Washington State University's Social Media: From Academics to Facebook

Newswise — To talk about social media in a university environment means to include not only what experts say about it, but also to know how an institution of higher education uses social media to reach students, parents and other people interested in interacting with the university. Here are some examples of what Washington State University is doing.

Associate Professor and Director of the Digital Technology and Culture (DTC) Program at WSU Vancouver Dene Grigar teaches students to conceptualize information for different social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Flicker. In spring 2010 the DTC Program will offer a special topics course specifically in social media. "The students will explore social media, participate, but also envision new applications, so they are not just users," she said. The class will also include topics ranging from intellectual property; privacy; gender, race and class; and accessibility.

She also shares her Facebook with her students, "with limits," she said. "I do not go to their Facebook pages, I do not 'poke' or 'superpoke' them, and my Facebook page is more social media-related content than personal information."

At the College of Communication, clinical assistant professor Brett Atwood teaches students how to use blogs and social networks to communicate and share news. Atwood, who is also interested in Second Life, helped organize the Virtual Journalism Summit, a McCormick Foundation Specialized Reporting Institute that brought together leading technology executives and journalists to examine the rise of new media outlets and distribution within 3D virtual world spaces.

The Specialized Reporting Institute met in the virtual campus of WSU in Second Life, where WSU's Distance Degree Programs is hosting courses and events. "We're actively exploring Second Life to identify best practices and to improve the education experience of our students. At minimum, there's a sense of physical presence and connectedness in that environment that surpasses any other course environment we've utilized," said Dave Cillay, associate dean and director of instructional development and technology for the Center for Distance and Professional Education."

Outside the classroom, WSU has embraced social media, exploring new possibilities to share useful content with different audiences. WSU's University Relations VP Tim Pavish appointed a committee earlier this year. One of the main tasks was to recommend actions related to social media.

Building on the idea behind Wikipedia and a shared history, Washington State Magazine has launched a new Web site called Our Story, where WSU alumni, faculty, staff and friends can share their recollections, photos and videos of WSU. Visitors to this informal history of the university can sign up for a free account to add their own memories of WSU. The magazine also started the blog Discovery and created Coordinates an innovative feature that, using interactive Google maps, presents dispatches from faculty and alumni. The site runs on technology built by WSU Vancouver students and faculty.

Blogs are another social media tool that WSU has embraced. University VPs, deans, professors, colleges and a variety of units share opinions, news and links about current events, their areas of expertise or university-related topics. (See a list of WSU's blogs here.)

Current and prospective students, as well as alumni, can visit several Facebook pages to learn more about WSU through the Office of Recruitment and Admissions, the Office of International Students and Scholars or one of the several WSU Alumni Association chapters' pages. The WSUAA also hosts a LinkedIn group, with over 3,500 members. WSU campuses outside Pullman and colleges such as the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Science also have Facebook pages.

With multiple WSU videos send to YouTube by Cougar fans and WSU students and staff alike, WSU joined in 2007 other institutions of higher education at the education channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/washingtonstateuniv) to have an easy-to-find presence at the video-sharing site.

Twitter-mania hit WSU as it hit everybody else in the planet and, as in the case of blogs, multiple Twitter accounts from different units share information about WSU. (See a list of Twitter accounts at WSU here.)

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