This past summer, I spent a great deal of time talking to colleagues in higher ed to learn how they utilize social media to connect with peers and support one another in online communities. These interviews and conversations have been enlightening to help us understand more about how our digital, networked selves come to work on a university/college campus and contribute to our professional fields. For some, it is becoming increasingly vital to share instruction, scholarship, and practice online. For others, there are still concerns about being connected to colleagues as our social networks now have context collapse. In the online world, what IS really private vs. public? Which networks are used for personal and/or professional practice?Open and digital channels help higher ed faculty and stuff in a number of different ways: asking/giving advice, collaboration on projects, free professional development, sharing information/resources, colleagues solicit advice, personal/professional support, and opportunities to learn in digital communities with common interests. Besides developing a digital presence or a “persona” online, higher education staff, administrators and scholars are utilizing social media and digital technologies to support their work, add to their professional development, engage with peers, learn in the collective and publicly in digital spaces and places.
This leads me to ask these questions of my peers working in higher ed:
- How does being part of a digital learning network support your professional learning and development?
- How are you shaping your online identity and presence to share your professional values?
- How can networked communities expand your knowledge and learning to enhance your role on campus and the work you do?
- Why might others consider finding networked peers and practitioners to scaffold their own career goals?
Although there are benefits to “working out loud” and online, there are also a number of issues as we repurpose social, digital spaces. The stakes are high, as an increasing number of higher ed professionals participate in online social networks with minimal institutional guidance for sociotechnical support or training (Pasquini & Evangelopoulos, 2017). Social and digital networks are connected, public and scaled — and often not on spaces we own or have control over. Additionally, much of our own data is being collected and reused on these networked platforms. This has me wondering:
- How are higher ed staff and faculty evaluating their online participation on these social networks?
- How has their contribution to open, public spaces shifted over the years?
- What does being online as a higher ed professional look like now?
These are just a few of the questions we are asking in our research study. If you are interested in sharing more about your own experiences as a professional in higher ed, please consider contributing by participating in an interview (more about the study here).
Research Interview Sign Up: http://bit.ly/networkedself
Part of this blog post is cross-posted via my Inside Higher Ed Digital Learning opinion piece.