Undergraduate and Graduate Student Use of Social Media Whitepaper


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Social media is such an intrinsic part of the way students interact, it is natural that academic libraries would consider making services available through these communication channels. For the benefit of academic libraries, ProQuest commissioned a study by Hanover Research to gauge the current and potential uses of social media for academic research. We present the findings here, along with some top-line recommendations to assist libraries in executing an effective social media strategy.

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Undergraduate and Graduate Student Use of Social Media Whitepaper

  1. 1. ENGAGING STUDENTS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA Survey Results and Recommendations for Academic Libraries Elizabeth McGough, MLIS Marketing Manager—Social Media
  2. 2. Engaging Students Through Social Media INTRODUCTION Social media is such an intrinsic part of the way students interact, it is natural that academic libraries would consider making services available through these communication channels. For the benefit of academic libraries, ProQuest commissioned a study by Hanover Research to gauge the current and potential uses of social media for academic research. We present the findings here, along with some top-line recommendations to assist libraries in executing an effective social media strategy. ABOUT THE SURVEY The survey was conducted online in August 2012. It reached 600 students at degree-granting universities both large and small, representing a broad mix of academic disciplines. Approximately 300 students each were enrolled at Canadian and American universities, respectively, with a nearly equal mix of undergraduate and graduate students (54 percent undergraduate, 46 percent graduate). The study segmented the students in several different ways, in order to uncover potential differences that might guide libraries in devising a targeted, maximally effective strategy. OVERALL FINDINGS Students use social media to seek out, collaborate and obtain information from their classmates and academic peers. Even if students are not currently interacting with the library using social media, they are open to doing so. Social media sites also have uses for organizing research and sharing it with others. Enabling and fostering that use is an ideal role for libraries. However, social media is not considered an appropriate information source for research. Among universities based in the U.S. and Canada, there are relatively few differences that are statistically significant enough to mandate a different approach for academic libraries in either country. Likewise, there are few differences when looking at students pursuing various academic disciplines. The most significant gaps in acceptance of social media are between undergraduate students and those pursuing graduate degrees and for that reason, much of this paper presents those statistics separately. Overall, there are more similarities than there are differences between the two groups; but the differences are such that we present some special recommendations for engaging graduate students via social media. 2
  3. 3. Engaging Students Through Social Media SPECIFIC FINDINGS Use of social media in general GRADUATE UNDERGRADUATE 35% 29% 29% 27% 30% 25% 21% 21% 20% 14% 15% 10% 8% 5% 0% 10% 13% 13% 6% <1 1-3 4-6 7-9 GRADUATE 100% 10% 10-12 13+ UNDERGRADUATE 98% 98% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Average daily visits to social media sites. Nearly 30 percent report visiting social media sites 4-6 times per day, and undergraduate students are generally more likely than graduate students to be heavier users of social media. 42% 40% 51% 31% 18% 22% 1% 0% 7% 15% Social media sites used. Virtually all students, both graduates and undergraduates, use Facebook. Half of all undergraduates and somewhat fewer graduates use Twitter. Graduate students are more likely to use Google+ and especially LinkedIn. Among the Other category, there are a handful of responses that mention specific social media sites for file sharing, or public or school-hosted sites devoted to academics. Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Google+ Mendeley Other Recommendations for libraries Many academic libraries have already established a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and those who have not should consider doing so. Typically these pages carry announcements of changes to library hours, new resources, library events and other library “news.” Libraries can build their social networks by “friending” or “liking” prominent individuals and academic and student organizations, encouraging them to post to the library’s Facebook page, or re-tweeting their posts. This can make the library a “go-to” source of information about campus events and student life. Google+ and LinkedIn are more important to graduate students and used for collaborating and connecting with academic peers. Librarians can create LinkedIn and Google+ accounts to make the library part of the academic circle, and develop the know-how to help graduates use these tools effectively. Libraries can also use these social media tools to create and offer groups for research and interest areas within academic disciplines, or participate in existing groups among students with similar academic interests. 3
  4. 4. Engaging Students Through Social Media ATTITUDES TOWARD USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH Use of social media for research and study. The study asked, “Do you use social media for research or study purposes?” Thirty-nine percent of all respondents said they do use social media for these purposes, while 61 percent said no. However, as the rest of the study findings will reveal, asking morespecific questions uncovers higher use than indicated here.1 Yes 39.3% No 60.7% Prefer finding information elsewhere (e.g., library) 61.6% Associate social media with leisure 54.8% Questionable information/ data quality 52.6% Prefer other platforms for online primary research (e.g., surveys) 30.7% 26.8% Prefer other platforms for communicating with classmates Need more training in using social media for research 11% Prefer not to collaborate with other students 6.8% Other Reasons why students do not use social media for research and study. The most-cited reasons for not using social media are largely related to its use as an information source. There is far less resistance to using social sites for communication and collaboration. Students are drawing a line as to which uses of social media are academically appropriate. 4.7% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Recommendations for libraries Academic libraries considering social media should evaluate potential services in three distinct areas: 1. Contacting and communicating with classmates, other students with similar academic interests, and with faculty and librarians. 2. Collaborating with others by using sites to organize and share research. 3. Collecting data for research; that is, using content in social media sites as an authoritative information source. As the rest of the survey results show, the first recommendation presents the greatest opportunity for student adoption, and libraries should embrace it, since communicating via social media tools is such an intrinsic part of how students interact. The second has the greatest relevance and is a perfect fit for libraries in the digital age. The third is not mainstream ready, and there are reservations about the credibility of social sites, but libraries can play an educational role as part of their information-literacy initiatives. It appears that the responses to this question were highly dependent on how one defines “research or study purposes,” and what sorts of sites or services constitute “social media.” If the respondent took the question to mean, “Do you cite Facebook as an information source in your research?” the answer (except for sociologists researching the uses of Facebook) would naturally be no. When students were asked about specific research- and study-related activities and social media sites, a different picture emerged. 1 4
  5. 5. Engaging Students Through Social Media CURRENT AND LIKELY USES OF SOCIAL MEDIA Use of social media for specific tasks. The degree to which students use various social media sites for specific tasks provides direction as to where libraries should focus their efforts. Among students who use social media sites for academic tasks, Facebook is by far used the most frequently. Social media channels are used more often for contacting and sharing information with peers. Currently, they are used relatively less often for gathering data or organizing research. Students use social media channels relatively less often for reaching faculty, instructors and librarians. The reason could simply be that those individuals don’t routinely communicate through social sites, but through other means. Indeed, the category Other, which includes email, live chat, university-hosted tools and niche sites for supporting academic pursuits, which many of the respondents characterize as social media, are mentioned nearly as often as Facebook for some purposes. Those purposes include posing questions to instructors and librarians. So, it is important for libraries to consider their existing communication channels when they evaluate adding social media to the mix. 5
  6. 6. Engaging Students Through Social Media UNDERGRADUATE GRADUATE Pose a question to peers 34 Connect with other students with academic interests 45 33 39 Share research information with peers 8 Use research recommended by peers 1 Collaborate in a workspace 10 14 -7 Research or access content via an app Likelihood to use social media for specific tasks. Irrespective of the sites used, students were asked if they would likely use social media for specific tasks. Outreach to and communication with peers is the likeliest use, followed by workspace collaboration, gathering and organizing content, and finally posing questions to faculty and librarians. In general, undergraduates are more likely to use social media than graduate students for each purpose, although there are a few exceptions. 26 -33 -47 Create and organize your research -51 -53 Pose a research question to your faculty/instructors -62 Pose a research question to your librarians -48 -71 -65 -80 -60 -40 -20 0 20 40 60 NET LIKELIHOOD SCORE UNDERGRADUATE Ability to share likes or citations GRADUATE 44.8 23.4 Ability to ask questions of librarians in real time 27.1 Literature recommendations for different topics 24.2 Communities for specific areas of research/study 21.2 Tutorials/Research instruction 10.4 0 40.4 37.9 37.3 40.4 10 20 30 40 NET INTEREST SCORE 50 Interest in library services delivered through social media. Students were asked to indicate their interest if their library did provide certain services via social media. Undergraduates are generally more interested than graduate students, but both groups express at least some interest. None of these items have negative scores; that is, more express interest than express disinterest in each of the services mentioned. While the likelihood scores (previous question) indicate that use of social media to ask questions of librarians is an unlikely use at present, many students would be interested if they offered real-time response. Recommendations for libraries Academic libraries considering social media should evaluate potential services in three distinct areas. Clearly, libraries need to market their social media presence and the services they offer. While students are unlikely to be currently reaching out to librarians using social media, this is more likely due to the lack of promotion. The willingness of students to communicate with their peers via social media could be leveraged by making that form of communication available with the library as well, and promoting it. • • • • Establish a Facebook page and/or Twitter page for the library; individual librarians can create Twitter handles and should make response as near real-time as possible. Set up LinkedIn groups, specific to academic disciplines, for access by graduate students in particular. Secondarily, establish a page on Google+ and create groups specific to academic disciplines. Create community pages or sites for specific academic disciplines, hosted by the library. Provide online tools for organizing research, managing citations, sharing and collaboration, such as RefWorks. 6
  7. 7. Engaging Students Through Social Media TRAINING IN SOCIAL MEDIA USE GRADUATE 100% 95% UNDERGRADUATE 96% 80% Students who have received training on social media. Students were asked if they have received training on use of social media for research purposes. Only five to six percent, or one in 20, have received such training. 60% 40% 20% 0% 6% NO YES GRADUATE 100% 5% 86% UNDERGRADUATE 92% Knowledge of available training resources. Students were asked if they know where to find training on using social media for research. Only 14 percent of graduate students and eight percent of undergraduates, respectively, know where to get such training. 80% 60% 40% 14% 20% 0% 8% NO YES Recommendations for libraries • • • • Expand information-literacy instruction to include using social media for research. For example, teach students about the social media features of online databases and research tools such as RefWorks; show students how to contact librarians through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Teach students how to connect with researchers in their discipline through social media. For example, teach how to participate in a Twitter chat. Introduce and inform graduate students about other sites with discipline-specific communities such as Quora and the editing side of Wikipedia. Consider including tools such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and school services such as an intranet or Blackboard/ Moodle in information-literacy efforts. 7
  8. 8. Engaging Students Through Social Media CONCLUSIONS Use of social media is second-nature to students, and libraries can secure their place in the academic life of the institution by using these tools and platforms to engage students in relevant ways. While our survey uncovers some skepticism about use of social media for academics in general, the fact is students are using these communication channels for some academic purposes and will adopt them if they are promoted and offered. Proactive libraries will act on the recommendations that are most appropriate to their students, and engage using the communication channels that students find most useful in their lives. ABOUT PROQUEST (WWW.PROQUEST.COM) ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company has forged a 70-year reputation as a gateway to the world’s knowledge—from dissertations to governmental and cultural archives to news, in all its forms. Its role is essential to libraries and other organizations whose missions depend on the delivery of complete, trustworthy information. ProQuest’s massive information pool is made accessible in research environments that accelerate productivity, empowering users to discover, create, and share knowledge. An energetic, fast-growing organization, ProQuest includes the ProQuest®, Bowker®, Dialog®, ebrary®, and Serials Solutions® businesses and notable research tools such as the RefWorks® and Pivot™ services, as well as its Summon® web-scale discovery service. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with offices around the world. BETH MCGOUGH, MLIS, PROQUEST The Social Media Manager for ProQuest, Beth McGough graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in History and received her MLIS from Wayne State University. She joined ProQuest as Library Holdings Consultant with the UMI microform sales group, and has held various positions in Product Management and Marketing. Her service to the library community has included working on committees with the Michigan Library Association, American Library Association, and NASIG. She has also consulted on library projects and public affairs for a large urban library, and attended several Library Legislative Days in Washington, D.C. to lobby on libraries’ behalf. 789 E. Eisenhower Parkway · Ann Arbor, MI 48108 · 800.521.0600 · www.proquest.com 8 P8879