Use of Social Media in Higher Education

The evolution of technology has made its use an indispensable one in education nowadays. As new technologies are been developed the access to information generally increases, of course, this is dependent on the resources individuals have to access it. Today, we are not going to directly address the accessibility to new technologies, but the role technology, in particular social media plays or could play when incorporated as a tool of instruction in higher education. Including social media within the curriculum can be beneficial to increase the engagement of students but could also become a distraction for them, so we need to be careful when incorporating these.

After browsing the web, I came across a blog on the Schoology Exchange website that discussed the use of social media as a tool to increase student engagement in the classroom. Some of the major things addressed in this post were as follows: (1) social media as a virtual “classroom”, (2) keep students involved during days where there is no in-person instruction, (3) the encouragement of collaboration and group-work, (4) continue class discussion, (5) improve writing skills and, (6) global learning.

The usage of social media as a virtual classroom is a very realistic scenario, specially during these days given that most academic instruction around the globe is being held remotely.  This is a way to improve accessibility in cases where students are not able to make it to the actual classroom. Being able to develop or structure a course that serves the needs of a broader student body allows to increase the reach and opportunity for higher education by making it more accessible.  Using social media as a tool to continue and increase the involvement and participation of students in class discussion is a great way for further engagement and not have the conversation or interest in the topic die after class is over. This blog post captured my attention because it reminded me that I have had professors that have use some of these tools to promote the usage of social media as part of the course they are teaching. This is something I had not considered before and I find it quite innovative.

During my first semester as a master’s student in the University of New Hampshire I took a class that required students to create a Twitter account and ‘tweet’ weekly about aquatic ecosystems. Each week we had to post an original tweet (with the class hashtag)  and comment in at least 3 posts from our classmates. The posts could cover any aspect regarding aquatic ecosystems. This at first seemed challenging to me particularly because I am not very active on social media. However, this class requirement made me stay up to date with news, scientific articles and general information on freshwater science issues. In addition to fulfilling a class requirement, this later became a tool for networking and increased my visibility as a scientist in social media in a not so traditional way. It was in fact through what is commonly now know as ‘Academic Twitter’ that I found my current position at Virginia Tech.

I think there is a lot of value in the usage of social media as a learning tool. It provides more opportunity to further explore, learn and engage. It is a great way to expand your network and reach a broader audience because you are posting things online that can become public to anyone in the world if you decide so, which serves as a platform to connect with future colleagues, find jobs and increase your overall visibility (if you want). I think is important to recognize the big role social media is playing on our education, especially in terms of how information (true or false) is being disseminated. Social media can be the first source of information anyone has access to, given its popularity nowadays. Therefore, I think if more academics become active on social media the potential for increases in reliable information are greater.


Open Access

Open Access journals amplify the access to reliable and peer-reviewed information. Accessibility to reliable information allows to further develop knowledge and understanding in an easier way. Open access to information serves as a great tool for instruction and education, which allows to advance the development of science and technology. Making scientific publications open access broadens the reach of the audience as it breaks former restrictions and opens an opportunity for faster learning. Open Access journals can be perceived as an evolution within Academia.

The journal I have selected for this assignment is the Journal of Freshwater Ecology. This journal is from the United Kingdom and has been published since 1981. The publishers of this journal are Taylor and Francis Ltd. The scope of this journal centers in the field of aquatic science, agricultural and biological sciences, ecology, evolution, and behavior and systematics. This journal serves an international audience as well as a wide range of topics within Ecology. Within this journal you can find a variety of topics and studies that allows us to further understand the dynamics of freshwater ecosystems at different scales (e.g. physiological, biogeochemical, population and community diversity).  The manuscripts published in this journal center on manipulative experiments and field and case studies.

The Journal of Freshwater Ecology approach to open access is stated as follows:  “all articles published in this journal are free and permanently accessible online without subscription paywall or registration fee” The authors that decide to publish in this journal keep their copyright to the article and in fact, the publishers of the article have a “non-exclusive right to publish the Version of Record under a creative common license”. Any manuscript that is submitted for publication in this journal goes under a comprehensive peer-reviewed process that consists of an editor and 2 external experts in the topic that is being presented. The external reviewers are anonymous to the authors of the paper.

Publications in this journal are addressed as beneficial for your career as they aim to increase your visibility and discoverability.  The impact of this journal as an open access one is said to be “eight times” greater, given the accessibility that it provides through open access. Open access for this journal translates into higher readership which increases the potential for more citations of your work. Additionally, this journal claims to have a broader impact beyond Academia, given that the availability of your article online allows anyone to access it.

Open Access journals serve as a major tool of progress within the structure of Academic peer-review practices given the expansion of its accessibility.  However, it must be taken into account that the peer-review process must remain as a rigorous and comprehensive one to guarantee the integrity and accuracy of the work that is trying to get published. Overall, the expansion and availability of Open Access journals allows not only the scientific community, but the general public to be better informed and have access to revised information that will benefit the development of new projects, policies, and practices.