There, I said it. Social media increases student engagement. How do I know this? Well, let’s try an analogy. Let’s say that you are a carpenter in the early 1900s. You have a certain toolkit that you use to go about your work. You build houses with said toolkit. Now, let’s hop in a DeLorean to 2012. Carpentry is a totally different gig. The tools have changed…a lot. Big box stores provide ample selections of tools and all sorts of gadgets. Carpentry has evolved, in part, because the tools have made increases in efficiencies possible. In the sense that Student Affairs practitioners are like carpenters – instead of building houses – we build community, increase student engagement, and foster opportunities for student development. The work has evolved over time and so have our tools. Social media provide a great set of channels for communications and engagement. However, here’s the caveat: Social Media are only as good as we make them. The tools themselves do not build houses nor do they increase student engagement. We do. Practitioners actively create structures that enhance engagement.
If there is a “secret sauce” for using social media to increase student engagement, it’s staring back at us in the mirror. Student Affairs professionals have worked earnestly for decades to increase, foster, and contribute to student engagement. Having access to the latest (and greatest) communications tools gives us the capability to further the reach of our endeavors. Social media add to our toolkits in educationally relevant ways as long as we are purposeful and strategic about its use. People are not carpenters simply because of access to tools. Carpentry is a profession, and similarly, so is Student Affairs. It’s an exciting time to be in Student Affairs. We have communications channels like social media and mobile devices that enable us to connect with our students.
Can social media increase and/or contribute to student engagement? Absolutely. However, this only occurs if you are at the helm and actively using the tools in ways that contribute to educationally purposeful activities.