social media

As young people migrate their identities, social networks and the search for information online, so too must those who wish to communicate with them. Tertiary institutes are one such group heading online to get social with students.

Recently, a team of researchers sought to discern best practices by universities seeking to connect with students through social media. The aim was to identify how a university could best make use of online social media to engage with students.

To do this, a survey was used to collect information about student preferences, tendencies and experiences with social media. The collected data was then examined against gender, course of study, stage of study and participation levels in certain university activities.

Findings included the following:

  • Students would be more likely to join a social media site if they were invited by advisors, professors or students.
  • Posting comments and updating their own status were the most common activities students reported performing.
  • Female students commented on other online profiles significantly more than male students.
  • Computing students reported significantly higher participation in online social media than students of other disciplines.
  • 77% of students a tendency to view online tips posted by instructor
  • Female students were significantly more likely to interact with instructors via social media.
  • 63% of students reported willingness and expectation of frequent engagement with instructors online.
  • 58% of students frequently engage with their fellow students through social media.
  • 40% of students expected to make use of documents and other files offered through a social media platform.
  • Males were more likely to use file sharing feature.
  • 54% of students would regularly communicate with their group members through a real-time chat feature pertaining to course work.
  • 10% of students reported they would use social media to communicate with graduates of their department.
  • 34% of students said they would often seek further information about others courses and electives if it was provided by a social media platform.
  • Social media significantly increased the likelihood of students seeking to learn about new courses when the notification comes directly from their instructor.
  • 46% of students reported that they expected anonymous course feedback to be provided frequently.

It is interesting to note that students are much more likely to learn about new courses communicated within social media when that communication comes directly from the instructor. Fuller and Pittarese suggest the following strategies to effectively engage students through social media platforms:

  • Conduct activities online at the departmental level rather than an institutional level, so that students more easily relate to interactions.
  • Provide a means for two-way communications within a student cohort and between student and instructors, such as real-time voice chat.
  • Ecourage regular involvement in social media by university staff and instructors to increased student engagement.
  • Provide a channel for students to submit questions via social media as they may be more willing to interact online than in person.
  • Use email and word of mouth to invite student use of the social media platform from course advisors, staff and instructors.

While these findings are limited to self-reported information, the growth and significant impact of social media is undeniable. Insight into youth attitudes, intentions and preferences for technology  adoption for study illuminates the current flowing beneath what may otherwise appear still waters.


Effectively Communicating with University Students Using Social Media: A Study of Social media Usage Patterns, 2012, Fuller, M. & Pittarese, T., Proceedings of the 2012 ASCUE Summer Conference, 45th Annual Conference, pp. 46-58

Online Advocate/Australian Higher Education/Community Health/Youth Mental Health. Follow me on Twitter @writerinsight

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