Thematic week: Social media

Social media in higher education seems to be somewhat of a fashionable topic at the moment, and one can find a number of lists online about what one should do and should not do in terms of social media. There are a number of people with a rather strong opinions about social media. Social media is either seen as leading universities to becoming obsolete, and as such the doom and gloom of higher education, or as a fad that will pass.

Common to both of these opinions is that there appears to be an almost religions approach to either opposing or supporting social media and its use in higher education. However, we want to go beyond the commandments and examine what using social media in higher education actually means.

For this purpose, we have asked four experts to share their experiences on various topics related to social media. The topics are wide and go across strategic thinking and practical experiences on building up a social media presence, to thinking about research activities and learning in higher education. Here is a little summary of what is coming up this week

In our first post tomorrow, Mal Chia from University of  Adelaide in Australia. Mal Chia works as a digital media strategist at the university, and he will highlight the need to re-think the types of social media initiatives that are currently undertaken, and that there is a need for a more strategic thinking. Addressing this concern and getting closer to home in our second post, Jarle V. Traavik writes about the experiences at the Faculty of Educational Sciences (University of Oslo) with creating a social media presence. The faculty has actively worked on building up a presence on various social media channels (including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, tumblr, LinkedIn and YouTube), and has been quite successful at this during the last two years. So – what have been the key factors for success and what can we learn from these experiences?

The issue of social media has also received increasing scholarly attention (see for example a literature review produced by ACUTA from 2010 here), raising questions whether there is something about social media that is fundamentally changing how students learn, thus having wider implications for how higher education would have to be organised. We are exaiming the relationship between social media and new modes of learning in our podcast with dr. Trish Andrews from University of Queensland in Australia, coming up later this week. In the podcast we discuss the role of social media in informal learning and the emergence of concepts such as social learning and m-learning, in addition to discussing the potential effects of this on higher education.

In addition to the potential impact on learning, there are also opportunities of using social media for research activities. Professor Jana Bouwma-Gearhart from University of Kentucky in the US writes about her experiences about networking and the potential blogs can have in this context. Being an academic, going to conferences has traditionally been a key place to discuss research and find new contacts. But does this also create disparities due to the costs related? Is it really worth it and what other alterntives could there be? What sort of potential can blogs have in this context?

As you can see, there will be some interesting contributions coming up this week – so check back for more!