A Mobile Social Networking Application for Academics and for Collaborative Learning is an android social networking application and also a web based application designed for lecturers and students in the university for the purpose of having their lectures and class discussion on academic issues to improve collaborative learning among students even without physical presence. The objectives of this design were to have a closed system with higher security mechanism where only authorized users can have access into the forum, also to improve the method of disseminating information among students in a class through SMS notification, and to discipline students on their behaviour when using the social media. These objectives necessitated for a new design and implementation of mobile social networking application used in education. A hybrid methodology which comprises of Waterfall methodology and Object Oriented Analysis and Design Methodology (OOADM) were adopted in this work where some Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagrams were used to design the system architecture. Object Oriented Programming (OOP) php, mobincub library (which contain android APK), ASP (for the sms notification) with MySQL Server at its back-end were used to develop this system. The Mobile Social Networking Application for Academics and for Collaborative Learning named “DegreeMate15” is an android social networking application and also a web based application that provides the lecturer with an alternative environment for having lectures, students can also use the application to learn with each other thereby improving in learning anytime anywhere. The application also has the functionality that stores each lecture that was done in it with the time they were conducted, so as to assist students who may not have attended the lecture to read the lecture summary.
- Background of Study
Social networking began when man started exist. Man is a social being that will always find it difficult to stay without relating to people around him. Many years ago (20th century and below), people connect and interact with each other through various means like using postal service, telegraph etc. Following the evolution of internet in 1970’s, people use the internet to connect or communicate with each other especially in established organizations like US Military. It was only in the last few decades that the use of social networking service became a global practice especially amongst young people (Horizon, 2009). Boyd and Ellison (2007) define social networking service as a web-based service that allow individuals to:
- Construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system
- Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection
- View and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.
The nature at which these features are implemented may vary from site to site. Social networking started with Bulletin Board System (BBS), they were often run by hobbyists who carefully nurtured the social aspects and interest-specific nature of their projects – which, more often than not in those early days of computers, was technology-related. But there were also other avenues for social interaction long before the Internet exploded onto the mainstream consciousness. One such option was CompuServe, a service that began life in the 1970s as a business-oriented mainframe computer communication solution, but expanded into the public domain in the late 1980s. CompuServe allowed members to share files and access news and events. But it also offered something few had ever experienced – true interaction. But if there is a true precursor to today’s social networking sites, it was likely spawned under the AOL (America Online) umbrella. In many ways, and for many people, AOL was the Internet before the Internet, and its member-created communities (complete with searchable “Member Profiles,” in which users would list pertinent details about themselves), were arguably the service’s most fascinating, forward-thinking feature. Other social networking applications like Friendster, Linkedln, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter was invented within the space of 2002 to 2007.
Social networking became more interesting and fascinating especially among the youth when mobile series of social networking application was invented example 2go Messenger (which was use mostly in African countries), created in 2007 as a communication tool for students in the University. Even though it later moved away from the students-only model by targeting developing markets in Africa. Another mobile social application is Whatsapp Messenger which is an instant messaging app for smartphones that operates under a subscription business model. This application was first launched in 2009. The app is regarded as one of the top 20 of all apps in the App Store due to its features like its platform support (running on many mobile devices), its functionalities like sending images, videos and audio media messages in addition to instant text messaging.
These social networking applications, both web-based and mobile-based have helped in enhancing collaborative learning and view sharing among students of different levels and the youths in general, through the creation of different groups where people of liked mind meet to share and update their views and responses to events that concerns them as a group. With the support which was provided by these social networking applications to create distinct groups within them, the hope of adopting online collaborative learning as one of the official medium to be used for academic studies in the Universities tends to become alive each day. Recently some lecturers have adopted the mechanism for the distribution of their lecture materials and quiz by creating a closed group using Facebook for instance. Students also create their own private groups for the purpose of collaborative learning and information sharing using Whatsapp for instance, and these two different mechanisms tend to improve on daily basis. There are other applications which are designed exclusively for academic purpose some of them are “Classroom Salon”, Google Classroom”, “KDS eClassrom” etc. These applications have most of the features supported by Facebook and Whatsapp as mentioned above. They also provide more technical support like teachers assessment on student’s participation during class, tool for uploading assignment and quiz and their submission etc.
- Statement of the Problem
Social networking applications have to a large extent been improved for the aim of using them as one of the necessary tools used for learning in schools. Thus some established Institutions and lecturers have already started making use of them to create online classroom, give quiz, upload electronic lecture note, post announcements etc. Looking at the application that are built so far for this aim, there is a pressing need for such application to meet and support more technical functionalities which will make its use more flexible and acceptable in academic field so as to support traditional classroom and improve collaborative learning. Some of the technical functionalities that are important and yet to be implemented in such applications are:
- Proper authentication of members using the application as a group or class
- Improved Information System for announcements
- Instant notification through SMS to students in a group about information.
- Creation of separate column for lecturer’s post and student’s comments, contributions and questions during class.
- Direct submission of assignment and quiz in the application.
- Customization of lecture room for each course offered by a particular set of students.
- Mechanism for cautioning and controlling student’s acts on the forum.
- Aims and Objectives of the Study
Since the use of social networking application as a tool for collaborative learning and information system increases on daily bases, it is of great importance to deal with some of the loop-holes that hinders the smooth running of the existing systems for academic learning. Through the review of the existing systems (applications), our aim is to build a mobile application (which will also run as a web application) that will implement most of the functionalities mentioned in the problem statement. Our objective is to implement these features in our application by;
- Building a closed system for each group or class using the application: This will have an efficient authentication technique in other to bridge access to only members of a group or class thereby improving absolute privacy.
- Building an improved information system: This will be use for updating class information and announcement.
- Building an instant SMS notification technique for information: This will always notify the members of a class with a text message if any information or announcement is sent in the information system.
- Creation of file that holds all lecture history for different topic: This will help students who are not in the lecture room during the class to conveniently read the entire lecturer’s post on the topic.
- Building Mechanism for cautioning and controlling student’s acts on the forum: This will make students to be serious during class or discussion time so as to achieve a comfortable environment for learning.
- Significance of the Study
Due to the fact that social networking application required for successful collaborative learning needed some level of academic commitment, it therefore require an application which can solely be dedicated for this task. In other to have the attention and full participation of every member of the group using the application, some level of gap have to be close so as to have a conducive environment for learning. This is the reason we propose for an application called DegreeMate15 which can be dedicated to serve and implement to a large extent the purpose of which social networking media had been chosen as one of the tool for academic learning. This application is necessary to bridge the communication gap among students in a class when they are not in school. It will also ease the student the stress of coming from their respective hostels to meet as a group or a class in other to tackle or discuss on some academic issues. Since the application will support e-classroom, the rate at which students of different levels in my department drag or struggle for physical classroom for their lectures will reduce. Through this application also, students cannot claim to be lagging behind in information or be misinformed because there will always be an instant SMS notifying each student in that group that an information is passed online in the information system of the application. Members of the class can at any point in time get information and make contributions to issues no matter where they are as long as they are with their mobile phone, also the cost of running online application in mobile (android) phones is lower than the cost at which one can run the same application if it is a web application. Therefore the proposed application will reduce cost (megabyte required) bearing in mind that the major end users of the application will be the students.
- Scope of the Study
The scope of this project has been limited to a mobile social networking application running only on android phones or any android enabled device (though it can also run as a web based application on computer). Some of the areas that will be handled by this package include:
- Logging in and authenticating the users (students who are meant to be in the group or class).
- Provision of status box for updating information and uploading of files like e-lecture note.
- Creation of electronic lecture room for each course.
- Provision of discussion room for interactive learning and exchange of resources among the students.
- Building of instant SMS alert to users whenever any information is passed online.
- Creation of disciplinary measure for cautioning students for any misconduct.
1.6 Limitation of the Study
The limitation of the study focuses on the difficulties encountered during the study, they are:
- Difficulties encountered getting reliable and comprehensive information on how to build a mobile social networking application.
- Inadequate consistency focusing on the study.
- Problem encountered compiling and implementing the information gotten from the end users of the application.
- Problem encountered in making choice of programming language that can best implement the proposed system.
- Block Diagram of the Project Stage
1.8 Definition of Terms
Programming Paradigm: This is as a fundamental style of computer programming, serving as a way of building the structure and elements of a computer program.
Networking: This is the practice of linking computer devices together to support digital communication among them.
End User: This is an individual who uses a product after it has been fully developed and marketed.
Application: This is a computer program or group of programs that is designed for the end users.
Social Network: This is a social structure that is made up of a set of social actors (such as individuals or organization) and a set of interactive ties between these actors.
World Wide Web (www): It is a system of internet server that support specially formatted documents.
Web 2.0: This basically refers to the transition from static HTML web pages to a more dynamic web that is more organized and is based on serving web application to the users.
Web Application (Web App): This is any application that uses a web browser as a client.
Cyberbullying: This is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person.
Server: This is a computer program that provides services to other computer programs.
Forum: This is an internet message board where users can post messages regarding one or more topics of discussion.
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