Category Archives: Social Media

The adoption of Social Media continues to grow for both faculty and student. How can social media support teaching and learning?

From community college to college community

When students drop courses at our community college, we ask them to complete a course drop survey form explaining their reasons for dropping.  The majority state for “personal reasons” the second most frequent response is for “other” reasons. Apparently we are not unique. Neal Raisman recently shared on his blog – “Great Service Matters” – the results of a study of why students leave college. Many of these students at the point of departure state they leave for “personal reasons”.

CC-BY-NC-SA by Luke Chan on Flickr

CC-BY-NC-SA by Luke Chan on Flickr

In the study, 864 students were interviewed after at least six months following their leaving college. The break in time was intended to give students an opportunity to be more reflective and open about their reasons for leaving.

Twenty-six percent of students reported they left because the “college doesn’t care”. Another twenty-four reported “poor service” as their main reason for leaving – which could be interpreted as another way of saying that the college doesn’t care. Together, these two responses account for fifty percent of students leaving school.

That’s huge.

In a previous post I shared the results of our own student survey of online learners asking what we could do to help them be more successful. It was clear from these student responses that they valued courses where the instructor was available and accessible – in other words – cared about them and how they were doing in the course.

What does it mean for a college to care?

Raisman talks about the importance of customer service. Certainly responsiveness is an important component to quality customer service, including something as obvious as having people available to answer calls, emails, texts, etc. in a timely manner. Listening to what students have to say, and then putting ourselves in their shoes is key to responsive and caring customer service.

Inclusiveness is another essential consideration. Many students at the community college are first generation college students. Their parents, friends and family may not be in a position to advise them about college life, expectations, and what it takes to succeed. Keeping this in mind, we need to consider ways of connecting students to the campus. For on-campus students this may mean student organizations or study groups. For online students we need to consider virtual connections that may leverage social media, or collaborative class projects, virtual office hours, etc. With more than 80% adoption of mobile technology by college students, there has never been a better time to leverage social media as a means of connecting all students to the college community.

Student support is more than a responsive friendly help desk or online tutoring – it includes a creating a sense of community for both the on-campus and the online student. If we are to succeed in retaining our distance learners,  the community college must become more of a college community.

Does social media belong in the classroom?

Social media, when used for teaching and learning encourage student-to-faculty, student-to-student, and student-to-content interaction and thereby have the potential to increase learner engagement.

CC-BY-NC-SA by Espacio Camon on Flickr

CC-BY-NC-SA by Espacio Camon on Flickr

A few years ago, Rey Junco researched the effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades and found that “Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students and to mobilize faculty into a more active and participatory role.”

Although use of social media has increased for both students and teachers their preference is for personal rather than for educational purposes.

The Social Media for Teaching and Learning report by Pearson & Babson finds faculty use of social media has increased in all areas: personal, professional, and educational. However, most faculty still have some strong reservations when it comes to use in the classroom. Although it appears that both faculty and students see the value of integrating mobile technologies into teaching and learning, both groups are concerned with privacy and prefer to keep their personal separate from their academic lives.

“Concerns about privacy, both for themselves and for their students, and about maintaining the class as a private space for free and open discussion, have been at the top of the list of concerns in all of the reports. Until faculty feel that this issue has been addressed, the wide-scale adoption of commercial social media tools in the classroom will remain limited.”

– Pearson: Social Media for Teaching & Learning

The very nature of Social media is highly interactive and therefore engaging – permitting us to share our stuff – news articles, blogs, videos, photos, etc. – with our connections in practically real-time.

shareThe advantage of social media over LMS tools like the discussion forum is the convenience of sharing directly from the media to our connections – like the difference between email and texting.

“This is cool! I’ll share it. There – I shared it!” …five people liking it and three comments later and we’re engaged in a conversation.

So how do we get around this privacy thing?

The critical thing about social media when it comes to privacy is the social network. Some social networks can be made either open or closed, public or private. For example some Google Plus Communities are made available for anyone to join while others are by permission only.

Our campus uses Gmail for student email, so virtually every student has a Google Plus account whether they know it or not. They just need activate it. As an instructor I can create a private community in Google Plus for my course, email the students in my class and invite them to join. Content shared within a private Google Plus community is visible only to those who are members of the community.

There – we have a private social network. Now what?

The latest ECAR study on undergraduate students and information technology shows that students are willing to use their mobile technologies for educational purposes, they just need some instruction on how to do so.

With a little orientation students can quickly get up to speed.

Students need to know how to manage their networks or “circles” in Google Plus and then how to like (+1)  and to share media when they find it. As the community owners, we need to set some guidelines for our community so students know what is appropriate to share and how to engage in the conversation. We also need to show them the mechanics of the tools.

Categories can be created within the community. By using hashtags (e.g. #edtech) when sharing or posting media, the content and discussions can be organized into various topics and forums. This works great for managing small group discussion and assignments or for topically organizing the media and other content.

Students can share various media (location, photos, video) directly from their phones, tablets, or computers. Hangouts (live chat and video) permit up to ten students to interact remotely in real-time with desktop sharing, audio and video. This is especially helpful with collaboration in small study groups.

The Hangouts on Air feature permits the instructor or guest speakers to join the class from a distance and to stream, as well as record lectures, which are then automatically posted to the community timeline.

The private community is not limited to the classroom but permits the instructor to decide who can join the community. By expanding the network students from multiple sections, upper-classmates, alumni, and experts in the field can engage in classroom discussions.

Google Plus communities permit the faculty and students to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. anything stored in Google Drive – permitting students to collaborate in the development of class projects or share their portfolios.

Does social media belong in the classroom? I would say yes, depending on what you hope to achieve. There are many ways of engaging students by extending the classroom using social media if you are willing to invest a little time and effort to set up a private network.

How colleges leverage social media…

Social Media is essentially about connecting and sharing. Some of the most common ways colleges use social media include marketing, recruitment, and keeping in touch with alumni.


CC-BY-NC-SA by roger g1 on Flickr

Our campus has a Facebook page for students to “like” us and to keep up on whats happening on campus. Facebook continues to be the number one social network for all populations and can be leveraged in a variety of ways to help market the college, its programs, and campus events.

Recruitment is an important function of social media. Marquette University offers a virtual tour of their campus to prospective students and their parents using Instagram.

Whether connecting with friends and family through Facebook, networking with coworkers and colleagues through LinkedIn, following someone on Twitter, or sharing your video on YouTube, social media is increasingly becoming part of the average person’s daily life.

Some 42% of online adults now use multiple social networking sites. In addition, Instagram users are nearly as likely as Facebook users to check in to the site on a daily basis.

Pew Internet: Social Media Update 2013

Social media helps us to expand our professional connections as well as to organize and categorize connections into virtual communities. We can join groups, create our own, or invite others join our communities. By creating or joining existing circles, groups, or communities we can build connections with others around common interests and expand our networks far beyond what would otherwise be possible without social media.

By leveraging social media to create a sense of community, we can actually improve persistence and student success. This becomes especially relevant for the increasing percentage of students enrolling in online learning.

Community development is not simply developing a virtual campus or an online resource portal that includes an infinite number of electronic links to student resources and chat rooms. Online administrators must design meaningful opportunities for students to interact with their peers, faculty, adjuncts, and staff in a supportive and inclusive environment.

– K. Betts (2008), Online Human Touch (OHT), JOLT

By leveraging social media to help students better connect to their program of study we foster community both within and outside the classroom. These connections allow students to  be more than observers, but rather participants in the campus community by contributing to the conversation and the culture of the institution, program, and classroom.

A Social Media Primer…

Social Media by Eric Schwartzman on Flickr

CC-BY-NC by Eric Schwartzman on Flickr

There has been increased interest on our campus lately in the use of social media for instruction. Some of the discussion has been generated by a growing body of knowledge on how social media can increase learner engagement, as well as a need to leverage social media for marketing programs.

I have been using social media in both my personal and professional life for several years – sharing various media on Facebook, WordPress, Flickr, Twitter, Slideshare, and others. This discussion has me thinking about my own use of social media and networks, how the various aspects connect and blend. It seems to me that social media is becoming more and more complex.

For the next few posts I will attempt to consider different aspects of social media as well as how they contrast and complement one-another. First, I thinks it’s best we have a common language…

What do we mean by  “social media”?

“A term used to describe a variety of Web-based platforms, applications and technologies that enable people to socially interact with one another online. Some examples of social media sites and applications include Facebook,, Twitter, Digg, blogs and other sites that have content based on user participation and user-generated content (UGC).” – Webopedia

People often use “social media” and “social networks” interchangeably but there are some who feel strongly the differences are “vast as day and night”.

“…social networking is an act of engagement. Groups of people with common interests, or like-minds, associate together on social networking sites and build relationships through community.” – Social Media Today

I think perhaps the lines have become blurred over time but essentially social media is a medium for publishing user-generated content – could be writing a blog, or posting a video, sharing a presentation, art, photos, or any combination thereof.

Here is a list of the Top 15 Most Popular Social Networks as of December 2013…

I actively post and share on about half of them – mostly to do with educational technology #edtech, but also for topics of personal interest: #leadership, #greenbuilding, #productivity, etc. How do you use social media personally / professionally?

Next up… Social Media in Higher Education.

Replacing Google Reader

I see that Google has announced they will no longer support Reader as of this summer.

I have been using Google Reader for the past several years in an attempt to stay informed with Educational Technology in these times of constant change.

So now what?

I’ve decided to give Flipboard a try.

Flipboard is a mobile app – designed to keep people informed and up-to-date with news and social media. It works with your  iPad, iPhone, or Android device. One thing I like about Flipboard is the ability to import Google Reader feeds.


Google Reader – Feeds & Folders set up on Flipboard

To get started, install the app and create an account. Click on the search icon and select the services you wish to import (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) – in this case, Google Reader. Your feeds will be displayed from the drop down “Feeds and Folders” menu and you can select the feeds you wish to add individually.

As far as sharing goes… after clicking on a story in Flipboard, open the original article and you will find a share link icon displayed in the upper right corner of the window. – here is where I link my Twitter account to Flipboard – making tweeting using Flipboard very convenient.

That’s it – as far as setting up Flipboard to replace Google Reader. I actually prefer using my tablet over my desktop – I find it much easier to read and share.

un-sharing – bullies in the sand box

As I was scrolling through some older blog posts the other day, I noticed one of the images was missing. I like to use creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA images whenever possible to help promote, as well as model, the idea of sharing open content for education.

Flickr - Creative Commons-Attribution-Non Commerclal-Share Alike

Flickr – Creative Commons-Attribution-Non Commerclal-Share Alike

Flickr has a wealth of CC-BY-NC-SA licensed media – nearly 74 million as of this morning. I can nearly always find something that fits the topic of my current post.

Apparently with the image in question, the author decided to change the license from the more open Creative Commons to All Rights Reserved. Creative Commons licenses are intended to be something you cannot revoke. Unfortunately, Flickr doesn’t prohibit someone from changing the license. This can cause problems for those who have licensed the media following the rules.

So, what happens if an artist decides to change his or her mind and later reserve all rights – when someone else has created new media following the rules – potentially at considerable cost in adapting the media (which may be the case when derivatives are in play)?

The CC-BY-NC-SA license means the artist or author has pre-licensed their creation, permitting other to use it under specific conditions: the licensee agrees to attribute the work to the author (BY), the material is used only for non-commercial purposes (NC), and the resulting material – or derivative of the media is to be similarly licensed (SA). Under the CC-Share Alike license others down the line are free to reuse the same media again, as the resulting media must be licensed similarly – kind of a pay-it-forward approach.

The thing is… I have no means of proving the media was Creative Commons licensed at the time I used it and would likely have some difficulty in supporting any such argument going forward. In my case, I can just break the link and replace it with another.

Going forward, I plan to take a screenshot of the page and license and send a message to the author thanking them for using the license and informing them of how I plan to use their materials.

Does this solve the problem? Probably not. We have a long way to go in figuring out copyright and the Internet. Creative Commons and similar open licensing is a critical piece of the big picture, but there is still much yet to be sorted out.

How can it be open if it’s closed?

Beach Closed

CC-BY-NC-SA by Nick Jeffery on Flickr

Flatworld Knowledge recently announced they will no longer be offering open textbooks for free. Open textbooks are texts that have been copyrighted under an open licensing model.

Creative Commons and other open licensing options allow the author to retain copyright while permitting users to freely use their media and depending on the license (as with the above photo) to adapt the content to meet their needs, as long as they are given credit / attribution, use the material for non-commercial purposes, and share under a similar license – as with this blog.

According to Jennifer Howard at The Chronicle, “as of January 1, 2012, Flatworld Knowledge, which used to describe itself as the world’s largest publisher of free and open textbooks online will no longer offer content at no charge”.

Flatworld Knowledge has been offering open licensed textbook versions for various e-readers (e.g. Nook, Kindle) along with ancillary materials for a relatively low cost ($20 – $25) in comparison to some commercially available textbooks upwards of $200 per text. Certainly this has been at great savings to the student.

But until now, they had also offered the free text version available as well. This meant no student enrolled in the course where their instructor adopted Flatworld Knowledge books, would be without a text. I must admit to having some difficulty understanding this new open but not free business model. If its open but not free – maybe its closed?