Social media networks become increasingly integrated into academics, job market
Published: Friday, October 15, 2010
Updated: Friday, October 15, 2010 07:10
Whether you fancy celebrity gossip, sports analysis or witty political banter, there's a blog to scratch that itch. Prefer to read every inane thought or philosophical musing of your favorite public figure in real time? There's probably a Twitter account for that.
Even if one is not particularly interested in what Perez Hilton has to say about Paris Hilton, though, he or she may want to get on board — the use of blogs and other social media tools has become increasingly popular, and in some cases a prerequisite, in both academic and work settings.
A recent survey released by Faculty Focus, an online resource for higher education employees, indicated that more than one−third of higher education professionals use Twitter accounts, sometimes to communicate with students and other times as an in−classroom educational tool.
The City University of New York system recently launched a debate over whether to abandon traditional online academic tools, like the Blackboard.com service that Tufts currently uses, in favor of popular blog sites like Wordpress and Tumblr.
The integration of social media into academia is due, in part, to a growing understanding that knowledge of social media is expected in the current job market; a majority of companies now use Facebook, Twitter and other social media to promote events and products and to recruit employees. Prestigious business schools such as Harvard Business School, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and MIT's Sloan School of Management have all incorporated social media classes into their curricula.
Fortunately, Tufts' students may have a leg up when it comes to social media, as various Tufts professors have begun to incorporate the use of blogs into classwork, requiring students to create their own blogs and to read those of their classmates.
Julie Dobrow, director of the Communications and Media Studies (CMS) program teaches the course Media Literacy, in which students are expected to regularly update personal blogs with links to interesting sites and videos as well as thoughts on class readings.
"A few of the students whom I've spoken with said that they think this is a great assignment, one that allows them to be thoughtful and creative," Dobrow said.
In order for students to successfully analyze media, she said, they need to engage with it.
"One basic tenet of media literacy is that to truly understand media, you need not only know how to deconstruct it but also how to produce it," Dobrow said. "Blogging allows students to write in a more contemporaneous way, so it's great for asking people to respond to things."
Dobrow also pointed out that many of the Tufts alumni with whom she is in contact continually emphasize the importance of a working knowledge of social media in the job market.
"I kept hearing from the CMS graduates that the number one question they were asked in interviews was ‘What is your experience with social media? Have you blogged?' Blogging is increasingly becoming a necessary job skill, so it's good to get some practice while you're in college," she said.
Maria Ortiz, an ESPN.com journalist currently teaching sports journalism through the Experimental College, requires her students to blog because most of the content they'll be writing for jobs after graduation will likely be online, she said.
"Social media is a no brainer because that's where journalism is headed," Ortiz said.
For her class, Ortiz's students complete written assignments, which they later post to their blogs, in addition to reading and commenting on their peers' posts. Later on in the semester, she also plans to have them keep Twitter accounts as an assignment.
"I think that now it's an expectation to have social media skills, rather than an advantage," Ortiz explained. "In journalism if you don't know how to use Twitter or how to blog or promote things on Facebook, you will be behind everyone else."
Knowing how to blog is a necessary skill for various fields, not just for journalism, according to Ortiz. "Personal blogs and sites are great. I don't think being able to blog is a big surprise or special skill anymore," she said.
Junior Emily Friedman, a member of Dobrow's Media Literacy class, feels that her blogging experience in class has helped prepared her for her post−graduate job search.
"I've worked in PR and marketing for the past couple years, and everyone is looking into social media because that's where they believe the adolescents are," she said. "Blogging for class is a unique concept — it's very introspective and self−reflective, and I think people find it more compelling to hear personal opinions."
One difficult challenge Friedman faces with regard to blogging, she said, is balancing her personal, authorial preferences and expression with content that will attract readers; a blog, after all, is only successful if people read it, she said.
"It's hard to stay true to my personal voice while still including things that people find interesting," Friedman said.
Junior Annie Dreyer, who has blogged for several classes, explained that the process of blogging changes the content and style of her assignments.
"This type of blogging is basically the concept of taking the discussion outside the classroom," she said. "It's a different experience because it's so public. For example, papers go directly to teachers, whereas with blogging, you have to use personal experience to [reach] a wider audience."
While she sees the value in blogging skills, though, Dreyer would never keep a "personal" one, she said.
"It's opening yourself up to a lot of critique," she said.
Career Services, which promotes students' use of social media in navigating the job market, has jumped on the social media bandwagon, and now has a Facebook page and blog, both of which are managed by undergraduate Career Service Ambassadors. The pages promote events and new internships, and also publicize interesting articles, student testimonials and advice from alumni and career services staff.