Social media use rises among university faculty
One-third of college faculty employ tech-savvy teaching strategies
Internet platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are not just social tools anymore, a survey released Friday indicates. A third of college and university faculty are now using social media in the classroom, according to the survey.
The assessment, conducted by Pearson, an education services company, and the Babson Survey Research Group, based at Babson College, surveyed 3,875 faculty from across the country and asked about their use of social media personally, professionally and in the classroom.
“It could be that as people become more familiar with it, it takes less time,” report co-author Mike Moran said. “It’s also possible that they see that value [in social media] in a way they didn’t before.”
The survey found that about 45 percent of faculty use social media professionally on a monthly basis. About 65 percent use it for personal purposes.
Social media usage among faculty drops off with age, according to the study. Faculty under 35 had the highest usage rate for personal, professional and teaching use, followed by professors aged 35-44.
Participation in social media for teaching and professional use was significantly lower for faculty in math and science disciplines, Moran said.
Using video as a teaching tool has become quite popular among professors, according to the study. Nearly 88 percent of faculty report using video in their classes.
There are fewer barriers to professors’ use of social media in 2012, according to the study. Institutional support was a “very important” or “important” barrier for faculty use of social media for about 42.6 percent of faculty in 2011, whereas it was “important” or “very important” for 32.2 percent of faculty in 2012 — a steep drop.
At the University, Assoc. Economics Prof. Lee Coppock said in an email the school did not encourage him to pursue social media, but Economics Dept. Chair Charlie Holt has supported his efforts. Coppock often uses Twitter to send his students stories and topics of interest related to economics.
Coppock is a bit of an outlier, however. The survey found that only 2.7 percent of faculty nationwide use Twitter for teaching purposes, and only 7.9 percent use Twitter personally.
“I use [T]witter to call students’ attention to economic events and news that helps us understand the course content,” Coppock said. “Real world events bring economics to life and I use [T]witter to make this point.”
The survey showed a 7 percent decline in the daily professional use of Facebook among faculty from 2011 figures. Weekly and monthly use of the site for professional purposes declined as well.
Coppock again is bucking the trend and is considering creating a Facebook account for his introduction to macroeconomics course to add to the existing social media platforms he uses for the class.
Coppock also said he uses social media to reach out to international students, using the Chinese social networking site Renren.
“I believe the Chinese students really like my use of Renren,” Coppock said. “They know I care about them as students since I take the time to communicate with them in their language and on their social networking site.”
For social media outlets other than LinkedIn, the popular business-related networking site, the survey showed personal use either outpaced or was nearly equivalent to teaching and professional use.
Coppock, however, said he uses Twitter and other social media sites for academic purposes only. “I never use them to actually socialize,” Coppock said. “I am using them because I feel that is where students are getting their information already, so I might as well go there.”
Pearson and Babson have conducted versions of the social media survey since 2010.