Monday, 12 November 2012

Social Media For Universities; What’s in it for them?



How Social Media Can Enhance Learning In Higher Education
Social media is transforming the way the world does business, the platforms provide a great way to connect online, share information, gain valuable feedback, and build relationships as well as network. Today the implications are huge and the prizes are enormous for those businesses & individuals who handle it right. Let’s face it; social media is here to stay, it’s not a fad neither a ‘thing’ for teenagers anymore!
However we haven't seen local universities embrace social media and integrate it to teaching leave alone introduce units that tackle various disciplines of this new media. At Social Edge Africa we are very passionate about changing and making learning more fun in universities through SocialPRO clubs that we launched on the 25th of October 2012 at the University of Nairobi.
With the growth of social media usage, it is a fact that students check their Facebook and twitter accounts more often than before.
Universities need to recognize the opportunities in social media especially when it comes to the use of social networking sites. Our universities will gain more access to audiences (students, faculty, alumni, support staff etc) to share content or information through social media, something which would cost a lot more in the past.
This will change how students interact and engage with  members of the faculty, give feedback on what they are taught, ask questions and help lecturers share content (research findings, assignments, useful links, class notes and other relevant educational materials) across the various platforms. If members of faculty especially embrace and use social media to share content with the students, that will make learning more fun as content can be posted in creative formats that are consumable on mobile hence improve learning as they will not only understand but make sense of what they are being taught. It enhances universities to provide more information to the students, inspiring them to develop ideas, enhancing collaboration and therefore making them more innovative.
It will be possible for students to come together, discuss and interact and that takes learning out of the class room thus creates more opportunities to learning and teaching by simply harnessing the power of social media.
Students should no longer only use social media for managing their social life and expressing their identity but also use it as a platform where they can get more information on their areas of learning, share innovative ideas with other students from different universities, get to know what they think of the idea, ask for some advice on how that can be utilized and maybe apply the idea when the chance brings itself to light. That way, our students will be shaping the future of Kenya!
The growing use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter offer great educational opportunities. Lecturers and students should extend their communication outside the classroom. A dialogue between a lecturer and students can help students get immediate solutions to their education related queries instant rather than wait for the lecturer to be available another day for them to get their answers.
In the social networking sites, students can form education-oriented groups and put good use of social media to extend their informational and educational outreach rather than form ‘mchongowano’ groups to expose them to a full world of discovery on various topics outside the units or course one is pursuing.
There is so much potential in our social networks towards education as these platforms help students to work collaboratively across universities thus enhance sharing of course content, ideas, information and opportunities online.

Social media has the advantage of ease of access, portability of technology, simplicity, and freedom of speech and expression. By the use of social networking sites, students can reach their career goals faster and more easily than now. It will also educate students who have no idea or know very little concerning a particular field through the fact that they are interested in a certain subject in the field of learning. Some students are already using social media to improve their educational skills through activities like blogging.

We should thus urge or inspire students to be content creators online not just consuming and tapping into other people's minds and findings.
Universities can also use social media to promote specific events and get students to participate as guests, volunteer time in planning and assist in some way as this helps them equip themselves with more skills and network. 
With social media the university community can engage, participate and follow an event as its happening. Live video streaming can be done inexpensively these days, if that's technical, video footage can be edited and posted on the university site and shared across platforms, better still uploaded on YouTube or follow the event trough a common hashtag?
Through social media, universities can notify their students on latest developments, new hires, major events (partnerships, affiliations, conferences, and graduation), emergencies and tragedies easily and faster with a tweet and a Facebook post or message.
Universities should embrace a ‘less stuff, more content’ strategy. Days are coming when we will need textbooks less. Most of the content will be shared online for the students to easily access them.
Universities could make sure that they have a centralized Twitter and Facebook account that broadly covers the institutions, but particularly for larger schools, breaking up news feeds into smaller accounts for say, the business school and the law school, promotes allegiance and engages a more targeted audience.
Social media too provides universities with effective ways and opportunities for alumni networks to strengthen the bonds between the alumni and former institution, sporting club, college, university, and soforth.  Twitter and LinkedIn for example connects people across fields and businesses, making networking easier for everyone involved. So for alumni who might want to connect with others from their university for career or personal purposes, Twitter acts as a great connector.
It will be known how best this works or if it works by trying it out in our universities and letting the students say how best it works for them.
Did you like this post? If so please follow us on Twitter @SocialPROclubs & share this post with your friends. Thanks!

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