Social Media in Tertiary Education: Considerations and Potential Issues

Social Media in Tertiary Education: Considerations and Potential Issues

Ann M. Simpson (Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5826-2.ch001


Social media use is prevalent throughout the world and is now commonplace in higher education. The devices, support technologies, and social media applications used in higher education are in a constant state of change. Using social media in education creates new and sometimes challenging issues for institutions, instructors, and students. This chapter attempts to address some of the considerations and potential issues that impact our use of social media in the higher education classroom. It examines social media as an educational tool in higher education, possible pedagogies for social media use, potential educational contexts, and privacy concerns raised by social media use in educational environments. This chapter also provides a possible definition for social media and introduces some themes that will be explored in further detail in the following chapters.
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What Is Social Media?

At the core of social media is what Miller et al. call ‘scalable sociality’ (2016); two scales that describe the way in which people associate with each other to form social interactions or relations through social media (Miller et al., 2016). The first scale allows users to control the level of privacy for a group or audience “from the most private to the most public” (Miller et al., 2016, p. 3). The second scale allows users control over group size “from the smallest group to the largest group” (Miller et al., 2016, p. 3). These two scales can operate separately or together to determine the privacy and size of the group used for its purpose. They also describe the basic general function of social media applications and platforms in terms of the scope and size of the intended audience and how students can control and govern their audiences. Since the technologies utilized for social media will no doubt change in the future, the scales assist in describing the nature of social media regardless of the underlying technologies used in its creation. In terms of educational context, the scales can assist in describing and determining the size and scope of educational activity. They can also assist in the description of the difference between teacher- created, student-led and student self-created educational activities. While these scales assist in the description of what makes media social, they do not define it.

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