fomunyam
and interaction between people through the internet (Mustonen, 2009; Davis et al. 2012; Kim,
2012; Seamean and Tinti-Kane, 2013). This could not have been possible without the
development of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) which offer a
variety of services. The emergence of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
and WhatsApp has introduced students to new interactive learning and experiences that have
paved way for continuous learning. Contextualising social media as a learning platform in
Cameroonian higher education is the focus of this paper.
Social media are web-based technologies such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram,
LinkedIn, Viber, YouTube, Skype, Google, Hangouts, Wikis, Blogs, Microblogs and
multimedia sharing tools that allow users to connect to the internet to create and share content
with other users (Schwartz, 2012). In recent years, the world has been introduced to
educational technologies which has greatly contributed to the evolution of learning in higher
education among which is social networking. The 21st century has seen a rise in the
development of social networking sites (Mayong, 2017). In today’s highly competitive
learning world and given the development of the 21st century, social media is becoming an
integral part of life especially in the domain of education as schools and lecturers are
integrating it into the classroom. It is therefore, no secret that social media is at the centre of
most people’s lives. It is one of the educational technologies used in the modern world today.
It is becoming more significant for billions of people every day and it holds an alternative
pathway to responsive education especially since it influences how we live, work, and more
than ever, how we learn.
In the past, the only way people communicated was face-to-face contact and the written
word. This changed with the invention of the telephone and subsequent modification of other
technologies which are used today. The invention of technology like social media has
changed and greatly contributed to the evolution of continuous learning. With the advent of
modern technology, social media is becoming one of the fastest means of communication
with many users. Social media has become more significant for learning in higher education,
as students daily engage with it for their personal satisfaction, read or listen to the news
amongst others. Social media has also grown to be a top platform for market research and
decision-making process but also, it is a top platform for learning in Cameroonian higher
education. Today, everybody uses social media starting from the youngsters to the middle
aged group. For example, Twitter has about three hundred million users, while Facebook has
over 1.4 billion users. WhatsApp on the other hand has about one billion users engaging the
app on a daily basis, while Instagram has about 800 million users. YouTube has over 1.3
billion users with over five billion videos watch on a daily basis (Kemp, 2017).
Social media has emerged with the potential “social software” to increase dialogue,
collaboration, networking and help establish social relationships based on common goals and
interests (Mayfield, 2007; Ryberg, 2008; Safko & Brake, 2009; Mustonen, 2009; Joosten,
2012). With regards to education, several authors have emphasised the use of social media for
better control and efficiency of resources to complement the work done in and out of the
classroom. This is in order to improve students’ learning, facilitate lecturer-student and
student-student interaction, develop skills and competencies and the level of satisfaction into
new learning experiences (Ajjan and Hartshorne, 2008). Learning has evolved alongside
social and technological changes. Bisong (2015) points out that if we acknowledge the fact
that learning has evolved with the use of technology, we could spend more time developing
new methods of learning rather than complaining about the changes because learning reflects
the reality and can provide insights to learning. Learning through social media is one activity
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Theorising Social Media as a Learning Platform in Cameroonian Higher Education
among many others that encourages continuous learning. Today, more and more lecturers are
incorporating social media into classrooms to engage students and support their educational
development, whether online or face to face. Unlike in the past, today, social media is shaping
and influencing how students learn and interact. It improves learning and makes it better by
allowing people to read, listen, react and build faster anywhere and at any time and more
efficiently than ever before. The rise of social media in the classroom has opened an
alternative pathway for learning. The rate of social media users has increased recently in
Cameroon. Social media has become a way of life as most learners can own, operate and
access laptops, ipads and mobile phones daily. Social media sites are gradually replacing all
other platforms of learning. It is shaping and influencing how students learn and interact
today. Therefore, it is critical to contextualise the use of social media as a learning platform in
Cameroonian higher education.
The qualitative approach to research was engaged as a way of unearthing insight on the
phenomenon. According to Harris and Rae (2009), this approach to research gears towards
greater understanding of a phenomenon by unearthing the views or ideas possess by the
participants on the subject. Thus, the qualitative research method was used to explore the use
of social media as a platform of learning in Cameroonian higher education. The population of
the study was made up of 165 participants; 15 lecturers and 150 students from the
undergraduate, Masters and PhD levels from two universities in the Anglophone region of
Cameroon. The choice to engage as participants’ students from across the spectrum was
informed by the desire to establish representativeness even if they are at the basis level.
However, there were more undergraduate students than Masters and PhD since their
population is always considerable greater. The 150 students were made up of 75 male and
female students respectively. Data was generated using semi-structured interviews, group
discussions and open-ended questionnaires.
The three theories used in this paper include; the characteristics of social media presented by
the FKII Josayeongu Team (2006), social media as a “participatory culture by Giaccardi
(2012) and the classification of social media by Choi and Yang (2009). These theories have
been chosen because they suit the purpose of this paper. These theories provide insight on the
data generated thereby ensuring that the meaning making process is thorough and appropriate
conclusions are drawn from the findings. A discussion of these theories below is essential to
the understanding of this paper.
According to the FKII Josayeongu Team (2006), social media has unique characteristics.
They formulated five characteristics for social media which are; participation, openness,
conversation, community and connectedness. Participation through social media encourages
contributions and feedback from everyone who is interested in the discussion happening. It
blurs the line between media and the audience. The second characteristic which is openness
states that most social media services are open to feedback and participation. They encourage
voting, comments and the sharing of information. The third characteristic of social media,
conversation explains that whereas traditional media is about “broadcast” (content transmitted
or distributed to an audience) social media is better seen as a two-way conversation. The
fourth characteristic, community explains that social media allows communities to form
quickly and communicate effectively, thus communities share common interests. The last
characteristic which is connectivity proves that most kind of social media thrive on their
connectivity, making use of links to other sites, resources and people. This theory is a useful
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Dr Kehdinga George Fomunyam
tool to this paper because it presents the characteristics which social media networks must
have and how social media impacts learning in several ways.
Giaccardi (2012) highlights social media as a “participatory culture”, that is, it features on
encounters with heritage and socially produced meanings and values that individuals and
communities ascribe to. He classifies social media into three major themes: social practice,
public information, and a sense of place. Social practice he says mean that social media users
have new opportunities to gain experiences when participating in collections and
representations, as well as the communication process as curators of content (social practice).
The widespread presence of social technologies provides a platform for information
exchanging in the public domain and the development of peer activities and promoting and
legitimising participation (public information). To him, computing becomes more pervasive.
Digital networks extend our surroundings and support new ways to engage among people into
a specific territorial setting (sense of place). The selection of this theory immediately explains
the fact that social media is a learning platform and an obvious pathway for continuous
knowledge. It is worthy to know whether or not this is true in Cameroon.
The last theory is the classification of social media by Choi and Yang (2009). This is
presented in a table. The following table shows a classification of social media, as well as
some online services.
Table 1 Classification of Social Media
Social networking
Event networking
Instant messaging
Webpress, blogger
Twitter, Me2day, Tumblr
Facebook, Ning Myspace, Cyworld, LinkedIn,
Google+, Ning
Meetup.com, Upcoming
Video conferencing
KakaoTalk, WhatsApp, Line, Vibe
Skype, Google Hangout
Pbworks, Evemote, Twiki
Sharing model
Community Q&A
Yahoo! Answers, Askville, Spring.me, Quora
Flickr, Instagram
YouTube, Vimeo, Vine
Ustream.tv, Justin.tv
ITunes, Last fm, Sound cloud
Scribd, Issuu, Slideshare, 4shared, Google Docs
Audio and music
Documents, files, books,
Virtual worlds
Game sharing and play
Second Life, The Sims
Miniclip, Kongregated, Anipang, Candycrash
This present investigation into the use of social media accommodates this classification
specially to investigate the types of social media used in Cameroon and the category which is
most used.
This paper aimed at answering five key questions;
What are lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of social media?
Which types of social media are mostly used in Cameroon?
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Theorising Social Media as a Learning Platform in Cameroonian Higher Education
Does social media affect learning in Cameroonian higher education?
What is the purpose of the use of social media in education and how does social media affect
students learning?
Is there a relationship between students’ ability to use social media and their overall learning
in higher education?
From the questionnaires, the participants could be divided into the following age groups;
18-24, 25-32, 33-40, and 41-80. The data revealed that all respondents use social media
almost every day. This finding is in conformity with that of Sheldon (2008) who reported that
majority of students visit social media several times a day. The youngest respondents 18-32
years accessed social media most frequently and engaged several social media platforms
multiple times a day. Those from 33-40 years also admitted to being fairly active on social
media, although they agreed that they do not access it daily. Those from 41-80 years’ report
accessing social media at least once a day. This finding shows that social media has gained
wide popularity among all age groups, both young and aged. Prenky (2001) supports this
finding when he suggests that young people who were born in the “digital age” (digital
natives), bring different preferences, skills and ways of processing information through the
use of technology. This is supported by Herrera-Batista (2009) and Ortega and Banderas
(2011) who confirm that youngsters from other universities have greater internet access and
preferences of technological resources to accomplish tasks and participate in daily activities
than people from other age groups.
All respondents (100%) admitted to having access to social media. This is because one
can afford a cheap smart phone now a days and convert 100 francs credit for 24 hours. Yet,
some of them (33.3%) complained of not having constant access to social media like their
counterparts in other countries who have good jobs, receive good payments and can buy WiFi or credits to access the internet. This means that Cameroonian students do not have free
access to the internet and face the criticality of using the minimal accesses gained for
educational purposes or benefits. Most students do not have part-time jobs so they eventually
sometimes do not have credits to activate internet.
Concerning the period of usage, all lecturers (100%) and post-graduate students (100%)
admitted to using social media very often. They claimed that it is because they are developing
technical-didactic skills, particularly for integrating the use of new technologies into the
classroom. Secondly, they admitted that they use social networks to create personal and
professional relationships into communities. Results from a study carried out by Wan, Ziti
and Nurul (2016) confirms that social media now dominates communications between friends
and family. With regards to gender differences, women constitute a larger population using
social media in learning activities with 50.0% whereas only 24.7% of men used it. It is
interesting to note the use of these tools by women is higher, especially because both sexes
were equally represented. Espinosa and Jiménez (2013) noted in their research that women
are always so involved and perform an active role in supporting groups and online
communities, thereby using social media networks for socialisation. This explains the
increased number of women using social media in Cameroon. Another reason why women
indicated to using social media more than men is because women send more emails, instant
messages and access social networks more frequently (AMIPCI, Mexican Internet
Association, 2012).
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Dr Kehdinga George Fomunyam
Table 2: Most used social media in Cameroon
Types of Social media used in
Google +
You tube
From the table below, we noticed that not all social media networks are known or used in
Cameroon. Frequency and percentages of social media networks most used by teachers and
students differed significantly as seen from the table. This implies that some social media
networks were more selected by respondents as often used than others. The table revealed that
the most used social media networks are Facebook and Yahoo with 11.2%s followed by
Google + (11.1%), WhatsApp (9.8%), Skype (9.0) and messenger (10.8%). It is not surprising
that Facebook is gaining popularity. Recently in Cameroon, Facebook usage has increased by
100% more over the previous years with 90.6% of users in November 2018. In fact, this
social network is a communicative phenomenon because it helps in the formation of virtual
communities for discussion and conversation. In addition, other usage of Facebook has been
to develop strategies for inclusion (Yu, Park & Cha, 2013) and socio-cognitive skills (Kim,
2012). Moreover, many teachers and students confirmed that they already have Facebook on
their phones and tablets, hence, the explanation why it is the most used social media in
Cameroon. Considering the classification of social media according to the framework
propounded by Choi and Yang (2009), it is glaring from the table that communication tools
like Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger are the social media networks really recognised and
used in Cameroon. This goes to prove the fact that many social media platforms as presented
by the aforementioned framework are yet to be engaged in Cameroon by the higher education
community. Others are known by some respondents (35 out of 165) but they have never been
used by them. YouTube was said to be the less used social media (3.6%). This is precisely
because not many Cameroonian youths can afford good smartphones with a large capacity to
download all the other social media networks including YouTube. A youth with a small
capacity smartphone would prefer downloading Facebook, WhatsApp, a browser which
include Google search and Messenger before thinking of YouTube which normally has a very
high megabyte.
The respondents (100%) recognised social media as a very important aspect in learning,
but 80.0% considered it more of an interactive one with lecturers and friends than an
individual issue (20%). Wan, Ziti and Nurul (2016) posit that the use of social media has
exploded along with the rapid growth of internet and smart gadget. When asked about the
learning effects that result from the use of social media as a tool in higher education in
Cameroon, respondents responded positively. The table below shows the learning effects of
social media.
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Theorising Social Media as a Learning Platform in Cameroonian Higher Education
Figure 1: Learning outcome from the use of social media as a tool in higher education in Cameroon
The use of social media has many positive learning outcomes. The table shows that its use
impacts on the change of attitudes and values (18.6%), skills acquisition 17.2%, knowledge
construction 15.2%, increased motivation (13.8%), up-to- date information (13.2%), track
information on a topic (11.2%), create stringer communities (7.4%) and great opportunities
(3.4%). Just like this study, Wan, Ziti and Nurul (2016) emphasise the positive influence of
social media platforms when they say that as a result of social media, communication and
interaction between people are becoming easier and faster.
Respondents had different purposes for using social media. A great number of them
agreed that they used social media to learn. The table below shows that 11.9% use social
media to get useful information like news, meaning of words, to communicate with teachers,
friends, course mates and also to create or belong to a group which post assignments,
available jobs, make announcements and remind students about important deadlines. 161
respondents use social media to post status, updates, announcements, photos and videos of
things concerning the classroom.
Table 3: The purpose of the use of social media
The use of social media
I use social media to get information like news,
meaning of words
I use social media to save time
I use social media to get specific answers to questions
I use it to communicate with my lecturers and course
I use social media to keep in touch with old friends
For enjoyment
I use social media because it is fun
To get useful information about available jobs
To post status, updates, announcements, photos and
Create or belong to a group which post assignments,
make announcements and remind students about
important deadlines
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When asked how important they think social media is as a tool for learning, teachers posit
that social media is an ingrained part of todays’ society since our students are constantly on
Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. One of them pointed out that “if we want to
bring the real world into the classroom, all teachers should consider integrating social media
into their lessons”. Another lecturer added that “social media is a distraction to students but if
used carefully, it might be a useful tool rather than a distraction”. They all agreed that with the
current socio-political upheavals in Southern Cameroon, social media platforms have proven
to be free and vital technological tools for information, yet, it has also released fake news. Rai
(2017) argues that not only has the popularity of social media increased constantly but also,
they are also used in areas such as knowledge sharing, development of ideas, creative
production. Thus, the use of social media cannot be relented because with the absence of
schools in the English-speaking part of the country, social media has been a prerequisite for
students to learn online.
In response to whether social media should be introduced to all domains of disciplines in
higher education, a lecturer agreed and said that “using social media not only bring current
technology into the classroom, but it also helps bridge the digital divide among lower-income
students in Cameroon”. She emphasises that although Cameroonian students may not have
constant access to social media or the different types of social media that other countries do,
they should not be left behind since the world is fast becoming a global village. She furthers
encourage both lecturers and students to “acquire affordable smart phones and install the few
social media they can in order for them to march forward too in this globalise world”. With
regard to this, Shah (2001) validates that teachers and students from all disciplines can use
social media sites to disseminate knowledge.
Out of the 15 lecturers interviewed, 13 of them asserted that there is a relationship
between the use of social media and the learning ability of students. This explains why they
have created learning groups with their students on Facebook and WhatsApp for students to
freely ask and answer questions. A lecturer stresses the importance of social media as a
learning tool by stating that “students love informal learning, thus, social media is what they
need”. In addition, he claims that “when students get home and start working on their
assignments, they can post a question to the group that either he or a classmate can answer”.
To support the above claim, another lecturer argued that “since students often learn from
others, having students share questions, insights, or experiences on a topic help expand their
learning and that of other students”.
In response to the question on whether social media impacts learning positively or
negatively, 13 lecturers said that social media impacts learning positively while only two (2)
said that it does negatively. In order to justify their points, those who responded that social
media impacts learning positively noted that many youths are now educated on societal issues
and topics they read online and discuss informally on social media with friends from all over
the world. One of them stresses on the fact that social media plays a key role in vote campaign
unlike in the past where anyone hardly used social media. Today, almost everyone is present
online. A lecturer pointed out that, “for the first time, in 2018, social media played a central
role in the presidential election of Cameroon, which was a very positive thing because others
voted after seeing on social media that their friends have voted”. One of the main reasons for
social media impacting learning negatively was that each campaign of the candidates was
always uploaded online to spark an online war and in order to sabotage them”. According to
the two lecturers who were against the fact that social media influenced learning negatively,
students often turn to learn “bad things” from either watching a movie or video online. They
claimed that instead of students learning “good things in the video, they turn to learn only the
bad things”. Again, they made mention of the fact that text messaging influenced learning
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Theorising Social Media as a Learning Platform in Cameroonian Higher Education
negatively. This is because the writings on social media especially text messaging is different
from formal writings. They are informal and have no rule governing it. Thus, these two
lecturers insisted on the fact that the language used on social media is much more damaging
that the students seem to perceive. Mehmood and Taswir (2013) seem to agree with this study
when they claim that addiction to social media sites have a negative impact on the
psychological wellbeing of the youth as they are stressed at all time even having to wake up
frequently at night to check or respond to messages. To them, the language of students is also
affected by their usage of slangs and short forms on social media. One lecturer argued that the
more time students spend on social media sites, the less time they spend socialising with
others face to face. This affects their communication skills. As regard the problems facing the
use of social media as a learning platform in Cameroon, the lecturers (100%) agreed that they
would love to use interesting education-based social media sites like Edublog, Edmodo and
Kidblog to post class status updates and announcements but their students are ignorant of it.
Most of the students they say, do not even know these sites.
From this paper, we can conclude that social media is a learning platform in Cameroonian
higher education. Students either learn positively or negatively depending on how they
perceive it. The use of social media in and out of the classroom not only improves learning
but skill acquisition. Its tools facilitate informal learning through acquiring and managing
information and creating open space for discussion and conversation between teachers and
students. It helps students perform tasks beyond the classroom. This paper shows that most
users of social media are young women who are between the ages of 18 to 32 years. The
participation of women is crucial since they represent an important element for effective
communication and socialisation in the society. Youths are more likely to use social media at
all time either for fun, to save time or to communicate with teachers and students while adults
use social media to develop technical-didactic skills for teaching activities. The main purpose
of the use of social media in education since its introduction has been primarily to provide
new means of communication with teachers and students, get useful information, create or
belong to a group which post assignments, make announcements and remind students about
important deadlines and available jobs. The paper has equally proven that there is a significant
relationship between the use of social media and the learning ability of students. The study is
useful to students and teachers. Students and teachers should explore and use social media
more often in education. Also, teachers should place more assignments for students on social
media. Further studies should be conducted on the use of social media for academic purposes
and the influence of social media on students’ performance.
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