Using Social Media in Education

Social Media is a learning tool, a course of study, a source of new revenues and a way to enhance marketing, admissions, retention and career placement.

It also offers significant competitive advantage to educational organizations because of its proven appeal to your customers, the lack of products being offered them and a substantial body of knowledge from other industries that can inform your approach.

Andrew McAfee, a respected business thinker, believes that Enterprise Social Software Platforms (what we think of as social media,) will “have about as big an impact on the informal processes…as large-scale systems…have had on the formal processes.”

Social media will have as big a place in education’s future as learning management systems.

Social media is a cognitive tool that facilitates peer-to-peer learning and collaboration in the classroom:

  • Twitter hashtags for courses let students ask their classmates for help,
  • Discussion groups are good for exploring topics,
  • Tools like Google’s Wave allow the class to construct a collaborative set of notes both in real time and after the fact.  Not only are these notes more complete, but the process of engaging each other leads to deeper learning,
  • Students can collaborate on projects such as creating videos, wikis, webinars and podcasts, and
  • It can mitigate two of the biggest challenges with distance learning: the sense of isolation and lack of participation in the social channels of learning.

Social media is a substantial enough topic of study to justify certificates and majors in both the how-to and the management of social media:

  • There’s an increasing demand for people who understand the mechanics of blogging, microblogging, bookmarking, webinars, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Flickr and many other platforms as well as ancillary products like Google Analytics, and
  • Managers are increasingly being called to understand social media.  How can they calculate its ROI?  What’s its role in an integrated marketing communications plan?  How can it be used to facilitate innovation?  What does it mean for the organizational structure?  What strategic opportunities does it present?

The degree is just the beginning. Social media communities are great ways to keep in touch with your graduates and involve them in developing continuing education products that meet the needs of people like them.

Social media can help with marketing and admissions:

  • You can join the social media conversations where your prospective students are wondering what to do and where to learn how to do it,
  • Your current students are already talking about you through their social networks and you can turn them into brand evangelists,
  • Admissions, career services, financial aid, management and faculty blogs can create additional entry points for prospects to get the specific information they want about your school, and
  • Social media projects created by current students and posted on your website will give prospects the kind of authentic and trusted peer perspective which is such an increasingly important factor in their purchase decision.  These projects can easily go viral because the students will want to show their work to their friends and peers (who are your ideal target demographic.)

Social media can help with retention and career placement:

  • Better informed decisions about what to study and where to attend will lead to better matches and reduce the number of students who leave because they made the wrong choice,
  • Many students feel more comfortable with a social media environment than a traditional education model so a school that uses social networks will be more intuitive and make sense to them more quickly and less painfully,
  • A collaborative curriculum will make it easier to see who isn’t participating and counselors can intervene before they’ve drifted too far away,
  • Social networks outside the classroom that give voices to students will be places where you’ll hear about strengths, problems and dissatisfaction,
  • A strong alumni network that keeps experiencing your value proposition will be a good source of jobs,
  • Participating in conversations on the internet with the people who will hire your students will create valuable contacts and help you shape your program, and
  • Training students for successful social media careers with robust growth will keep their interest.

Social Media in Education is currently a blue ocean with very little activity compared to all the realms to which it’s connected:

  • There are millions of people in your target market who have integrated social media into many aspects of their lives.  However, if they wanted to prepare for a career in a business that operates the same way as their cohort, they would be hard pressed to find that training,
  • These same people use social media to learn about the things that impact their personal lives, yet if they looked for an education that used social media as a learning tool, they’d have difficulty finding one, and
  • If they tried to use their social networks to research educational opportunities, they’d also find relatively little material compared to other searches.

What is your organization doing to catch up to your customers’ interests and the job market’s demands?  Please let me know.

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