The academic use of Facebook™ to enhance affective learning of open distance learning teacher-students in the Eastern Cape
Bester, Maria Petronella
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Challenges in the South African education system arise from inter alia inadequate training, social and environmental problems, parental inefficiency, insufficient professionalism among teachers, as well as negative attitudes of learners. An urgent need exists to establish “a moral underground, an army of volunteers” (Jansen, 2012) who would be willing to provide another chance to “abandoned children” in poorer schools to develop their full potential for a brighter future. To assist learners to achieve a better future, this study focused on teacher-students and to enhance their learning experiences and consequently their teaching performance. By motivating the teacher-students to develop their potential in order to achieve better, they could, in turn, break the barriers of mediocrity in the learners they taught. The aim of this study was to uncover how a social network service (SNS) like Facebook could be used as an academic tool to support and enhance the affective learning experience of open distance teacher-students in the rural Eastern Cape. The main research question which guided this study was: How can the affective learning of open distance learning teacher-students in the rural Eastern Cape be supported through academic Facebook? The research intervention which elicited data, comprised coaching and scaffolding of the learning content relating to research methodology, as well as guiding the participants to engage with an SNS as a learning technology in an academic environment. The researcher created a support group on Facebook where participants could, at any time, interact with peers and the facilitator. Non-probability purposive sampling selected the participants according to the following criteria: isiXhosa home language speaking teacher-students from the rural areas around Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, enrolled with NWU for a BEd Honours degree, and who owned cellular phones which could connect to the Internet. While 74 teacher-students were invited to participate in the research, only 34 attended some of the coaching and scaffolding sessions, and 22 joined the FaceFunda group page. This qualitative bounded case study was conducted from a postmodern pragmatic view. Data were collected through individual interviews, a focus group interview, text from the FaceFunda group page and the researcher’s reflective diary. The data were analysed with Atlas. ti™. Three patterns emerged which described participants’ affective experiences: (i) emotions while learning with technology, (ii) experiences with technology, and (iii) need for support. In each case, the patterns related to emotions of competence (codes that captured positive and enabling experiences), and emotions of incompetence (codes that captured negative and incapacitating experiences). A secondary analysis of the findings uncovered the guidelines for the academic use of Facebook for rural distance teacher-students. Four themes emerged as guidelines: i) coaching and scaffolding support, (ii) technological support, (iii) peer support, and (iv) communication with the higher education institution. The guidelines highlighted that the affective learning of open distance learning of rural teacher-students in the Eastern Cape can be supported through the academic use of Facebook. ODL teacher-students require support coaching and scaffolding in order to adopt the use of SNSs for academic purposes. Adult learners should be supported to overcome technophobia to enable engagement with learning content. With adequate supportive measures, SNSs can contribute towards positive learning experiences of rural students.
- Education 
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