Higher Education’s Future: Collaboration, Augmented Reality, Faculty Education

Friday’s Future of Social Media in Higher Education hosted by McGraw-Hill Student Innovations offered five great professors (matched with a masterful moderator) to explore the challenges and opportunities in using social media to advance higher education. The faculty included:

Adam Ostrow Editor in Chief, Mashable.com – @adamostrow

Dr. Kathleen P. King Professor, Fordham University; President, Transformation Education LLC  – @drkpking

Greg Verdino VP Strategy & Solutions, Powered; author of microMARKETING – @gregverdino

Mary Casey NYU Student and Founder of Jatched.com

Vineet Madan VP Strategy & Business Development, McGraw-Hill Education

Yianni Garcia (Moderator) Marketing Specialist, GradeGuru.com  – @yiannig

On to the panel coverage…

Yianni: One in four students in 2 or 4 year programs are taking at least on course online.

Question: How does social media play a role?

Kathleen: Distance education is moving more swiftly in community and 2-year colleges. Community colleges can respond more quickly to changes in demographics, the economy, etc. Four-year-universities and research centers can’t move as fast. Distance ed is a good connection for us with social media – the faculty’s already using technology, and students are embracing it. Working on using other tools like Twitter, Facebook, etc. We also must address the needs of non-traditional students – this used to mean older students in their 20s through 70s. That term “non-traditional” are outnumbering traditional students.

Mary: Beyond distance learning and online courses, there’s the trend around open content. There are intellectual property issues, but they can spark interest from those not present in a class.

Vineet: Of 12 million college students, only 6 million are 18-24. A big reason for dropouts is lack of engagement. We need to promote engagement more than just enrollment.

Greg: Students want to text with deans or people admissions offices.

Adam: Social tools present new ways for students to participate, rather than the old way of getting graded just for showing up.

Question: How do you use various tools to engage students?

Mary: Blackboard is great, but it’s not collaborative and archival. You can only collaborate with students in your class, that semester. NYU has taken the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn under its umbrella. They’ve tried to develop collaboration between that and Stern Business School. Needed: apps for collaboration. Gradeguru is one that fits in, provides incentive for collaboration – “it’s kind of revolutionary.” Facebook’s Courses application: you can submit which classes you’re enrolled in to get opinions of a class. Another: Dropbox – lets more than one user edit documents at a time.

Question for Mary: Are you using Google Docs extensively?

Mary: Yes, a fair amount.

More on apps…

Vineet: Tegrity records courses, sort of like a DVR for college courses.

Kathleen: Skype – ‘it’s like Kleenex now’ – everyone uses it.

Yianni: How will we make these technologies more compelling to engage students?

Mary: I want to bring up augmented reality to overlay digital technology over the real world. Would love to use it in history classes.

Greg: Students are already using platforms. If we know that 85% of college students are on Facebook, You need to go where students are.

Kathleen: Faculty need to learn how to use these tools professionally. Many colleagues don’t get the professional use. She takes issue with Greg and Adam saying they don’t remember their education well – they don’t remember their formal education but they’re examples of lifelong learning.

Adam (responding to another question): Technology will lower the cost of so many things for education – so much of what you need is on your phone. The iPad will play a big role in furthering that, replacing textbooks and adding even more.

Audience question (from Sanford): How do we align incentives between professors there to teach (but often to get tenure and get published) and students there to learn?

Kathleen: There is no incentive in most universities for engaging with social media or even for faculty to engage their students. We have to start with the professor first, and we have to look to the institution. Most universities: publication and research is how you get tenure. If I’m spending 20% of my time doing innovative things, it’s counterproductive. It’s detailing me from my goal and livelihood. What has to be done: we have to integrate innovation in teaching and excellent teaching. Teaching must be raised to be more important than the merit and tenure system.