Social Media Questions and Answers

Questions from Student Affairs graduate students

November 12, 2015
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CSSA 599 sounds like the name of a new droid for the new Star Wars movie. However, CSSA 599 is a special topics class at Oregon State University. Recently, students from the class tweeted a series of questions about social media/technology and invited me to respond. Giving answers in 140 character bursts makes you be extremely concise with your responses. After ruminating on their tweets/questions, I decided to write up some longer responses.

My thoughts on Yik Yak are always swimming in a sea of grey area. The app, as we've seen countless times and especially with recent events at the University of Missouri, has been the location for multitudes of ugly, hateful postings. Plus, the number of "terrorist threats" posted to the app are not abating in number but astonishingly continue to rise. Law enforcement is working in tandem with Yik Yak to track down those who break the law by posting threats. I'm really glad that Yik Yak isn't completely anonymous and that those who feel the need to post threats are being dealt with. However, as I've said time and time again...the app isn't the problem. It's merely the conduit for stuff that people are thinking, saying, and probably posting in other places.

I think that Yik Yak can be used as a teaching tool, perhaps not directly, but as a conversation starter for a lot of issues. For administrators, the app is a great place to listen for themes and share correct information with campus constituencies.

How many student affairs practitioners have been fired for something that they've posted on social media? I don't know the answer, but I bet it's a super small percentage of the overall amount of folks who are actively using social media to engage with students, staff, and faculty at their campus. A lot of times, perceived risk is used to minimize social media use. Most of the time, reality is far different from that perception.

The number one thing that administrators can do to not get fired due to social media posts/use is to not do anything that is a fireable offense. I know that sounds like common sense, but it's the simplest answer that I can think of for this question. Check with Human Resources at your institution. See what the social media policy/guidelines state. If you're not violating any HR policies, local/state/federal laws, and/or your institutions social media policy/guidelines, you should be okay. However, always remember...common sense reigns.

This is a tricky question because there aren't any answers that are 100% correct/rigid. It's always an individual practitioner's choice in terms of how they wish to connect with students on social media. I think that boundaries matter and that each platform requires its own thought process. E.g. following on Twitter is quite different from being "friends" on Facebook.

There's a prevailing attitude in student affairs that online learning and/or hybrid learning is still some sort of futuristic enigma. Hybrid courses, flipped classrooms, and online course delivery are in the here and now. What role does student affairs have as a profession in spaces that are largely made up of digital channels? That's a question that most of our student affairs graduate programs have yet to grapple with in a meaningful way. The first student affairs graduate program that focuses on online learning/learners will be very interesting.

By the way, Mr. Baxter, all apologies as this response is directed not at you, but at viewpoints that still exist in the profession.

Well, full disclosure before I delve into this one: my wife works for Pearson and they make a lot textbooks. I have no idea if they are overpriced, but I do know that there's a nifty option that's been piloted here in the United Kingdom.

Kortext - the UK's leading digital textbook platform - and the University of East London have teamed up to deliver tablets pre-loaded with core e-textbooks. Instead of having to go with online resources and/or open educational resources (not that there's anything wrong with OER), UEL students receive their textbooks as part of their university tuition. And, in the UK, everyone pays the same amount. So for those institutions who offer this type of benefit, it's a big win for their students.

This varies quite a bit from institution to institution. Sometimes there are pockets of "cutting edge" endeavors taking place in certain functional areas. For example, at a lot of places, academic advising, career services, auxiliary services (housing, dining, unions, etc.) orientation programs, and student life can be quite good at using technology to support student success.

In some instances, an entire division is doing wonderful things with social media and technology. This is usually due to having a senior leader that truly "gets digital."

This is easily the most frequently asked question of all time when it comes to professionals and social media use. First of all, if it's digital, it's public. And, it seems like those who have two accounts - a digital separation of their whole self - never truly end up dividing things equally. One account/profile usually rules the day.

My advice: create one account/profile for your digital presence on social media sites. Role model leadership, learning, sharing, curating, and being human...showcase your digital identity.

This question takes me back to earlier when I was writing about online learners and student affairs. I think if you're anti-social media you're making a pretty strong stance that you only want to work with in-person students at brick-and-mortar institutions in the early 1980s.

Seriously, social media are the communications channels of today. Tomorrow, something else will come about and we'll figure out how to best use these new tools to support students in their educational journeys.

Being anti-social media is just not in alignment with the requirements of a present-day student affairs practitioner. We go where the students are...and many of them will be trying to connect on the go to admins via digital channels.

Additionally, it should be noted that Tristen Shay (@punkrockpro) posted these questions for the student who is anti-social media (allegedly, the original messages were delivered on stone tablets).

In all seriousness though, I think the most telling aspect of the original question is the idea of getting maximum impact with minimal effort. As with everything in life, if you want great things to happen, you have to work at it.

While I'm not sure exactly what the next big tech/social media "thing" will be, I do think that it's probably going to have something to do with mobile technologies and social connectivity.

The single most disruptive thing that has happened recently in student affairs is the publishing/support of the official technology competency for student affairs practitioners by ACPA/NASPA.

If the field starts to embrace this new competency as being required for professional success, we'll see a lot of new happenings in the profession...from graduate programs to student affairs divisions, this competency has the potential to transform everything.


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