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Fostering Faculty Social Media Presence, Online Scholars and In-Class Technology

What role and responsibility do faculty and their higher education institutions have in supporting educators’ personal and professional use of social media, in and out of the classroom?  Activity on social media platforms is on the rise, with adoption starting in the early teen years, as well as, into the later years of life.  In the middle exists working adult professionals, balancing personal and professional capacities in-person and online.  Social media is challenging the concept of appropriate means of professionalism, especially for faculty.

The gap of younger and older adults using social media is decreasing, especially in the last two years, 25% in 2009 to 51% in 2011 (Tess, 2013).  Further, 52% of adults have two or more social media profiles.  Hickman and Techlehaimanot (2011) conducted a study, exploring faculty and student’s interactions online.  As a result, faculty were observed on Facebook and that it was allowing opportunities for student-faculty interaction.

15216742_sFaculty and scholars have also been seen using Twitter, specifically blurring the lines of professional and personal (Veletsianso, 2011).  The role challenges that faculty are placed in, by utilizing social media tools, may go against what the institutional culture they work for is (2011).  Veletseianos and Kimmons (2013) also claimed that social media use with scholars have tensions, as they attempt to maintain relationships and connections professionally and non-professionally.

Many faculty may question if the time spent on social media is worth it, as they juggle other responsibilities at work and home (Veletsianos, 2013).  When looking at how to overcome hurdles to social media in education, 3,875 faculty members were studied, revealing 44.7% use social media professionally, 64.4% personal and only 33.8% in the classroom.  A few reasons may account for this vast difference.  According to Veletsianos (2013), social media used by faculty may come into conflict with tradition metrics of success used in the academy.  Also, if the faculty member has a negative attitude on social media, adoption in the classroom will be affected (Rodriguez, 2011).

Faculty may also worry about student perception of their personal, professional, or in-class usage.  In looking at hurdles to social media in education, Tinti-Kane (2013) noted eight barriers for faculty use on social sites for teaching, including (p. 3):

  1. Integrity of student submissions
  2. Concerns about privacy
  3. Separate course and personal accounts
  4. Grading and assessment
  5. Inability to measure effectiveness
  6. Lack of integration with learning management system
  7. It takes too much time to learn or use
  8. Lack of support and my institution

The types of usage most commonly seen in the classrooms are blogs and wikis (Tinti-Kane, 2013).  A more passive use of technology is sharing videos, with 80% of the faculty surveyed using sites such as YouTube for teaching (2013).  Veletsianos (2013) study asked what activities and practices arise when researchers and educators use social media, finding that usage includes both in class and professional (non-class) use.   Examples include announcements, sharing manuscript drafts, releasing a class textbook, offering syllabi, live streaming, blogging, live tweeting at a conference, being part of a debate on a professional topic, releasing tenure documents, developing videos, and seeking help (2013).  This study found that even personal sharing was valuable in the academic community.  This was observed through twitter, where author Veletsianos claims that “It appears that engagement with and sharing about issues unrelated to the profession is a value that is celebrated by this community” (2013, p. 646).

Institutions need to take on an active role in supporting and directing faculty, especially new to social media, including raising awareness of the existing policies, legal parameters and best practices that exist.  With this in mind, institutions need to develop a social media policy that encompasses classroom usage, as well as, an understanding of personal/professional usage for all members of the university community.  This should not be a means of restriction, rather a message of support, blended with protection of the university.

The tools social media provides higher education have implications for students, faculty, administrators, academic institutions, and society.  The more each of these groups understands these tools, the more the field of education will learn in balancing the numerous related issues.
Tinti-Kane (2013) puts forth a call to educators,

The more that faculty members understand the effective uses of social media for teaching and learning, the better the industry gets at learning how to balance ‘privacy’ within the social sphere, the faster these new practices will proliferate across higher-education faculty and support student engagement and success. (p. 6)

For faculty, as well as higher education leaders, the first step is listening and observing on any new platform.  A large variety of social media tools exist that educators can experiment with, such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogs (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Blackboard), LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, Second Life or even Spotify.  Below includes a number of ideas for faculty to adopt for in-class professional and out-of-class professional/personal usage.
In-Class Professional Usage 

  • Establish a common hashtag for the course in order to follow backchannel communication.  Example could include #EDLD610.
  • Post lectures in YouTube or Podcast form, assigning viewing/listening to occur before class.  This way the class can be used for group discussions and project preparations, instead of lectures.
  • Create a private Facebook Group, posting a weekly prompt with course content.
  • In an online/distance education course, integrate Second Life as a common virtual meeting space.
  • Form class study groups, using Google hangouts to function as virtual group meetings.
  • Have students include hashtags on Instagram, specific to your class and/or project.

Out-of-class Professional & Personal Usage

  • Explore building a professional/personal blog site that can showcase your research, curriculum, presentations, as well as other unpublished innovative content.  Many blog platforms are free, with an added ability to purchase your domain.  I highly encourage your to purchase your name, for example like my URL
  • Cultivate a LinkedIn profile, connecting to affinity groups, as well as sharing relevant content of your expertise areas.
  • At a minimum, sign-up for a YouTube account to explore videos for class usage.  However, more adventurous professional usage would be posting original content such as lectures, relevant Vlogs and presentations.
  • Twitter presence is a must for all professionals, no matter the industry.  Use the search function to find others tweeting on similar topics of interest.  At minimum, activity on twitter can be observed through re-tweeting.  Consider joining relevant twitter chats, that are typically scheduled at a weekly time.  Check out this list here:  Also, if you are attending a professional conference, find out the common hashtag to join the online conversation/experience.
  • Decide Facebook boundaries.  Choose early, if and when, you will accept/invite a student to share a friendship on Facebook.  Develop this philosophy early on and be consistent.  Remember that on private Facebook groups, common members do not need to be ‘friends’ so sharing can still occur without formally being connected contacts.

Here are a few other Higher Education and Social Media related posts I’ve written
College Student Digital Education Begins in High School
Creating an IRL Student Digital Orientation
Student Engagement Through Social Media: #IsItPossible?
Calling All Social Media Leaders in Student Affairs

Other great resources
Six Ways to Use Social Media in Education:
10 online social network options for educators:
Social Media Top Resources:
My 5 Best Social Media Tips For Teachers:

Hickman, T. & Techlehaimanot, B. (2011).  Student-teacher interaction on facebook: what students find appropriate.  TechTrends, 55(3), 19-30.
Rodriguez, J.  (2011).  Social media use in higher education: key areas to consider for educators.  MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(4), 1-12.
Tess, P.  (2013).  The role social media in higher education classes (real and virtual) – a literature review.  Computers in Human Behavior, 29, A60-A68.
Tinti-Kane, H.  (April 2013).  Overcoming hurdles to social media in education.  EDUCAUSE review online, found at
Veletsianos, G. (2011).  Higher education scholars’ participation and practices on twitter.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28, 336-349.
Veletsianos, G. (2013).  Open practices and identity: evidence from researchers and educators’ social media participation.  British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4) 639-651.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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