A growing number of faculty members are using social media in the classroom and are finding technology to be both a help and a hindrance, according to a new survey.
About 40 percent of faculty members used social media as a teaching tool in 2013, an increase from 33.8 percent in 2012, according to a report by the Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson Learning Solutions. Likewise, more faculty members used social media for professional communications and work in 2013 (55 percent) than in 2012 (44.7 percent). In both years, faculty members most often used social media for personal purposes.
Faculty members’ use of social media has been steadily increasing since the survey was first conducted in 2010, said Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group.
“They’re very good at picking which site for which purpose and they’re aware of the advantages and disadvantages of all of them,” he said. “They seem to be thoughtful adapters and well aware of the risk.”
Faculty members listed their top two concerns about social media in the classroom as technology’s impact on the integrity of student submissions and privacy in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 surveys. In 2013, the top privacy concerns were that others outside of the classroom would be able to participate in or view class discussions, and personal privacy risks for students.
Though the survey has been conducted since 2010, only the last two surveys are comparable. A report was not compiled from the 2010 survey and the 2011 report is incomparable to the 2012 and 2013 surveys because it asked different questions, Seaman said. The 2011 survey included video as a social media tool and found that nearly two-thirds of faculty used social media in the classroom. Video is no longer included when looking at faculty members' social media use because video use is passive, not social, Seaman said.
The initial survey asked faculty members about their awareness of various social media platforms, but the latter two surveys focused on faculty members’ attitudes and uses of social media because awareness became universal, Seaman said.
In 2013, blogs and wikis were the top social media platforms used in classrooms, followed by podcasts, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn was the most frequent social media platform for professional use, followed by blogs and wikis. Faculty members most frequently asked students to create blogs and wikis or to listen to podcasts. More faculty members in the humanities and arts, professions and applied sciences and the social sciences are using social media in the classroom than are their peers in the natural sciences or mathematics and computer science.
About 60 percent of respondents said the interactive nature of online and mobile technology is creating better learning environments, and 78.9 percent said technology increases faculty and student communication. But, the survey found technology is also a hindrance. Almost half of respondents said technology increases stress levels and nearly two-thirds said it increases the number of hours they work. And 56 percent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat agreed technology is more distracting than helpful to students’ academic work.