Why We Will Always Be Learning About Social Media

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We will always be learning about social media.

This is something I was thinking of in reflection to a previous post about the Bureau of Labor Statistics job categories finally being revamped to include social media related positions. Social media is extremely unique as a communications medium – it can almost be considered to be its own living and breathing entity that is perpetually growing and changing on its own. Unlike telephone, email, text message, or even the dreaded fax machine, the platforms used for social media engagement keep growing and changing as the internet and our technology that supports it (example: mobile platforms) continues to do so. Even in my role working in an office of a higher education institution, I find that there are people who are very well versed in social media platforms and then those who are just trying to reach for a basic understanding. There is a huge spectrum of individual variance when it comes to comfort level with social media.

Even in my role within university career services and career counseling, we constantly expand our social media usage. In this past year alone, our office has joined Facebook and Twitter, in the hopes of better connecting to students and alumni who are active on social media. We have also recently installed flat-screen tv panels into the waiting areas of the office, so students can continue to be engaged with useful career development material even while waiting for their appointment or campus interview. The screens are programmed weekly to include content for career-related panels and workshops held in our office or on campus that week. We also use the screens to feature “alumni spotlights” showcasing brief bios and the careers of university alumns, and “fast facts” for quick tips related to resumes, cover letters, interviewing, job searching, and basically all steps of career development through freshman year to graduation day.

We have made great gains in 2013 with these recent developments in the social media usage of my particular office, but by no means are we about to rest on our laurels. As social media and technology continues to change, we will continue to change our strategy to best harness the power and resources it offers. To acknowledge that we will always be learning about social media is not to admit a lack of knowledge or ameturization, but shows a level of professionalism and commitment to excellence in that we are constantly reevaluating best practices in light of future technological developments. I truly believe this mindset is essential to those working within higher education – we need to keep up with our trend setting students!

 

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Crowdfunding Higher Education with Nakoo

Crowdfunding is arguably one of the most important technological developments we have seen this decade. For some background information on crowdfunding for those who are maybe less familiar with it, check out this informational video:

While crowdfunding has typically focused on small business and entrepreneurial developments, it actually has many creative uses and funding higher eduction is one of them! I’m very inspired by the efforts of Nazia Mintz-Habib, and her organization Nakoo, which is beginning to spin the wheels in motion for revolutionizing the way we fund education. Nakoo is a Kiva meets Kickstarter effort. Kiva is a non-profit organization which allows people to loan money to aspiring business starters and entrepreneurs in underdeveloped or impoverished countries, and Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. However, unlike Kiva, the money donated through Nakoo is not a loan – Nakoo is an online platform which brings students in need of tuition support together with contributors or companies who can fund them. In case you were wondering, Nakoo also means “tallest tree” in the Mayan language.

Prospective students can put together a profile on Nakoo’s website, including information such as the school they attend, the amount of funding they need, and any other relevant personal information. So far, Nakoo has only launched 1 month ago, and is featuring 4 students on its Alpha version while looking for feedback from users.

I’m very excited to follow the growth and development of Nakoo, and think crowdfunding is a very creative and tech-savy way for raising the needed funds to attend college. However, part of me also fears that resources such as Nakoo and their success could take away from the bigger picture and the larger conversation that needs to be had, such as the fact that higher education is quickly becoming more of a necessity, but also less and less affordable for many. I hope that this technological outsourcing to crowdfunding platforms does not take away from the urgency of creating better institutional support and institutional funding or an overhaul of the federal financial aid system that has increasingly become compromised of high interest loans.

While we can only wait and see what the future may hold for making higher education more accessible and affordable, Nakoo is definitely an organization to keep on your radar!

The MOOC Momentum

An interesting technology and higher education related trend I have been following has been the development and popularity of MOOCs.  The acronym MOOC stands for “massive open online course” – and according to some supporters, MOOCs are revolutionizing the accessibility of higher education. There has definitely been a lot of hype surrounding MOOCs in the past year. Such massive online courses not only make education accessible to anyone with an internet connection and computer, but they are usually offered free of charge. Even more inciting, many well known universities participate, including prestigious institutions such as M.I.T, Stanford, Harvard, and UPenn. For more specific information about MOOCs and the courses/universities offered, visit Coursera, the provider platform that most universities have partnered with to deliver the content.

Personally, I am a little skeptical about MOOCs. I certainly agree that they are a great educational resource and I love their free and low-cost nature. However, I think it is a little too early to praise MOOCs for being an educational equalizer and opening up access to prestigious universities. I feel this way mostly because I know that no employer would acknowledge a resume full of open-access and free MOOC courses from Stanford University as being close to the equivalent of a Stanford degree. So how exactly are MOOCs truly bringing the value and professional prestige of a traditional degree? The more I read, the more I begin to decide that they do not.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about a recent study undertaken by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the majority of people using MOOCs are already highly educated and career minded. The findings of the study are also particularly important, because it is the first research on MOOCs that has been completed by those that are not from the direct MOOC provider platform (ex: Coursera). In addition, the finding from UPenn go directly against the so-called truism that MOOCs are providing educational opportunities to those who would have been unable to take advantage of them otherwise.

In the UPenn study, out of survey results based on answers from nearly 35,000 students worldwide who were enrolled and participating in 24 of Coursera’s offered MOOCs, about 80% had a 2 or 4 year degree, and about 44% had some graduate education. Overall, the research concluded that 80% of MOOC students come from the wealthiest and most well-educated 6% of the population. These results held true even across user data from developing countries, with 80% of developing-world students enrolled in MOOCs already holding college degrees. Check out the complete paper here.

Sample infographic of UPenn research results:

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I am curious to hear your opinions on MOOCs and educational access, especially if you happen to have any of your own direct experience in taking them. According to Coursera in light of the UPenn research study, the company is well aware of their demographic trends and is working on projects to help reach more potential students in need. If anything can be learned, I would say it is that education unfortunately does not easily become boarder-less, gender blind, race blind, class blind, or bank account blind, even with the increased access that technology brings.