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The ambiguous relationship between academia and social media


MOOCs are kind of a big deal, with millions of learners from around the world participating in a whole host of courses, the vast majority of which are offered by some of the leading universities in the world.  What’s more, many of these courses have worked wonders for the profile of the academics teaching them.  Couple this with fantastic initiatives such as the MIT open courses project and you’d think that universities, and academics, would be fervent supporters of social media.

A new paper suggests that this is very far from the case however, revealing that academics are generally staying well clear of social media, either to promote their research or engage with interested stakeholders.

“Only a minority of university researchers are using free and widely available social media to get their results and published insights out and into the hands of the public, even though the mission of public universities is to create knowledge that makes a difference in people’s lives,” researchers said.

The study saw over 1,500 academics surveyed to unearth their social media practices.  They found that just 15% of them were using Twitter, with slightly higher figures of 28% for YouTube and 39% for Facebook (allegedly for professional use rather than personal).

The academics that were venturing forth on social media were typically using sites to find collaborators and disseminate both their own work and relevant work from other academics.  Despite the rise of MOOCs, few reported that they were using social media for teaching their students.

The report concluded by suggesting that this picture is unlikely to change until universities begin adopting policies for using social media and rewarding academics that utilize it effectively.  All of which may have a grain of truth to it, but it does seem a cop out that academics aren’t already in the mindset that their work doesn’t end at publication but rather when their thoughts have made a dent in the world.

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