The use of social media platforms for foreign language learning in adult and community education

Vogiatzis, Dimitrios (2023). The use of social media platforms for foreign language learning in adult and community education. PhD thesis The Open University.



The ubiquity of digital technologies in everyday life have transformed the landscape of education. Emerging digital tools are often used to facilitate teaching and learning in a range of ways, arguably providing opportunities for inclusion and access to diverse sources of information and knowledge. The advent of social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp has attracted scholarly attention both in terms of the ways in which people communicate in everyday life as well as in their potential in language learning settings. Although a lot of research has been conducted on the use of social media in higher education, there is no evidence on the impact of these digital platforms in the Adult and Community Learning (ACL) context. This thesis contributes to the under-researched field of ACL by investigating the use of Facebook and WhatsApp by two groups of language learners in an adult education centre in the UK. It explores the opportunities that social media (in this case, Facebook and WhatsApp) can provide in terms of student-to-student and teacher-to-student interaction and also points to their limitations. Following a case study design, pre- and post-questionnaires, online observation, and semi-structured interviews were used to elicit data for the study. A key methodological contribution of this thesis is the systematic combination of two analytical frameworks (i.e. the Community of Inquiry framework, and the framework for the analysis of sharing practices) to analyse teachers’ and learners’ online contributions. This study examines students’ perceptions of using these digital platforms for language learning purposes and provides an empirical account of the extent to which (and how) learners and teachers interact with each other in these online environments. The analysis pointed to a mismatch between students’ perceptions of the benefits of digital platforms for language learning and their online behaviour and foregrounded the importance of a set of contextual factors in the effective use of social media affordances for language learning.

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