Social media popular with faculty, but not yet in class

University faculty members are increasingly using social media in their professional and personal lives, even as they continue to cast a suspicious gaze toward students using those same platforms in the classroom.

Sixty percent of respondents said that mobile technologies create a better learning environment.

That’s according to the results of a survey of 8,000 faculty members conducted by Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson.

The report found that more than half of faculty use social media — websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn — in a professional context, a ten percent jump from last year’s 45 percent. Slightly more than 70 percent use social media for personal purposes.

Only four out of 10 faculty members reported using social media in the classroom.

“Faculty are not only expanding their use of social media, but also becoming more sophisticated in how they use it,” said Jeff Seaman, Babson Survey Research Group’s co-director. “They seem to be quite good at weighing the benefits and the costs. What we see is a steady year to year increase in their use while we still see consistent concerns that prevent even more widespread use.”

Those concerns include the issue of privacy, the integrity of student submissions, and the distraction online and mobile technologies could cause.

Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said that online and mobile technologies create a better learning environment and more than three-quarters said that faculty-student communication has increased as a result.

Yet still more than half of faculty said they think the technologies are more distracting than helpful for academic use.

See Page 2 for details on what else is stopping faculty from adopting social media in the classroom.

About 90 percent of the faculty members said they were worried that others outside a class could view and participate in class discussions due to the public nature of social media.

The primary concern for educators seems to be the integrity of student submissions — that it can be difficult to tell who exactly is posting a submission under a student’s name.

While the varying and segmented degrees in which faculty take advantage of social media can seem contradictory, Seaman said educators just recognize that the technology is still evolving, with certain aspects fitting education nicely and others being a hindrance.

Each year the survey has been conducted, all three areas of the report (personal, professional, and in-class) have seen an increase in use.

This mirrors the increase of social media- use among university employers who work in student affairs, according to another survey from earlier this year.

Seaman expects to see the number of faculty using social media continue to rise over the next couple of years.

“The concern with the barriers remains fairly high, but the faculty are figuring out ways they can get around those barriers,” he said. “Perhaps they are not using it as widely or universally as they might be without those concerns, but they are finding ways in which they can adapt it in particular slivers.”

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