MyNotes - Social Media Use in Higher Education


In an earlier blog entry, Being Ethical and Using the Social Network, I took a stab at responding to Harold Jarche's question. This evening, I remembered that the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT) might have some relevant research, and, sure enough, stumbled on some in my first try to locate it.

For me, some of the "money" quotes include the following:

  • On the subject of using social media, "he [Alexander] also challenged the community to look at how higher education faculty currently put forward "a complex, contradictory mix of openness and restriction, public engagement and cloistering". This seems directly relevant to the points Harold Jarche was making in his blog entry, as well as previous entries about "cloistering" or using free software to establish open, not for profit areas to share ideas and learning.
  • "Further complicating the ownership question is the fact that these new creations are often hosted on servers and services owned by for-profit companies. 
  • Most users of these services are not aware that the providers of these free tools may claim ownership of the work created and residing on their servers"
  • Should faculty ask or require students to use public systems that gather preference data on users, which the sites then sell to other companies as valuable targeted marketing data? Facebook has repeatedly made news headlines about privacy issues and access to user profiles. Lately, the concern has been third party applications misusing information without users even knowing that their information is being made available (Young, 2008). But perhaps this new Google-infused culture renders the privacy issue moot, as Google appears to be the search engine of choice and has long been mining user emails and search histories without widespread dissent. If nothing else, faculty can use these issues as teaching topics that aim to enhance students' media literacy.

You can read other relevant points below, as well as read the entire study yourself.

MyNotes:
JOLT - Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
    • MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
      • Vol. 7, No.4, December 2011
        • Social Media Use in Higher Education: Key Areas to Consider for Educators Julia E. Rodriguez Assistant Professor Information Literacy and Educational Technology Librarian Oakland University Rochester, MI 48309 USA juliar@oakland.edu
          • The ubiquitous term "social media" has become inherently connected to the popular YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook websites. Describing media as "social" implies that it exists in a social space and/or users interact in some way with the media. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) defined social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content" (p.61).
            • social media is the arena where users can "engage in the creation and development of content and gather online to share knowledge, information, and opinions using web-based applications and tools" (Grover & Stewart, 2010, p. 9).
              • This call to users to become content creators radically challenges the traditional authoritatively-driven teaching and learning model.
                • When students actively participate in knowledge creation for themselves and their peers by employing the tools they use every day, they are changing the flow of information from "unidirectional to multidirectional," (Grover & Stewart, 2010, p. 10-11) and defining a new Learning 2.0 paradigm .
                  • Lee and McLoughlin (2007) noted that this reality is one where teachers/educators relinquish some control to embrace the informal leaner-centered pedagogies empowering twenty-first century learners; they went on to state, "these changes are inevitable and unavoidable, given the morphing nature of higher education."
                    • Advocates feel that the wide acceptance of social media sites outside the higher education arena establishes a congruity easily transferable to community building in e-learning, which has the potential to transform higher education as a whole (Hoffman, 2009)
                      • case studies demonstrate "multiple benefits for using SNS [social networking software], including, retention, socialization, collaborative learning, student engagement, sense of control and ownership" (p.3), along with a list of other perks for students and instructors.
                        • Alexander (2006) introduced a variety of social media tools and explains how they could be used in higher education classes. Yet, he also challenged the community to look at how higher education faculty currently put forward "a complex, contradictory mix of openness and restriction, public engagement and cloistering" (p. 42). Duffy and Bruns (2006) detailed the possibilities for using social software tools such as blogs, wikis, and RSS feeds in educational settings, stating that our new 'social' and 'mobile' reality of delivering educational content to students must match what they will encounter after graduation.
                          • Wheeler, Yeomans, and Wheeler (2008) evaluated collaborative learning by students who use a wiki to create user-generated content for their learning experience. Despite students' hesitation to create work in a public setting, or to work as a group and the limitations of evaluating individual contributions, they still felt the tool held great potential to transform education. They emphasized that the primary benefit of using the tool is for collaboration or extending engagement outside the classroom and advised teachers to act only as facilitators or moderators in this environment.
                            • faculty attitudes strongly predicted whether or not they actually adopted a new method. Their recommendations called on administrators to promote the use of new social software , emphasizing their gradual learning curve and congruity with current practices. Further, they suggest that efforts should be made to build educators' overall confidence and comfort with new technologies (Aijan & Hartshorne, 2008 ).
                              • data demonstrate that students using Twitter "had a significantly greater increase in engagement than the control group, as well as higher semester grade point averages" (p. 1). The researchers strongly feel these results are evidence to support the educational usefulness of the tool and social media as a means to reach higher educational outcomes.
                                • The European Commission, interested in promoting innovation in higher education, has funded a three year iCamp research project which " investigated how Web 2.0 technologies can be implemented in higher education settings." (n.d., p. 6). This has resulted in the free published handbook, How to Use Social Software in Higher Education. The handbook is aimed at educators who are interested in incorporating social software into the learning process.
                                  • Missing from this dialogue, however, is discussion of how best to tackle some of the practical, less paradigm-shifting questions about ownership, privacy and security, access, accessibility and compliance, stability of technology, intellectual property rights, and copyright law.
                                    • When using social media tools in the classroom, the strict definition of original author or owner is blurred. For example, who owns the IP rights to a class-created wiki or blog, or the items developed for an island in Second Life? As faculty members recognize the possibilities of using these Web 2.0 tools to engage students, they are becoming co-authors/creators alongside their students. Students begin to see these creations as portfolio work, and desire some ownership of what they've created.
                                      • Further complicating the ownership question is the fact that these new creations are often hosted on servers and services owned by for-profit companies. Most users of these services are not aware that the providers of these free tools may claim ownership of the work created and residing on their servers
                                        • What is perhaps the most well-known controversy of this nature arose in 2009 when Facebook changed its terms of service agreement with its users, granting itself the rights to use photos, posts and content that users make available on the system in any way it desires--even in cases where users have terminated their accounts. Facebook's explanation was that this change was necessary to maintain cohesion and system functionality, but the public perception was that Facebook was staking claim to users' copyrighted materials. The outcry was so great that Facebook returned to their original policy (Stone & Stelter, 2009; McCarthy, 2009).
                                          • While faculty members may understand that having access to another's work does not make them owners or give them rights to freely use the content as they wish, this concept may not be so clear for students. Recognizing the ease with which digital content can be copied, remixed, and reused, it is wise to facilitate discussions or assign readings about ownership and attribution, addressing ethical and legal content use.
                                            • Intellectual property rights and ownership questions are at the center of a complex web, overlapped by issues encompassing the use of copyrighted materials. Stuck in this web are other important concerns that must be considered such as matters of privacy rights; the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); security; accessibility; access; compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and the longevity and stability of these tools and services .
                                              • Even though social media tools being used do not collect enough personally identifiable data to threaten FERPA laws in most cases, the issue of student privacy in the broader context is still one that should be strongly considered.
                                                • Should faculty ask or require students to use public systems that gather preference data on users, which the sites then sell to other companies as valuable targeted marketing data? Facebook has repeatedly made news headlines about privacy issues and access to user profiles. Lately, the concern has been third party applications misusing information without users even knowing that their information is being made available (Young, 2008). But perhaps this new Google-infused culture renders the privacy issue moot, as Google appears to be the search engine of choice and has long been mining user emails and search histories without widespread dissent. If nothing else, faculty can use these issues as teaching topics that aim to enhance students' media literacy.
                                                  • Common sense would dictate that even when an online space is restricted to a specific classroom, it is never wise to publicly discuss student grades or put forth any critical review or feedback of an individual student's performance.
                                                    • The stability of the technology and the systems professors use for teaching and research is often taken for granted. Unless there is an outage, accessing the network from anywhere, using technology in the classroom, or teaching with a course management system (CMS) are usually effortless tasks that happen repeatedly throughout the day without much thought. However, if the network goes down in the middle of a lecture or files that were uploaded to the CMS disappear or are somehow corrupted, the reliability and stability of these systems quickly become an issue.
                                                      • Campus systems need to establish support mechanisms: there should always be someone to call, be it the university technology services department or the technology help desk. However, when faculty members use off-site, in-the-cloud software, the reliability and stability of these systems are all outside the traditional support structure. New start-up companies (and even some well-established ones) can disappear overnight, can be bought by competitors, or change their use agreements without notice, all of which jeopardize the users' content.
                                                        • Social media and remixing of creative expressions inherently challenges the third exclusive right of creating derivative works based on the original. All of these activities can take place daily in a modern classroom that incorporates new media tools.
                                                          • Many groups have joined together in challenging the evasive permission culture (Lessig, 2004) in defense of fair use and the ability to retain access to cultural objects not just for educational purposes but continuing our tradition of "free culture– not free as in free beer but free as in free speech, free markets, free trade, free enterprise, free will, free elections. A free culture supports and protects creators and innovators" (Lessig, 2004, preface xiv).
                                                            • this time the technological change isn't arriving as carefully planned and sanctioned institutional initiatives but more as a grassroots movement. Adventurous educators see how the new communication and networking tools used by the masses can be adapted and utilized for teaching purposes. The free, easy-to-use social media that has now permeated so much of daily life brings with it the opportunity to enhance learning, participation, communication, and engagement; to extend the classroom experience; and/or to enrich the online classroom.
                                                              • Choosing to use social media software and integrate UGC with the intention of enhancing engagement, interaction, and excitement is a very worthwhile effort but one should ensure that the trade-offs are equitable and ethical.
                                                                • Faculty can benefit from sharing experiences with colleagues and developing assignments that engage students in thoughtful discussions of new media's challenges relating to privacy, ownership of intellectual property, and use of copyrighted materials which are teaching topics that can enhance students' media literacy.
                                                                  • This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike License

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