Exploring Perspectives on Social Media in Higher Education

Exploring Perspectives on Social Media in Higher Education

Abigail G. Scheg
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch242
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In May 2013, the PEW Internet Project reported that “72% of online adults use social networking sites” (Brenner, 2013). This number only increases when looking specifically at traditional college-aged students. According to a 2012 PEW Research Center Report, 83% of Internet users ages 18-29 are likely to use a social networking site (Duggan & Brenner, 2013, par. 1). Although individuals of all ages participate in higher education, the traditional college-aged student is approximately 18-23 years of age, aligning quite well with the statistics of individuals using social media. Using this statistic, let us examine the perspectives of higher education affiliates in regards to social media.

Arguably the most important participant in higher education would be the students; without the participation and perpetual enrollment of students, higher education opportunities would cease to exist. As the above statistic demonstrates, traditional college-aged students have a propensity to use social media if only as a means to communicate with friends, family, strangers, or generate a digital representation of their life. 67% of social media users cite “Staying in touch with current friends,” as a major reason for regular participation on a particular website (Smith, 2011, p. 2). 64% claim that “Staying in touch with family members,” is a major reason for their participation (Smith, p. 2). The other high-ranking reasons include: Connecting with old friends you’ve lost touch with, 50%; Connecting with others with shared hobbies or interests, 14%; Making new friends, 9%; Reading comments by celebrities, athletes or politicians, 5%; Finding potential romantic or dating partners, 3% (Smith, p. 2). Other factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status impact an individuals’ propensity for using social media for specific reasons. Females, in particular, are more likely to maintain social media profiles and the main reasons for usage such as engaging with family members is “especially important to women” (Smith, p. 3).

According to Blankenship (2010), 80% of faculty members surveyed by Babson Survey Research Group in collaboration with New Marketing Labs and Pearson Learning Solutions stated that they “use social media in some capacity, whether they’re watching a friend’s cat video or updating their Facebook status, and more than half use the tools as part of their teaching” (p. 11). The same survey found that 30% of faculty “use social networks to communicate with their students (trading posts on blogs, for instance) while more than 52 percent use online videos, podcasts, blogs, and wikis (group-authored Web sites) during actual class time” (p. 11). To clarify, the survey found that faculty that have been teaching for twenty or more years “use social media at almost the same level as their younger peers” (p. 11).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Network: A network of individuals linked together for a social purpose such as a group, organization, or course.

Social media: Technological tools used for communication between persons in different places (ex: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, wikis). Engagement with others is paramount in social media.

Wiki: A digital page of information that can be viewed and altered by a number of users that all work on the same page. All informed can be updated or deleted at any time by participants.

Paradigm Shift: A change in foundational beliefs of a situation, circumstance, or topic.

Student Engagement: Enhanced student participation and interest in classroom (face-to-face or virtual) practices and assignments. If students are engaged they are actively learning and have an invested interest in the progress of the course.

Blogs: A virtual log space that individual or group writers discuss a common idea or topic. Can be used as personal or public documentation.

Learning Management System (LMS): A virtual learning classroom space that can either be pre-established by a company or institution.

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