The Impact of Using Social Media on Students’ Engagement and Attainment in Nursing Education in Saudi Arabia

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The availability of social media has transformed global connectivity within education systems. Social media has been used in various educational contexts. The widespread use of social media has prompted a demand for a better understanding of how it might be used in nursing education. Most nursing students in Saudi Arabia are active users of social media, but the potential benefits of such media for educational purposes may not be fully realised. While research has previously explored the positive effects of using social media on a range of learning outcomes in nursing education, studies have not specifically focused on how these positive features have an impact on students’ engagement and attainment as vital components of successful learning.

To investigate the impact of social media use on student engagement and educational attainment in pre-licensure nursing programmes in Saudi Arabia.

To accomplish this aim, two distinct studies were conducted. The first study was a systematic review of literature examined the value of social media use in improving nursing students’ engagement. The second study conducted over two phases, used a mixed methods embedded design, which are: (i) quantitative study phase: in which the second- year nursing cohorts from two universities participated in the intervention, using Twitter, with total of (n=254) students were divided into experimental and control groups for quantitative analysis. A questionnaire measured student engagement before and after applying the intervention. Attainment data were collected through the faculty. (ii) qualitative study phase was semi-structured interviews with lecturers and focus groups with students were conducted to explore their perceptions and experiences of using social media in nursing education.

The synthesised findings from the systematic review yielded five themes that showed social media uses for nursing students’ engagement, as follows: 1) interaction and communication, 2) managing stress, 3) positive online community, 4) time spent, and 5) digital literacy and e-professionalism.
In the second study, the quantitative phase incorporating the Twitter intervention, resulted in a significant improvement in engagement compared to control (experimental group (88.5% ± 14.9%) versus control (51.8% ± 10.4%) p<0.001). Attainment for the experimental group was also significantly increased compared to control, (experimental group 91.6 ± 4.5 versus control 83.9 ± 5.7; p< 0.001). In the qualitative phase, a total of six male and female academics were participated, in addition, twenty male and female students recruited to participate in the focus groups from both universities. Three core themes were found: a theme linked to considerations of using the application, a theme that linked to features of the experience that linked to engagement, and finally, recognition of the utility of the platform to influence the grades attained.

The systematic review undertaken as first part of this research revealed that using social media to support nursing students’ learning has positive benefits in terms of promoting several aspects of their engagement, such as rapid interaction and communication. Further empirical studies, however, should aim to measure social media’s effects on nursing students’ engagement with their courses and their academic attainment. Thus, the main study comprised a multicentre empirical investigation demonstrated that using social media such as Twitter can improve students’ engagement with their curriculum; in this instance, the increased engagement was associated with a significant increase in the grades attained. The qualitative data further revealed that students found the use of the platform challenging but rewarding and appreciated the ease of communication afforded by such a platform to enhance engagement with their faculty and peers. Overall, it was felt this enhanced engagement contributed to improved grades. A limitation of the study was that the intervention was used only in one semester and was a such a novel interaction that it may not be sustained if employed throughout the curricula. It must be remembered the intervention was conducted during the pandemic; results obtained from online learning approaches during that period may not represent those produced during traditional face-to-face curriculum delivery.

This study demonstrates that systematic use of social media is effective in nursing education. Using Twitter showed to enhance students’ engagement with their curricula, resulting in improved academic achievement. Further research should investigate the long term use social media for educating nursing student.
Date of Award1 Oct 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAlan Simpson (Supervisor), Ehsan Khan (Supervisor) & Tommy Dickinson (Supervisor)

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