Guiding Social Media at Our Institutions


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Guiding Social Media at Our Institutions

  1. 1. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 1Guiding Social Media at Our Institutionsby Tanya Joosten, Laura Pasquini, and Lindsey Harness The pedagogical benefit of social media use beyond its application as a motivational technique continues to be unaddressed by many universities.INTRODUCTIONGiven the increasing use of social media in our society and the growing number of individuals preferring to use socialmedia over other communications tools (e.g., e-mail), many educators are examining how to effectively implement socialmedia on their campuses. Many institutions are using social media to communicate with their communities. They are alsolooking to use social media to engage students both inside and outside the classroom. These institutions are makingdecisions on how to support and encourage social media use while considering the costs and implications.Social media tools have unique characteristics, and the resulting implications go beyond those of traditional technologies.Social media applications are open and primarily free to use. Also, social media platforms are built based on principles ofinteractivity, allowing users to connect with each other, gather news and information, and create and share content. Thefunctionality of social media provides opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of our institutional processes whileproviding challenges as well. For example, Joosten (2012) notes, “Because many social media tools are not institutionalenterprise systems, educators are concerned about using them in the classroom. At the heart of this concern are issuesrelated to student behavior online, information privacy, and student identities” (p. 79). Concerns arise from a lack ofcontrol and ownership of these systems. Additional considerations include the challenge of providing staff, teachers, andresearchers with the infrastructure, training and development, and support they need in order to effectively use socialmedia on campus.Social media is a classification for a wide variety of popular technologies that are open, facilitate interactivity, andencourage connectivity. In the broadest terms, social media spaces exist as “virtual places where people share; everybodyand anybody can share anything anywhere anytime” (Joosten 2012, p. 14). Although there are dozens of tools that can beclassified as social media, each provides unique media characteristics that have led to their widespread adoption. Socialnetworking applications (e.g., Facebook) are one of the most popular types of social media. Described as a unique place onthe web, social networking technologies like Facebook are used by individuals to share a public profile within a boundedsystem. The unique service offered by such applications is the articulation of a list of other users with whom the usershares a connection (Boyd and Ellison 2007). Other popular social media applications include microblogging (e.g.,Twitter), video sharing (e.g., YouTube), and social bookmarking (e.g., Delicious). The ability of individuals to connect witheach other and with institutions, to openly share ideas and contribute content, and to view others’ connections are reasonsfor the vast diffusion of social media.Social media applications are gaining in popularity, becoming a mainstream way in which students, staff, and facultycommunicate and share information. Facebook has one billion users (Zuckerberg 2012), YouTube has more than 800million monthly users who watch four billion hours of videos (Lawler 2012), Twitter has 500 million total users (Lunden
  2. 2. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 22012), and Google+ has 400 million registered users (Schroeder 2012). As of August 2012, 69 percent of online adults usesocial networking sites, and 92 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds use social networking sites (Brenner 2012). Further, 71percent of online adults now use video sharing sites (Moore 2011), and 15 percent of online Americans now use Twitter,with eight percent using it daily (Smith and Brenner 2012). Many individuals use social media regularly, and theirexperiences lead to expectations for communication with and within our educational institutions.SOCIAL MEDIA IN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONSSocial media is transforming the way individuals communicate in higher education. Technologies such as Facebook,Twitter, and YouTube have the potential to enhance learning and strengthen instructors’ pedagogical practices (seeJoosten 2012). A growing number of faculty, instructors, instructional designers, and staff are beginning to explore howsocial media technologies can successfully enhance student learning and, as a result, assist higher education institutions inencouraging digital literacy among their students (Bennett et al. 2012). While the definition of digital literacy differsdepending upon the context in which it is discussed, people who are considered digitally literate can be generally thoughtof as possessing the knowledge and skills to effectively match information with its appropriate medium. According toGilster (1997), digital literacy means “adapting our skills to an evocative new medium, [and] our experience of the Internetwill be determined by how we master its core competencies” (as stated in Pool 1997, p. 6). As social media technologiesbecome more enmeshed in our lives, there is an expectation that students will develop digital literacy, including skillsrelated to continuous discovery, digital curation, and network development, along with the ability to connect to real-worldissues and take responsibility for their own learning (Danciu and Grosseck 2011). The same can be said of highereducation staff and faculty. As a result, institutions are increasingly responsible for addressing the role of digital literacywithin the educational environment. In other words, there is an existing expectation that institutions will concentrate onproviding adequate support (i.e., resources and guidance) to their organizational members that assists in identifying,implementing, and communicating about the relationship between digital literacy and social media. Institutions are increasingly responsible for addressing the role of digital literacy within the educational environment.Existing scholarship regarding technology and student learning indicates that the era of Web 2.0 provides the ability tocollaborate in a virtual community culture, leading to social and innovative learning and, in turn, to the motivation ofstudents (Cerda and Planas 2011). This is in part due to the positive impact that interactivity and engagement can have onstudent learning (Carini, Kuh, and Klein 2006; Chickering and Gamson 1987). One way that digital literacy and studentlearning are enhanced in the digital era is through social media, which has the potential to greatly impact both teachingand learning.The benefits of social media within education have inspired a growing number of educators to consider the impact thesetechnologies can have on learning. Existing scholarship that focuses on social media for instructional and institutional useindicates that the growth of social media creates new opportunities, especially for enhancing student interaction andengagement beyond the formal learning environment. Social media has features and characteristics that can facilitateinteractivity (Hung and Yuen 2010; Joosten 2012; Silius, Kailanto, and Tervakari 2011), specifically through collaborativelearning (Cerda and Planas 2011; Hrastinski and Aghaee 2012; Hung and Yuen 2010; Silius, Kailanto, and Tervakari 2011;
  3. 3. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 3Vaughan et al. 2011; Wang, Woo, and Quek 2012). Further, social media can move learning beyond the classroom to real-life issues (Danciu and Grosseck 2011; Joosten 2012; Wang, Woo, and Quek 2012).The potential of social media to impact teaching and learning leaves instructors looking for training, development, andsupport in establishing effective practices. The role of the instructor is altered when using social media and other Web 2.0technologies into which s/he infuses interdisciplinary experiences and activities that facilitate group discussion, problemsolving, active reading, and critical thinking (Danciu and Grosseck 2011). Instructors must meet the regularresponsibilities required of them as well as illustrate an effort and a commitment to becoming social media savvy.In addition to its effect on student learning and instructional development, social media can impact institutional servicesand operations. Social media can affect communication and marketing efforts (Constantinides and Zinck Stagno 2011),student support services (DeAndrea et al. 2012), and recruitment and orientation efforts (Nyangau and Bado 2012).However, even though there is some literature on the impact of social media on teaching and learning and on services andoperations, research on the impact of social media on organizational processes within educational institutions is quitescarce. Research on efforts to guide social media use is also rare, and further study is made challenging by changingtechnology platforms, their use on campus, and the influence of community members within our educational institutions.Nevertheless, there is a clear need for more research relating to the role of social media in higher education.While colleges and universities are quite complex and manage everything from student development to research growthand instructional needs, the previous social media literature does not address our holistic needs for guidance, training,faculty support, understanding protection and legal use, and developing digital literacy among our students. Given thepopularity of social media as well as the benefits of using social media for educational purposes, organizations andinstitutions need to consider how social media guidance and usage can impact instructional, research, administrative, andother functions on campus.RESEARCH QUESTIONThe purpose of this study was to understand how institutions are guiding the use of social media on their campuses. Thestudy’s overarching question asked about what practices campuses are using to guide social media use by students, staff,and faculty. Specifically, we identified four areas in which to ascertain current practices in education: student services andsupport, business services and operations, instruction, and research.METHODSPARTICIPANTSThe study consisted of responses from administrators, staff, teachers and faculty, students, and others who use socialmedia in educational institutions. The participants were asked via e-mail and social media to complete a 29-item web-based survey reporting on how they and their institutions are using and supporting social media. The survey includedindividual demographic questions, institutional demographic questions, and open-ended questions.
  4. 4. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 4The participants (n = 30) consisted of 24 females (80 percent) and 6 males (20 percent) representing all age categorieswith the average age between 30 and 39 years. The majority of respondents reported higher education affiliation; however,K–12 educators were also represented. A range of roles was represented in the sample, with participants primarilyrepresenting support (58 percent), administration (42 percent), and teaching (28 percent) roles. Other roles includedmarketing and communications, and many participants had multiple roles within their institution. Academic affairs (39percent) and student affairs (26 percent) were the primary units represented by the sample. Others reported being in unitsthat were a combination of academic and student affairs or indicated that they were not sure.In addition to demographic information, participants reported their social media use and contribution. Regarding whichsocial media they use, the majority reported using Twitter (90 percent), Facebook pages (87 percent), and YouTube videos(77 percent). When asked to which social media they contribute, the majority reported contributing to microblogs (71percent), video sharing sites (57 percent), and blogs (50 percent).Finally, participants reported their institution’s classification and size. Sixteen were from a doctorate-granting university(53 percent), four from a baccalaureate college (13 percent), four from an associate’s college (13 percent), two from amaster’s college or university (7 percent), two from a K–12 institution (7 percent), and two from another type of institution(7 percent). Regarding size, the majority of participants were from smaller institutions; specifically, 11 participants werefrom institutions with 0–5,000 students (37 percent), and three were from institutions with 5,001–10,000 students (10percent). There was also representation from mid-sized and large institutions. Four participants were from institutionswith 10,001–20,000 students (13 percent), six were from institutions with 20,001–30,000 students (20 percent), fivewere from institutions with 30,001–40,000 students (17 percent), and one was from an institution with 50,000+ students(3 percent). The sample represented diverse demographic groups, roles, and institutions, and all respondents werefamiliar with social media uses and contributions.DATA ANALYSISOpen-ended questions were analyzed using an inductive analytic process incorporating many of the procedures of theconstant comparative method to conduct theoretical sampling (Patton 2001). Researchers analyzed participants’responses to the open-ended questions for key themes and then compared data to further distill the themes. Themes werecoded into response matrices to identify key issues, concerns, and topics shared among the respondents. The data weregrouped into the key areas under study—student services and support, business services and operations, instruction, andresearch—to best understand the content shared by the respondents. Researchers compared this grouped data to furtherdistill the themes and then organized the data into central themes based on the four areas of study. Quality controlmeasures included peer reviews (Lincoln and Guba 1985) that took place as two researchers double-checked coding andverified the themes throughout the study.
  5. 5. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 5RESULTS AND RECOMMENDATIONSINSTITUTIONAL EFFORTS TO GUIDE SOCIAL MEDIAThere were two primary findings regarding how institutions support and guide social media use. First, social media isbeing used as a broadcast medium. Second, social media is often supported through a new position or the partialredesignation of an already existing position to include social media responsibilities.A key discovery identified institutional efforts to implement social media for use as a broadcast medium, a channel of one-way communication for general university information. In other words, social media is now serving the function ofbroadcast communication that historically has been designated to university radio stations, newspapers, or static websites.Social media, then, is perceived as a “medium to communicate what is happening in our school.” University employeesreport that social media’s primary purpose is to “communicate with the general community, but not specifically tostudents.” In this perspective, technologies like Facebook are used not to engage or support students but as a newmechanism to transmit and disseminate official university communications to a large audience.Social media outlets are popular and therefore are an obvious choice for transmitting campus information andnews. Given the popularity of social media over traditional media, it is a strategic choice to use Facebook, Twitter, andYouTube as methods for organizational broadcast communications. Further, social media applications such as Facebookand Twitter have been proven to be effective broadcast media and to increase communication and encourage contact(Joosten 2012).In the rare instance that social media is supported, it is usually through the creation of a new position or the changing of aposition description to include social media responsibilities. Two participants indicated that their universities added newpositions titled “director of new media” and “social media specialist,” respectively. Each position originated in response tothe growing interest in social media’s role in higher education. However, many participants explained that in theirorganizations the responsibilities of existing positions were expanded to include a small portion of social mediamanagement. Similarly, another explained that his/her university had “realigned social media management to ourcommunications staff.” In the cases in which a new position was created or an existing position was adjusted to addresssocial media in some manner, that position’s chief responsibility is to use these technologies for university or schoolrelations. However, the study did offer an indication that social media efforts may be slowly moving beyond businessservices and operations, such as marketing and communications, to student services. For instance, one participant stated,“Our school has designated 10 percent of four advisors’ jobs to social media for student outreach. They have supported thisthrough investing in training, platforms, and marketing merchandise.” Using social media as a broadcast medium isnatural, but the study suggests that harnessing the potential of such tools to support students, instruction, and researchmay take more time to grow and develop.SOCIAL MEDIA GROWS ORGANICALLYMany of the study’s participants indicated that any use of social media technologies beyond official universitycommunications is individualized. Universities, it seems, are leaving social media implementation up to individualdepartments—if they allow it at all. As one respondent noted, “Efforts are decentralized right now, with many departments
  6. 6. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 6creating and maintaining their own Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook profiles.” Given the traditional stance onthe role these technologies play in higher education, it is no wonder that faculty interested in implementing social mediahave had to develop organic or grassroots approaches without institutional support or resources, including training andinfrastructure.For those instructors employing social media within their departments, Facebook and Twitter are reported as the leadingtechnologies. They are being used for a variety of purposes, but particularly to enhance classroom discussion and mirrorlife outside the academy. For example, one participant explained, “Facebook and blogs are used to create communitiesmirroring professional communities. It is also used to support students engaged in research at different levels (sic), tocreate peer mentoring opportunities.” Another participant explained how s/he employed Twitter to add a critical thinkingdimension to a lesson to allow students to make a connection between the general information they learned from theirreading to the “real” world. Individuals reported that once social media is used in conjunction with the traditional coursetext, the educational experience for students and instructors is enhanced, particularly in regard to discussions betweenstudents.SOCIAL MEDIA USE CAN BE INHIBITED BY CONCERNS ABOUT PRIVACYDespite the benefits of using social media like Facebook and Twitter for educational purposes, there is significantinstitutional hesitation to endorse such pedagogical uses because of privacy issues. The study’s findings identified apossible reason: universities are very concerned about FERPA/FIPPA and the related legal implications, thus inhibitingtheir use of social media. As one faculty member explained, “Our registrar’s office goes way overboard on FERPA andinterprets it to mean that you pretty much shouldn’t communicate anything to student (sic) except in person.” Anotherstated, “We are concerned that grades or feedback will accidentally be delivered in social media and available to someoneother than the student and instructor. Further, as a faculty member, I am concerned about inadvertently sharing personalinformation that I wouldn’t want my students to know.” As a result of increasing anxiety over the possible legalimplications of social media use, strict codes of conduct are being embedded into university policies. When asked whatconcerns about student privacy his/her university has regarding student use of social media, one participant responded,“Huge. Our provincial legislation severely restricts what we can ask students to do. It has inhibited the use of SM (socialmedia) tools across higher ed institutions in our jurisdiction.” Similarly, another staff member stated, “Students areencouraged to maintain professionalism and use their best judgment at all times. They are constantly reminded that theyare affiliated with the school, and anything they do will have the school’s name attached to it.” Many of the study’srespondents indicated that their university’s apprehensiveness regarding social media use significantly influences if andhow these technologies can be employed for higher learning.In addition to the limitations that are caused by measures taken to avoid FERPA/FIPPA and the legal implications ofsocial media use, the study’s participants commented on their own institution’s perception about its responsibility or legalliability for such technologies. One participant stated, “Our institution’s Professionalism policy outlines studentinvolvement with social media, and the school’s responsibility for it. It is clear that if a student posts something that isdeemed unprofessional, they will face serious ramifications (including expulsion) from the program.” Another said, “Wefeel a responsibility to educate users reasonably about the effects of their social media use.” However, despite the reportedresponsibility universities feel, many of them do not provide the necessary resources to guide safe and effective socialmedia use among faculty and students. Instead, institutions prefer to either craft a professional communications policythat speaks directly to social media technologies or to place such media under the umbrella policy for the university in
  7. 7. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 7general. Institutions need to focus on applying traditional technology, behavior, and conduct policies to social media aswell as on effectively training and orienting organizational members.SOCIAL MEDIA NEEDS MORE INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORTOne of the key findings of this study is that there exists an overall lack of institutional support for social media use bystudents, faculty, and staff. The exact reason for this lack is unclear, but limited financial, pedagogical, and knowledgeresources along with a high concern for legal consequences could be severely hindering educational institutions inproviding the assistance necessary to incorporate social media and reap the benefits of technologies such as Facebook andTwitter in education. Many of the study’s participants reported a significant lack of effort by their institutions to encourageand promote student support through social media. Engaging students in the higher education experience through socialmedia and facilitating the development of 21st-century literacy among students were continually identified as lowpriorities for many institutions. Participants noted that not only was general institutional support unavailable, but therewas also a particular deficiency in supporting faculty who desire to integrate social media into their teaching practices.One respondent noted, “It (the university) isn’t supporting it at all. It doesn’t even encourage faculty to use it (socialmedia).” Another participant explained, “Absolutely no support. Seen only as a marketing function.” As evident in thisstatement, many institutions will only use social media, if they use it at all, for transmitting general information about theuniversity.For many institutions, technologies such as Twitter and Facebook are perceived only as ways to broadcast news to a largepopulation, rather than as tools with pedagogical value or worthy of research support. One individual explained a possiblereason for the perception of social media as a transmitter of communication: “It is not clear what social media can bring tocourses that already have Web 2.0 capabilities like chats, webinars, and wikis … social media tools change so quickly thatteaching how to use a specific tool (rather than the theory behind its use) does not seem worthwhile, except as amotivating factor to students.” Statements such as this indicate that the pedagogical benefit of social media use beyond itsapplication as a motivational technique continues to be unaddressed by many universities. This perception contributes tothe possible lack of support for instructors. As a result, faculty must depend upon individual expertise or seek assistanceindependent of the university. As one respondent noted, “Faculty are required to set up their own hosting for any outsidesocial media/technology beyond e-learning.” It appears that faculty members do not adequately use social media due tothe lack of institutional support. The pedagogical benefit of social media use beyond its application as a motivational technique continues to be unaddressed by many universities.Despite the lack of support for instructors and students wanting to use social media in higher education, the studyidentified that social media’s pedagogical possibilities are of interest to some faculty. For example, one participantexplained that his/her university provided zero incentive for teaching or researching social media, but “it would be prettyawesome if something was offered.” In sum, many faculty and staff are without the resources necessary to explore thepossibilities of social media at the university level, yet there exists an underlying interest and curiosity in learning moreabout social media’s role in higher education.
  8. 8. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 8It is natural for institutions to use social media to share information with their communities. Social media facilitates theability to provide students with information on campus services, educational planning, and learning. It facilitatescommunity building among students inside and outside the classroom and allows instructors to more seamlessly bring theoutside world into the academy. As noted, this requires a new position or an alteration in staff members’ current positiondescriptions. However, institutional strategy has to move beyond the “one mic” approach to implementing social media.Social media offers a multitude of functionality that not only enhances the way we push down communication to thegeneral community, but also allows us to connect with our students, staff, and faculty in new and engaging ways. Institutional strategy has to move beyond the “one mic” approach to implementing social media.Social media can enhance the effectiveness of the organizational communications process based on the cues available tobetter meet the needs of our audiences, especially students. Institutions and units should offer social media training anddevelopment to all students, staff, and faculty on maintaining privacy, following policy, developing best practices, andguiding implementation and use across the organization.
  9. 9. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 9REFERENCES Bennett, S., A. Bishop, B. Dalgarno, J. Waycott, and G. Kennedy. 2012. Implementing Web 2.0 Technologies in HigherEducation: A Collective Case Study. Computers & Education 59 (2): 524–34. Boyd, D. M., and N. B. Ellison. 2007. Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13 (1), article 11. Retrieved February 1, 2013, from the World Wide Web: Brenner, J. 2012. Pew Internet: Social Networking (full detail). Pew Internet & American Life Project. RetrievedFebruary 1, 2013, from the World Wide Web: Carini, R. M., G. D. Kuh, and S. P. Klein. 2006. Student Engagement and Student Learning: Testing the Linkages.Research in Higher Education 47 (1): 1–32. Cerda, F. L., and N. C. Planas. 2011. Facebook’s Potential for Collaborative E-learning. Revista de Universidad ySociedad del Conocimiento (RUSC) 8 (2): 197–210. Chickering, A. W., and Z. F. Gamson. 1987. Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. AAHEBulletin 39 (7): 3–7. Constantinides, E., and M. C. Zinck Stagno. 2011. Potential of the Social Media as Instruments of Higher EducationMarketing: A Segment Study. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education 21 (1): 7–24. Danciu, E., and G. Grosseck. 2011. Social Aspects of Web 2.0 Technologies: Teaching or Teachers’ Challenges?Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 15 (2011): 3768–73. DeAndrea, D. C., N. B. Ellison, R. LaRose, C. Steinfield, and A. Fiore. 2012. Serious Social Media: On the Use of SocialMedia for Improving Students’ Adjustment to College. Internet and Higher Education 15 (1): 15–23. Gilster, P. 1997. Digital Literacy. New York: Wiley Computer Publishing. Hrastinski, S., and N. M. Aghaee. 2012. How are Campus Students Using Social Media to Support Their Studies? AnExplorative Interview Study. Educational and Information Technologies 17 (4): 451–64. Hung, H., and S. C. Yuen. 2010. Educational Use of Social Networking Technology in Higher Education. Teaching inHigher Education 15 (6): 703–14. Joosten, T. 2012. Social Media for Educators: Strategies and Best Practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Lawler, R. 2012. YouTube is Launching a Redesign to Reduce Clutter and Put Videos Front and Center. TechCrunch,December 6. Retrieved February 1, 2013, from the World Wide Web:
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  11. 11. Planning for Higher Education V41N2 | Joosten-Pasquini-Harness Article | 11AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIESTanya Joosten is the director of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM) Learning Technology Center, theauthor of Social Media for Educators (Jossey-Bass 2012), and an international speaker on learning technologies, such associal media, and the future of education. She teaches blended and online courses at UWM on human communication andtechnology, organizational communication, and social media and community. Her work on social media and otheremerging technologies has been highlighted in The Chronicle of Higher Education, EdTech magazine, eCampus News,and other news and media publications. Follow her on Twitter @TJoosten.Laura Pasquini is an academic counselor, doctoral researcher, educator, and consultant at University of North Texas.She is an international speaker and author on topics of technology, including social media, in advising, tutoring,supplemental instruction, and training and development. She currently serves as NACADA’s Technology in AdvisingCommission chair. Follow her on Twitter @LauraPasquini.Lindsey Harness is a learning technology consultant at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM) LearningTechnology Center (LTC). She teaches in the Department of Communication and researches emerging technologies andtheir impact on social processes, including teaching and learning. She supports UWM faculty and instructors seeking touse technologies in pedagogically effective ways to improve teaching and increase student learning. Follow her on Twitter@LindseyHarness.