Over 90% of faculty use social media professionally? Define “use”.

A study by Pearson and Babson Research, published in April 2011, declares that “over 90% of all faculty are using social media in courses they’re teaching or for their professional careers outside class” in the Executive Summary, so I looked closely at the study. I’m spending a lot of time in the appendix. I am not at all interested in personal use, only professional and use with students.

My concern is that the study proclaims massive use of “social media” by faculty. It seems to imply that college faculty are actively participating in social media. I’m looking closer and it doesn’t seem to be true.

I think the problem is the word “using”. 61% of faculty surveyed have “used” online video. This could just mean they’ve shown a YouTube video in class now and again. Only 21% of faculty “posted” online video, and I wonder whether some of these were the videos included in publisher’s packets, such as those provided by Pearson — am I being too cynical here? The statistics for how valuable faculty think these sites are could all be about presentation, not anything social at all.

They have defined social media by site (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter) rather than by use (creating slideshows, posting original video, participating in a discussion). The statistics for Figure 15 seem to me the most telling: the numbers are very, very low for using any of these sites to have students post anything.

So to me the “social” part of social media use, particularly in the classroom, is extremely low, and indicates a reluctance of faculty to use social media for anything except presentation.

Is this a case of a study making false conclusions? or is it just advertising? or am I being way too picky?

5 thoughts to “Over 90% of faculty use social media professionally? Define “use”.”

  1. Very timely post for me … I am looking at this same study this week, and thinking similar thoughts, as I prepare a preconference workshop for the POD Network conference on use of social media for professional development of faculty developers.

    I think the data show fairly clearly that the vast majority of “social media” use rolled into the strangely-hyped high numbers is via Facebook and YouTube, and the actual significance of that use is minimal in the impact it has on teaching practices.

    But to me this is not a surprise. It’s not only about faculty reluctance to use social media for anything but presentation – it’s just one more piece of evidence showing how long it takes to change the educational paradigm built around faculty as keepers and dispensers of information/knowledge. The change process involves early adopters providing examples; it also involves faculty using social media for personal uses and beginning to understand the power of the network. So I do think that the personal use aspect is important, and I wonder what the role of change leaders should be in helping more faculty to become savvy users of social media – even if it’s not initially for “professional” purposes at all.

    1. I see that aspect, Jim, that faculty personal use might be a harbinger of eventual professional use, but I hesitate to jump because of how the ‘creepy treehouse’ effect in students has evolved to the point where many say outright that they don’t want their social network used for class. Does posting about your kids in Facebook really lead to using it professionally?

      1. It all depends on your network. If your network includes professional colleagues, then there is the potential to have professional conversations alongside the purely social – and sometimes that line will be fuzzy. It would be interesting to poll the Facebook POT group to find out how many of them had used Facebook for professional purposes prior to their joining the POT group, and to what extent their participation in the Facebook POT group has changed their thinking about the potential use of social media for teaching and learning.

        Regarding ‘creepy treehouse’ – I would hesitate to recommend that any teacher start using Facebook for a class without first (a) experiencing for themselves the use of social media for their own learning, and (b) seriously considering what they’re really hoping to achieve, and whether Facebook is the right tool for that purpose. If an instructor thinks clearly through (a) and (b), they’ll be much better prepared to use social media in a way that students will not see as ‘creepy treehouse’.

Comments are closed.