Finding Balance: Social Media Use in Higher Education

Finding Balance: Social Media Use in Higher Education

Danielle McKain (Beaver Area School District, USA) and Julia Bennett Grise (Beaver Area School District, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7763-8.ch001


Social media use is a complex topic. The type and use of social media presents a variety of formats and creates a multitude of directions for research. Pearson provides research on personal, professional, and teaching social media use in higher education that shows the use of social media in higher education is growing. While this research provides a foundation, it raises many questions. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of common Learning Management Systems or platforms and social media networks that are often used in college courses. This chapter also provides common ways that social media is used outside of the classroom. The chapter concludes with concerns that are raised regardless of the type of social media use, platform, or network.
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Social media is prevalent independent of education, race/ethnicity, or health care access (Chou et al., 2009). Cell phones, in the past, were not allowed to be used in many schools; now they are an integral part of teaching and learning. For Generation Z, technology and social media play a role in nearly everything they do, including higher education. Social media use is expected in higher education, but research is needed on effective social media practices (Rowan-Kenyon et al., 2016). While there are many resources for using social media in the classroom, the issue is two-fold. Future employers look for not only strong technology skills, but also effective personal communication skills (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009). Research is showing that these two skills are difficult to maintain simultaneously (Yildirim, 2014).

The National Education Association in the United States recently released Preparing 21st Century Students for a Global Society: An Educator's Guide to the “Four Cs”. The four Cs are (1) Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, (2) Communication, (3) Collaboration, and (4) Creativity and Innovation. The Educator’s Guide to the “Four Cs” emphasizes the need to prepare young people for citizenship and the global workforce, and the ability to work with people of various backgrounds. Communication skills such as clearly expressing thoughts, effectively expressing opinions, providing logical and consistent instructions, and motivating others, are valuable and important for communication in the workplace today (An Educator's Guide to the Four Cs, n.d.).

Many platforms for social media promote communication and collaborative learning. Using the world wide web, content and applications are often continuously altered and expanded by participants in a collaborative way rather than created and published by individuals (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). The interaction created by social media supports social learning theories, but there is a lack of research to distinguish between face-to-face collaboration and social media collaboration. Vygotsky's Sociocultural theory of cognitive development was based on the importance of social interactions for cognitive development, but did not consider social media interactions (Slavin, 2018). More recently, Siemens (2005) refers to connectivism theory as a way to explain how social learning takes place through social media use. Learners acquire information through connecting to others knowledge and educators provide students with ways to make connections (Chen & Bryer, 2012).

Social media also serves as a bridge to connect formal and informal learning. Banks et al. (2007) found that the impact of formal learning decreases after high school. Informal learning becomes more important after high school as adults learn through interactions. Yet, the difference between interacting in person versus interacting via social media requires more research. In 2006, Hew and Brush identified the following typical barriers for integrating technology: resources, institution, subject culture, attitudes and beliefs, knowledge and skills, and assessment. Furthermore, they suggested the following strategies to overcome these barriers: having a shared vision and technology integration plan, overcoming the scarcity of resources, changing attitudes and beliefs, conducting professional development, and reconsidering assessments. Social media use is common in informal environments and could be beneficial in formal environments, but research on formal academic use is limited; in addition, it is difficult to implement social network use in formal learning environments due to privacy and security restrictions (Chen & Bryer, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Professional Social Media Use: Social media use for higher education, but not teaching or class.

Learning Management System (LMS): A system for educational courses to be delivered, documented, and overseen.

Informal Learning: Learning through participation (unorganized, unstructured).

Problem-Based Learning (PBL): Given a challenging situation, or complex problem, students are given extended time to investigate and work.

Social Learning: Learning from one another through social situations that can include observing, imitating, or modeling.

Constructivism Learning: Learning through experience, one develops their own understanding and knowledge.

Connectivism Theory: Learning theory for the digital age that explains how complex and constantly changing the social digital world is.

Formal Learning: Structured learning with planned objectives.

Personal Social Media Use: Social media use unrelated to higher education.

Teaching Social Media Use: Social media use specifically for teaching or class.

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