Embracing Social Media to Advance Knowledge Creation and Transfer in the Modernized University: Management of the Space, the Tool, and the Message

Embracing Social Media to Advance Knowledge Creation and Transfer in the Modernized University: Management of the Space, the Tool, and the Message

Catherine Lang, Narelle Lemon
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6202-5.ch008
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New ways of utilizing technology in the online space are challenging how academics and students communicate, participate, and publish in modern universities, and thereby influence knowledge production, exchange, and transfer. Social media provides a suite of tools that are powerful additions to the pedagogy of academics and demonstrate that “the medium is the message” (McLuhan, 1960). These tools provide opportunity for public global dialogue, continuous discussions in the online space beyond the four walls of a physical classroom, and greater interactions between individuals and collective groups. In this chapter, the authors present several cases of social media use from the perspective of being researchers and teachers in higher education. Through strategic and precise use of social media, academics can create strong, connected, virtual communities to enhance knowledge production, exchange, and transfer within higher education. The cases demonstrate the ability to create and curate content while engaging with global connections to enhance and disrupt traditional ways of working in academia.
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Social Media In Higher Education

Five decades ago McLuhan was the first to highlight the importance of the medium in delivering a message coining the phrase “the medium is the message” (McLuhan, 1960, p. 17), which, while initially applied to the influence of television (McLuhan, 1989), is relevant to social media technologies and their uses in education today. Ahead of his time, McLuhan was also the first to use the oxymoron “global village” (McLuhan, 1960, p. 19), a common phrase used with reference to mass media and more recently social media. Over fifty years later it is apparent that there is a strong need to embrace new media and pedagogies in higher education:

New approaches to teaching and learning… will need to be more appropriately and intelligently utilized so that the potential [they offer] is able to be exploited in a way that enriches and enhances teaching and learning…the teacher becomes the co–learner and […] students are given a greater sense of accountability and control over their learning. (Ling, 2014, p. 38)

The current state of the higher education sector in Australia is presented by Fitzgerald thoroughly and succinctly in Chapter One of this book, where the tensions of maintaining a client–focused, sustainable, enterprising and competitive culture in times of reduced government funding are elucidated. This decline in government funding that results in reduced face to face time and larger classes demands that academics be proactive in embracing new paradigms and renegotiate their roles and the nature of academic work to become “professional knowledge workers” (Lipman, 2004, p. 25).

The changing nature of the student population in universities is also an important driver of university culture, with many students spending less time on campus due to economic and lifestyle factors. Student engagement is therefore being redefined and renegotiated by technologically savvy students. Engagement has been defined as “the quality of effort students themselves devote to educationally purposeful activities that contribute directly to desired outcomes” (Krause & Coates, 2008, p. 493). Research has proven that students who are more engaged with their institution and their peers in academic and social activities are more successful in their academic outcomes (Kinzie & Kuh, 2004). This knowledge compels academics to intervene to improve student engagement through innovative curriculum and the virtual learning spaces (Oliver & Nikoletatos, 2009). It can then be extrapolated that it is possible to develop and grow a sense of community and engagement through social media.

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