Tag: social media

Resistance to Social Media Amongst Student Affairs Professionals

I worry when I hear other student affairs colleagues I come across online and face-to-face say they don’t believe in social media because they’re a fad and/or they don’t see the value in these tools. I worry when I hear comments like “I don’t use Facebook, I don’t see why others are using it” or “I don’t see the value of social media in how we do business in student affairs. They don’t provide any additional value.” My concern is that some of the resistance to social media seems to come from the perspective of “what’s in it for me” instead of considering these tools from student perspectives. This is the type of selfish perspective that worries me. I consider this selfish because folks who think this way think of their needs and place their value systems first instead of those they serve. There are those whose minds cannot be changed regardless of countless pieces of evidence about the impact and use of social media amongst the student population. Social media are more than about technology. To appreciate social media, one must consider how these tools impact communication, relationships, community building, engagement, learning, identity, and personal/career development. As student affairs professionals and educators, aren’t these the same issues, we must consider when serving the needs/wants of our students?

Before I continue, some of those reading this will argue that not every student uses social media and not every student uses mobile devices. That is true; just walk around campuses, and you’ll observe many students using these technologies. Pew Research and ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013 also confirm our students’ high use of social media, mobile, and other technologies.

I hear this type of thinking too many times, what I call “legacy thinking,” wherein folks reminisce and try to impose/apply them today. This is not only limited to how they approach social media but to other technologies and how students live their lives today. But at some point, we must adopt the attitude of “it’s not about me; it’s about the students.” Do I expect everyone to become experts and accept every technology blindly? Of course not. I personally examine technology with cautious optimism. But, if we are not open to examining the potential benefits and pitfalls of social media, how can we educate and model to our students how to take advantage and conduct themselves appropriately using these tools? As student affairs professionals, regardless of our personal beliefs and biases against social media, we should probably try to understand what social media means in terms of our professional responsibilities and consider them from students’ perspectives.

If there’s a message I would like to tell these folks, it would be to learn a little bit about social media, if not for themselves, but for the sake of the students they serve.

Using Social Media And Mobile for New Student Orientation

Summer orientation programs for many universities have either started or about to start. These orientation programs introduce incoming students and their families to the university through a series of events and activities.  Universities can take advantage of mobile and social media to enhance the orientation experience of these new students. [pullquote]According to a study released in April 2012 on mobile internet use by Pew Research, 46% of American adults (18+) own a smartphone.[/pullquote] The research organization comScore estimates that 30% of mobile users, with almost 40 million in the US, access social networking sites daily on their mobile phones. Orientation programs can also benefit by using these technologies to gather attendee feedback as well as for their staff to document their experience.

Listed below are a few ideas to start with and I would love to hear your ideas as well.

Customer Support

  • “Listen” to conversations on social networks related to your program. Use Google Alerts to be notified either via email or to an rss reader when keywords you define appear on the web. Another site to use is SocialMention.
  • Answer questions on a facebook page or create an account/ hashtag on twitter for attendees to follow and use.
  • Provide real-time information such as change of venues/schedules.
  • Provide guides to attendees such as schedules and map for mobile devices. An example is Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) use of  Guidebook.


Community Building

  • Use groups or facebook apps like Inigral Schools App to provide attendees the forum to connect based on interests and demographics. Providing new students the opportunity to connect even before they attend orientation makes their experience more comfortable as they already know other students.
  • Software like OrgSync provide universities  to build communities amongst incoming students as well. In addition, orientation staff can communicate with the students via email and text messages as well as collect feedback from orientation leaders and students alike.
  • Utilizing student leaders as social media ambassadors is a good way to welcome and introduce incoming students to the campus.

Event Coverage

  • Staff and attendees can use twitter backchannels to ask/share additional information related to the topic discussed at the events. Through the backchannels, Orientation staff can also get some feedback on how the attendees perceived the events.

Document Events/Experience

  • Orientation staff (including students) can document their experience, lessons learned for assessments and future staff using blogs and wikis.
  • Curate attendees’ comments/feedback/experience provided on various social networks using Storify. Christopher Conzen (@clconzen) uses Storify to document his NASPA Region II MidManager’s Institute experience.

General Campus Info/Other Uses

  • Provide campus mobile websites to campus services, maps, academic information (schedule of classes, course catalog) so attendees can browse while they are waiting for events and while they are registering for courses. Browse through a higher ed mobile directory by Dave Olsen (@dmolsen) to get an idea of how universities are using mobile.
  • Provide staff with mobile devices and mobile applications to conduct business away from their desks. These could include: check-in/check-out, access student information, communicate with other staff (via text, email, twitter, etc), access to schedules and other program info.

Orientation programs are where new students get introduced to their upcoming  university lives and academic careers.  Campuses should use this opportunity to educate the students with the concept of digital identity and how their activities online can have both negative and positive impacts on their careers, rather than waiting until they are about to graduate from their universities. Eric Stoller (@ericstoller) introduces this idea on his blog post  Digital Identity Development: Orientation and Career Services.

While I offer some suggestions on using social media and mobile for Orientation use, I am cognizant of the fact that not all students have access nor the resources and familiarity to utilize these technologies. Orientation programs should use these technologies appropriately and not severely disadvantage some students by not providing the essential services to all.

What other ideas can you suggest?

Social Media in Higher Education – Challenges/Opportunities

Facebook at Universities

Social media presents challenges and opportunities for universities in the way they communicate and provide services to students, enhance their educational experiences, and prepare them for the workforce. Social media can be defined as a set of online tools that people use to share content, opinions, and ideas that create potential interactions. The most popular social media sites are facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.  Combined with mobile devices and cloud computing, all known as consumer technologies, social media has enabled students to have access to information anytime, anywhere.

The majority of college students are members of the Millennial Generation, those between the ages of 18-29 years old. They are also known as the Net Generation because of their generally increased use and familiarity with communications media and technology. According to a study conducted in 2011 by Pew Internet Center, 61% of online Americans under the age of 30 use social network sites on a typical day. A 2010 survey conducted by Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania found that of the 800 students and faculty that responded, roughly 20 % of the respondents spent between 11 and 20 hours a week using social media.

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High School Students, Digital Citizenship and Social Media for College Prep

Social media is now used by some university admissions departments to screen applicants for admittance. In addition,  some employers are also using social media to perform background checks as part of their hiring process. For these reasons, it is more important than ever for high school students to realize the impacts of their online activities and how to be good digital citizens.

Students who may not have parents/family members who are well-versed when it comes to using technology and specifically social media will need some guidance to not only avoid potential pitfalls of social media but to take advantage of the benefits it offer as well.  Educating these students may have to fall on the responsibilities of the same pre-college academic preparation professionals who are now educating them about the college application process, financial aid and meeting college requirements.  High schools themselves will also need to be involved in the effort . For college prep professionals and high schools to be able to educate the students require: 1) that they themselves are knowledgeable about social media, including the benefits and risks involved, 2) this new responsibility should formally included in the employees’ job descriptions and 3) the high schools are open to embracing this idea that social media provides benefits to their students and they will have to weigh this within the constraints of policies such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act, security concerns, bureaucracies, lack of resources, and most significantly, cultures that are hesitant to the use of social media.

Pre-college academic prep units who are interested in including social media education for high school students as part of the services they offer should look into existing resources such as the Digital Citizenship website, programs such as the Digital Citizenship and Creative Content program and existing high school curriculums for guidance. They should also look at how to make this effort sustainable, given the resources required. If you have experience or know of resources related to this effort, I would love to hear from you.

image credit


I Don’t Use Facebook Much, I Don’t See How Students Do Also

How would you respond to someone, especially to one in a position of authority, says those words to you?

This is a paraphrase of a response  I received when I was talking to a campus colleague about potentially using facebook for communication with students.  I can respect the idea that maybe, just maybe, facebook is not the right medium to communicate “official campus messages” like prompting them to log in to the campus student information system website to check a very important message. What I have a hard time accepting is the thinking that just because one does not see the value of a tool or that they do not use it means everyone else share the same point of view. Of course itt works the other way as well that just because I use social media heavily that I expect every student to be using it as much as I do. But rather than imposing our own biases, how about rather from looking at social media from our customers’ perspectives. There are studies like Pew Internet Research that shows young adults (18-29), the majority of our students, are indeed using social media.

I only wonder how much of this thinking prevents organizations, specifically higher ed,  from keeping up with the wants and needs of those we serve. I get the argument that we don’t have the necessary resource to meet the demands, that we have policies that we must adhere to and prevents us from using certain technologies, but I think it’s this mentality of elitism, the desire to keep the status quo that is a bigger problem.

Change can be scary and I wish I know what the future holds in term of how social media fits into what we do. What I do know is social media is here to stay and for those who disagree with this notion, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.


image credit – http://www.autonettv.com.




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