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.


  1. This is an excellent idea. I hate the traditional advisement process so much I know I would use online advisors were they available.

    The university seems to have established at least the beachhead of a social media presence. It would be interesting to see how many students are taking advantage of this option. If there are 20,000+ students enrolled, and only the 223 who have joined the Facebook group are involved, then the program has a long way to go.

  2. I think it is a great idea as well. As an advisor, I would like to be able to answer quick and general questions in an informal setting. That way, students do not have to wait in a long line to get to me. It just seems like a much friendlier approach than having to wait to go into someone's office.

  3. It's so interesting to me that the field of education is often the last area where new ideas take hold. Considering they are proponents of learning and creativity, you'd think they would be the first to try new things. When I was teaching 10 years ago, classrooms looked the same as they had when my parents were in school, except for whiteboards in some classrooms, a few scattered computers, and the overhead projector.

    More and more I'm reading about strides in education and the technology being used in the classroom. They're still behind, but they're trying. It's good to see that universities are exploring ways outside the classroom to use social media. If universities start using social media effectively, maybe some of that will trickle down to public schools.

  4. I know I never used my advisor at all throughout college. Maybe that's why I had such a difficult Freshman year, which culminated in my dropping out for a couple of years to experience the "real world" before I realized how much that sucked and came running back to the University.

    I think the University of Oklahoma is listening to some good old fashioned marketing advice, which is to find people when they're home, not expect them to come to you. And I'm so glad it seems to be working. This has larger ramifications, such as perhaps rectifying the U.S's dismal college retention rates.

  5. I am glad that you did eventually finish college because that is not always the case. However, you look at it, Freshman year usually bites. I remember being extremely stressed, homesick, and confused all at the same time. This is not a good situation for someone who is supposed to be studying. I hope social media can inform higher education of ways to retain first-year students. If we could just help them past that hump, maybe all could be okay.

  6. I love examples of how organizations (even as big as universities!) are using creative tools to reach their audience. Our culture continually strives to make communication easier, to get information out faster. When a community can get on board with changing trends and actually contribute to how a trend is carried out, audiences notice.

    Cyber academic advising: It's like instant messaging with a Mac genius, or renewing your car tags online.

    More information about academic advising, delivered faster, is definitely good way to keep students connected and in the know.

  7. I think on-line academic advisors could also save time for both the student and the advisor.

    Using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter would allow students to "friend" their advisors and message them with any questions. However, this does take away from face-to-face interactions as well.