(This is a guest post by Tracy Linden. She has always had a deep passion in ensuring quality education is available for all who want to attend college. Tracy understands all online colleges aren’t created equal and for the past few years has helped spread the message of the level of education, convenience and opportunity Online University can provide students.)
Two words: social media. How many times have each one of us heard those words in the past few years? Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, LinkedIn, Digg, StumpleUpon and the list can go on and on. These sites have become to many– a part of everyday life and language and no one can deny the truth that social media sites are everywhere and millions of people are using them more and more every day.
The number of active social media users has skyrocketed. Just five years ago, researchers at the Pew Research Institute conducted a survey asking adults who use the Internet: if they use social media and if so, how. Surprisingly, only 5 percent claimed to be using social media. However results from the same survey conducted last year showed that number was up to an alarming 65 percent.
With Facebook and Twitter being the two giants for new media connection; one particular group is using social media more than ever — students and professors at online universities and traditional four year colleges. Students are drawn to social media accounts and fan pages because they act as blank canvases for student-faculty and student-student interaction. A student can post a message on a professor’s or student’s Facebook page or Twitter account and receive a quick response. In some instances it’s faster than picking up the phone or typing an email.
Reasearch shows just how engaged students are becoming using these social sites.The National Survey of Student Engagement polled freshmen and seniors at participating colleges using five different benchmarks: academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experience and supportive campus environment. The research gained from the 17,000 students from 40 different colleges, proved when students are actively engaged on their college campuses beyond the classroom, they “ learn more, think more critically, and gain an appreciation for diverse perspectives.” The study also showed students were most engaged in learning with each other when they were preparing assignments, working on projects and directly after exams.
Professors and students aren’t the only ones banking on the effectiveness of educational engagement; colleges also use social media sites as a means of communication in order to tell prospective, current and former students what’s going on with the institution. The primary use of these pages is to help students learn about the university and keep in touch with current and past students. These university pages help prove that over the years companies have learned that social media is where there customers are, and that is where they need to be too.
It would be silly for students not to relish in the joys of no longer having to deal with late night desperate attempts for one of your classmates or professors to answer their email or phone call to get help with a assignment or a study question. Social media breaks down barriers for students. It allows the professor to be available in a less formal environment and fosters communication as students can ask questions and receive answers to questions in and outside of class. Thanks to social media, colleges no longer need to wonder what it is their students are doing, or what they are thinking– all they have to do is go online.