Social Media Usage Among College Faculty

A survey developed to determine how many college faculty are using social media, and in what capacity, found widespread awareness of social networks, but faculty are more likely to use social networking tools for personal use than in the classroom.

Conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, in collaboration with New Marketing Labs and Pearson, the “Social Media in Higher Education” survey was given to a random sample of Pearson customers. Of the 939 respondents, more than 80 percent have at least one social networking account, while approximately one-third use the tools to communicate with fellow educators and/or students. Those who teach online are more likely to use social media for professional purposes.

When it comes to awareness and use, clearly not all social media tools are created equal. The survey asked about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr, Slideshare, and Google Wave. Not surprisingly, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are the most recognizable names, with more than 90 percent of faculty have heard of them. But while familiarly was high, the number of faculty actually using these technologies, whether to communicate with students or peers, was much lower.

For example:

  • Facebook has about equal use in communicating with fellow educators (18%) as with students (12%). Over 61 percent of faculty responding having a Facebook account.
  • YouTube is used far more often for communicating with students (21%) than for communicating with fellow educators (9%). Approximately 40 percent have a YouTube account.
  • Twitter is among the best well known among the social networks examined (94%), but has a low rate of faculty having accounts (18%).Plus it gets little use to communicate with students (2%) or fellow educators (4%).

So if they aren’t Tweeting with or “friending” their students, what are faculty doing? Well, a majority (52%) report using video, podcasts, blogs and wikis as part of their classes. In fact, watching a video or listening to a podcast is the most common activity for both faculty personal use (72%) and for use within a class (46%).

“College faculty have embraced social media and a majority have integrated some form of these tools into their teaching,” said Jeff Seaman, PhD., co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “While some faculty remain skeptical, the overall opinion is quite positive, with faculty reporting that social media has value for teaching by over a four to one margin.”

Other findings of the survey include:

  • Top social media for communicating with peers: Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, YouTube
  • Top social media for communicating with students: YouTube, Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn
  • Watching a video or listening to a podcast is the most common activity for both faculty personal use (72%) and for use within a class (46%).
  • Social media use is higher among faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences than those in Mathematics, Science, Business and Economics.
  • Faculty teaching online courses are more likely to have social network accounts and to use them to communicate with fellow educators and with students.
  • Older faculty (those teaching more than 20 years) make substantial use of social networks; in fact, older faculty’s use of social media is only slightly lower than that of their younger peers.

“Educators have a responsibility to broaden the perspective of their students, regardless of the content matter,” said survey participant Dr. Maria Claver, assistant professor of Gerontology at California State University, Long Beach. “Without the inclusion of social media in our hybrid course, we would not be able to both expose students to aging issues around the world and provide students with a forum in which they can learn about global aging issues by partnering with gerontology faculty from other countries.”

To view a presentation of the results of the Pearson Social Media in Higher Education Survey, visit: