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16/07/2018

This article appeared in the Herald of 10 July 2018 written by Athena O'Reilly - oreillya@tisoblackstar.co.za

Two Nelson Mandela University computer science department colleagues – and a student – have snapped up a prestigious award for their paper on social media and environmental issues.

Professor Andre Calitz, 60, and Dr Brenda Scholtz, 52, who won the Outstanding Paper award at the 2018 Emerald Literati Awards, said they were elated that research undertaken in the Bay had been recognised on a global scale.

Their article, which stemmed from research by a master’s student on environmental awareness on social media, highlighted the fact that students do not enjoy using social media platforms for work.

The purpose of the paper was to investigate the uses and gratifications (U&G) theory for evaluating social media usage in higher education.

The paper reported on a social media awareness campaign which was designed and implemented as extra-curricular content.

The campaign was conducted to improve environmental awareness, using popular social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

Scholtz – NMU’s computing sciences department head who became a researcher after 15 years of field work – said the paper had been based on research done by one of their master’s students.

“Emerald Publishing is a known international publishing house, and to be accredited internationally as a researcher is quite a feather in my cap,” she said.

“It makes me happy to know that what we are doing here in South Africa is relevant internationally.”

The paper, “Evaluating Students’ Social Media Use for Extra-curricular Education”, has been cited extensively, downloaded more than 1,100 times and is in Emerald’s top five “most downloaded papers”.

Scholtz’s areas of expertise are in the field of enterprise systems, business intelligence, database design, data analytics and IT for sustainability.

She has published more than 60 articles for conferences and accredited journals in the field of computing sciences.

She also won the prestigious Eastern Cape Institute for IT Professionals’ (IITPSA) Woman in IT award this year.

“The paper offers guidelines around using social media in higher education institutions which can be used by researchers or lecturers,” she said.

“Interestingly enough, the findings showed that students enjoy using social media for social reasons and not for work purposes.”

Calitz, who has been with the university for 35 years, was unaware of the Emerald Publishing Awards before entering and said the win came as a surprise.

He was awarded the Nelson Mandela University 2016 Research Excellence award and had “Fellow of the IITPSA” bestowed last year.

He is also the first academic to be awarded two doctorates – a PhD in Computer Science and a Doctorate in Business Administration from the NMU Business School – at NMU.

“I initially thought the email was a hoax,” he said.

“I think this was the first time someone at NMU has received such an award, which is very exciting as well.”

Their paper was published last year and the pair are due to receive the award in the coming weeks.

Thabo Tlebere, 29, of Johannesburg, who did his master’s degree at NMU and inspired the research paper, said he was still in shock that the trio had been recognised on a global scale. “This is a really big thing not only for the university but for us as individuals,” he said.

He submitted his dissertation and graduated in 2014.

“It feels great knowing that because of my research something like this has happened and not only were we recognised for the paper but for Outstanding Paper, which is exciting [and] a great achievement.”