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"Factors Influencing Academics’ Use of Microblogging in Higher Education"

Ahmad Kharman Shah, Nordiana (2015) "Factors Influencing Academics’ Use of Microblogging in Higher Education". PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Twitter is one of the most widely used social media tools, increasingly the object of academic research but also in use by academics themselves in their daily professional practice (Focus, 2010; Gerber, 2012; Lupton, 2014; Rowlands, Nicholas, Russell, Canty, & Watkinson, 2011). A number of empirical studies have been conducted to identify the uses and benefits of Twitter by scholars, at a general level. Among its core benefits appear to be that it offers a professional and scientific conversation channel, a means for sharing research ideas and increased research visibility, bridging geographical distances among academics community and practitioners; the facilitation of global partnerships in research; augmentation of teaching and learning; and the strengthening of academics’ engagement with public audiences, enhancing academic esteem and self-promotion (Lupton, 2014; Pearce, Weller, Scanlon, & Kinsley, 2010; Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a; Veletsianos, 2013). However, there has been little qualitative research on how academics practice Twitter (Kieslinger, Ebner, & Wiesenhofer, 2011; Lupton, 2014; Veletsianos, 2011, 2013). In this context, the aim of the study was to explore academics’ adoption and use of Twitter in UK Higher Education and the factors that influence their use of it. The study employed a qualitative method within an interpretive methodology (Mason, 2002; Miles & Huberman, 1994). A semi-structured interview was the main method of data collection; complemented by digital observation and interview observation. A total of 28 academics from five faculties at The University of Sheffield (UoS) were interviewed. A thematic approach was taken to data analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Findings captured detailed trajectories of academics’ Twitter use and six main themes emerged in the findings, namely: (1) the characteristics of Twitter users, (2) immediate drivers to adopt Twitter, (3) the pattern of adoption, (4) the range of Twitter uses, (5) temporal and behavioural patterns of Twitter use and (6) academic concerns over using Twitter. In addition, the study explores how attributes of the platform and technology affordances have key roles in shaping the practice. The study found that academics’ participation on Twitter is complex and multifaceted. Academics engage with Twitter for different purposes mainly in pursuit of academic interests and not for personal use. Findings identified nine types of Twitter use namely: (1) communication; (2) dissemination; (3) pedagogical activities; (4) building relationships and maintaining networks; (5) performing digital identity; (6) taking micro-breaks; (7) information seeking and gathering; (8) learning and (9) coordinating or amplifying other social media and website use. They perform these activities in strategic ways through a certain routines and develop approaches in managing its use. However, there is no simple formula to carrying out these activities. From a broader perspective, this study recognised two different views of the academic experience in relation to technology that could be relevant also to microblogging: a pessimistic and an optimistic view. Twitter use reflects issues identified by pessimistic commentators relating to the challenges faced by modern academics, such as: increasing competition to produce more quality and ‘impactful’ research; an agenda of excellence in teaching; pressure for public engagement; the rise of the academic ‘portfolio CV’; the research excellence framework (REF); and the wider effects of globalisation and the neoliberalism agenda (Henkel 2005; Clegg et al. 2003; Selwyn 2007; Fanghanel & Trowler 2008; Fanghanel 2011; Clegg 2012; Lorenz 2015). All these could be thought to affect how microblogging is taken up. On balance however, the experience of academics reflected more optimistic views of the impact of technology in Higher Education (Kirkup, 2010; Pearce et al., 2010; Scanlon, 2014; Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012c; Veletsianos, 2013; M. Weller, 2011). Interviewees saw themselves as innovators and use Twitter as a vehicle to respond to the heavy workload that burdens them and they found the tools support their work in convenient and effective ways. The research makes a number of practical recommendations, providing suggestions to stakeholders in higher education such as institutions, academics and software developers. These include recommendations to provide staff with social media awareness training, promoting policies and guidelines for effective use for academics work including teaching activity, fostering take up through ‘key evangelist’ and promotional activities, offering helpdesk support, and teaching staff to anticipate risks such as managing social etiquette on Twitter. From a technical perspective, the study could inform the future design of technologies to support academic work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Information School (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.677334
Depositing User: Dr Nordiana Ahmad Kharman Shah
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2016 12:28
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:24
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11505

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