Monday, March 15, 2010
Advising the Future: Social Media and Academic Advising
The University of Oklahoma's use of social media transforms Academic Advising
A Disturbing Trend in Academic Advising
As an Academic Advisor, I am frequently treated to much brow furrowing and confusion about a wide range of issues surrounding higher education. Students have an intense disconnect between themselves and the university; whether due to the vastness of their chosen school or the juggling of responsibilities, students struggle to find information. My job, among other tasks, is to help them find information and synthesize it into a manageable fact. I like to think that the students check the main college website before they visit my office, but when I mention the main campus webpage or, even more befuddling, campus email, I get a head scratch. By and large, most students do not check these resources for information pertaining to their education. This trend is what makes the University of Oklahoma's social media approach to advising so revolutionary.
Embracing Social Media in Academic Advising
According to the University College at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Advising E-newsletter, advisors are still trying to reach students through traditional email. Jenny Adams, author of the UNCW article asserts that email is not working due to "the expectation of immediate response, the potential for misinterpretation, and poor communication." In contrast to the low quantity of students checking their campus email, 60% of students check their Facebook profile daily, according to NACADA . Though issues with FERPA and the desire to keep student life separate from academics has created some stumbling blocks for many universities seeking a social media presence, some schools have made it work for their students. Adams uses the University of Oklahoma as a model for how to use social media in place of the traditional email communications.
University of Oklahoma Success
The University of Oklahoma has a Facebook and Twitter account that is mainly used to market the university. Though important for recruiting efforts, current students need more from a social media campaign. Upon further exploration of the University of Oklahoma's social media presence, it is apparent that students have responded well to the initiative. The Price College of Business' Advising Center has 223 Facebook fans. Reminders about registration, withdrawal policies, and study abroad litter the profile. The best part is that students can interact with the advisors, thus taking a stake in their own education. This interaction is unarguably the holy grail of academic advising. The Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication invites its students to Facebook the advisors within the program. They can then ask general questions and save themselves a trip to campus. Web-learners would gain much from this practice. The university as a whole has a Facebook page as well as a Twitter account in addition to the individual advising offices.
Other Effective Uses of Social Media
Though the University of Oklahoma's Facebook and Twitter presence is strong, it seems they would also benefit from exploration of the other social media sites. Bellarmine University has a series of videos available for students on the school's website as well as on YouTube. The First Year Focus videos aim to meet the needs of freshman who do not yet understand the trappings of university life. The videos school them on how to prepare for advising, how to register, and how to find a community within the university. The University of Oklahoma would greatly benefit from videos that not only connect the student to the advisor but also disseminate information in an accessible way.
In short, the University of Oklahoma has an enviable leg-up when it comes to advising first-year and continuing students. Through social media, universities lose the invisible barrier separating it from the student population. It is imperative that higher education embrace social media, much like the University of Oklahoma, in order to find common ground with our students for the ultimate purpose of education.
Posted by Whitney Wilkie at 2:55 PM