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Another Take: Looking Ahead at Social Media & Higher Education

Last week, Kevin kicked off this month’s Take Two feature on the intersection of social media and higher education this coming academic year.  He made excellent points on critical shifts in our industry’s use of these tools; new efforts to define success and how platforms can push our industry further to help students learn in new ways. This week, I’d like to present an international focus.  In the months ahead, I look forward to social media’s role to help our industry successfully navigate international partnerships. What can we learn from higher education institutions (HEI) abroad and their use of social media? More importantly, how can we continue to leverage these platforms to help one another succeed?

International Comparisons and Leadership

Higher education is more global than ever before.  According to the OECD, there are over 4 million, perhaps close to 5 million, international students; the majority of which, at least at this time, are in the U.S. Our institutions also maintain a lead in use of social media.  100 percent of colleges and universities in the U.S. during 2010-2011 utilized some form of social media, based on a study by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.  Not only are students coming to our schools to learn, but we’re also engaging them through these innovative means the most.   We’re a leader, and with that comes responsibility to share knowledge and help our peers.

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Sociagility’s Report, The Transatlantic University Divide: How the UK lags the USA in social media effectiveness

A prime example of this knowledge exchange is Sociagility‘s recent comparison of HEI’s use of social media in the US vs. UK (full report is linked above).   I look forward to seeing more data from Sociagility, as well as other groups like Educational Marketing Group in Colorado, who track the international state of social media in higher education.

Unique Challenges 

The tracking of this information is critical, but consideration of unique challenges is equally important as we move forward. As Kevin noted last week, universities here have established channels in place to address social media issues, and define success.  The report above is a reminder that many  schools are still just beginning, and still defining what success is based on the unique needs in their countries and systems.

Take the case of the European and Asian universities, where there is a call for more collaboration to aid the creation of a credit-transfer system to increase student mobility.  Social media may not be a priority at those HEI’s given the circumstances.  Yet, the key to their solution, according to their respective rectors, is collaboration; that is a hallmark to social media, interaction and collaboration.  Events around the world that directly affect higher education will evolve before our eyes thanks to social media, like the case above or the US election. The exchange of this information through Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. can create connections and identify potential solutions, regardless of where one lives in the world.

This coming year, I look forward to watching the international dialogue about higher education evolve and get stronger.  I’m excited to see how the use of social media changes among our peers at home and abroad, and help one another succeed.  It is important to tap the potential of social media to fuel these discussions and exchanges, and we hope that Social @ Edu can do it’s part.

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