Universities and colleges are increasingly becoming aware and utilising social networks as a method of teaching students. Seeing as accessing Facebook especially - I hate to pick favourites but it really does have the most users after all - is used on a day to day basis by the Generation Y, accessing the knowledge they need is far easier by bringing the students to the professors on a more comfortable level.
Lecturers are apparently using Second Life and other interactive social networks to communicate with students who are masters of the Facebook revolution. I say apparently, as I have never seen this happen in person nor hear about it as anything more than a concept students would love to see.
Side note That said; only last week did one of our lecturers have to ask the hall of students help logging in as he "had no idea what this Curterll Alt and Dell thing was [sic]" in referencing to the logon prompt. Bless.
One argument of college dropout rates being as high as they are is down to lack of engagement and use of non-interactive low technology oriented seminars and lectures. I am inclined to agree somewhat though in many subjects, to inject an element of high tech gadgetry would be inappropriate or simply unnecessary to say the least.
However, one class at Emerson College, Boston, relies entirely on social media as a way of promoting public relations, journalism, marketing and product research - donning its very own Twitter hashtag as being one of the most popular in the Boston area.
Social networking will not go anywhere any time soon, as the potential for the Generation Y to engage with the job and employment market is huge. Also, to maintain balance and fairness, those who wish to take advantage of the criminal market and engage with the wrong side of the law, the global cybercrime industry is booming at the moment.
Students and teachers do need to maintain communications on a far simpler, more accessible level. Email isn't bad and works a good portion of the time, though sometimes it cannot be possible to engage on the level the other needs or supply real-time updates on late lecturers or the occasional bomb threat.
With privacy and user security being a major concern, lecturers and students alike would understandably be reluctant to hand over details of their personal profile in exchange of a simple-enough communication.
My idea is simple. An internal social network, which acts like Facebook and has elements of Twitter, but allows video, document sharing, private messages and collaboration.
Oh wait - they exist - they're called virtual learning environments, such as Moodle or SharePoint, and are slowly integrating with more social connecting tools. I will point the finger at the older generation by saying they mostly do not particularly want to engage with students as at the end of the lecture or seminar they swan off elsewhere and consider it "non-contact time".
If I were to email one of my teaching staff a question or for concessions, that wouldn't be a problem. Though with the clear staff-student divide that many institutions "suffer" from - where the teachers and students work together and work symbiotically yet still feel a "them versus us" culture - if I were to search and send a message via Facebook, this would be deemed as highly inappropriate and a breach of that lecturer's privacy.
Facebook and social network is still considered a personal space whereas a virtual learning environment is work and study related. The two just need to work together better, and until this happens, the staff-student divide will continue and technology will be demonised by teaching staff as a non-alternative to traditional lecturing.
Is the lack of social and academic tools the problem, or endemic of a wider staff vs. student culture and generational rift? The comment monster is hungry.