Exploring the Usefulness of Social Networking Websites:
a Multidimensional Model
Vincentas LAMANAUSKAS1, Violeta SLEKIENE1,
Alexandru BALOG2, Costin PRIBEANU2
P. Visinskio Street 25, Siauliai, Lithuania
2 I C I Bucharest
(National Institute for R & D in Informatics)
8-10 Averescu Blvd.
011455 Bucharest 1, Romania
Abstract: The rapid expansion of social networking websites is raising several issues concerning the influence on the individual and social behavior of users. Using SNW is growing rapidly among various groups of people. From an educational point of view it is important to know how to effectively use the opportunities offered/created by SNW. Unfortunately, the amount of empirical research to support SNW educational usefulness is limited. On the other hand, there is a need to have some reliable instruments to measure the various facets of SNW’ usefulness. In this paper we present a hierarchical and multidimensional measurement model to explore the usefulness of these websites. The model was tested on one sample and cross validated on another sample. Both samples were collected from Lithuanian universities students, the former from Humanities faculties and the latter from Social sciences faculties. The results revealed four dimensions with a different weight in each sample. This suggests a relationship between the educational background of the users and how they perceive the relative importance of each facet.
Keywords: Social networking websites (SNW), social usefulness, multidimensional models, structured equation modeling.
CITE THIS PAPER AS:
Vincentas LAMANAUSKAS, Violeta SLEKIENE, Alexandru BALOG, Costin PRIBEANU, Exploring the Usefulness of Social Networking Websites: a Multidimensional Model, Studies in Informatics and Control, ISSN 1220-1766, vol. 22 (2), pp. 175-184, 2013.
Social networking websites are continuously expanding and changing in order to satisfy the various needs of their users. The use of social networking websites (SNW) has rapidly gained momentum. By late 2008, MySpace and Facebook each had 60 million U.S. users and accounted for 6%-8% of all time spent online .
Social networking website spread is encouraged, first of all, by the variety of information and communication technologies, that are constantly changing functions and possibilities. It is obvious, that technology and consumer interaction is bilateral – technologies encourage consumers to try new functions and possibilities, the latter in their own right raise new requirements to technology creators. Needless to say, that together with technological problems arise social Internet problems as well. Social networking websites (SNW) are closely related to economic, psychological, educational, valeological and other aspects. There is a lack of research based on socio-educational social networking website aspects. It is important to know not only how much time the consumers spend surfing the net, but how much time is allotted for communicating in social networking websites, which of them are the most popular and why, how the respondents evaluate social networking website functions, what in general they know about them, what advantages, disadvantages and threats they discern. Finally, it is important to find out whether the use of social networking websites makes information – communication abilities better in any way.
Social networking websites “move” into educational space as well. However, a great number of problems exist here. Nowadays teachers (speaking especially about Lithuanian situation) are not properly prepared in ICT field. Though ICT usage competences are being improved in general, however considerable gaps remain, the shortage of understanding is felt on how to apply information technologies, what their abilities are to make teaching/learning process easier, more effective and interesting for children. ICT in its own right changes rapidly, it is complicated to adjust to existing technological environment. On the other hand, nowadays children have grown up in ICT surroundings, in the environment more or less filled with technologies. This makes them more susceptible to technologies in general. Thus, teachers’ society can’t stay behind from ICT development either. Teachers themselves have to be ready for unpredictable future (or at least hardly predictable) and to convey this attitude to children. A continuous demand to improve becomes the cornerstone for every member of society .
The problem of motivation to learn and improve remains urgent. Despite education science achievements, the motivation encouragement problem remains one of the most serious ones. However, watching children and teenagers’ activities using ICT, especially social networking websites, a very high motivation, a need to use SNW are fixated. Thus, it is important to capitalize on that motivation in educational sense, in other words, to make use of social networking websites’ facilities for educational purposes.
Thus, can social networks effectively perform educational function? Can they become a proper professional development instrument? We can formulate a lot of questions. The phenomenon of social networking websites is new, complicated, and is rapidly changing. Therefore, exhaustive empiric researches are necessary, seeking to maximally use the SNW providing possibilities for educational purposes.
In a recent study, Lamanauskas et al. (2012) presented the results of a survey to ascertain how Lithuanian university students use social networking websites, how they value them, what opinion they have about various social networking websites, and what they know about them .
The goal of this paper is to further analyze the survey data collected in Lithuania in order to explore the social usefulness of these kinds of websites. We hypothesized that the social usefulness is a multidimensional construct having several facets that describe distinct aspects.
The rest of this paper is organized as follows. In the next section we present related work in the area of social networking websites. In Section 2 we present the research models. Next, we describe the method, including the samples and data analysis. The results of this study are presented in section 5. The paper ends with conclusion and future work.
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