Do “too many tweets make a twat”, as David Cameron maintains? Are social media becoming an increasingly useful and powerful force in higher education, or, as Bill Gates predicts, will they cause the death of the academy?
The experts seem to be divided not only on social media’s future, but also on their present in terms of their use by academics, and the research that has been done has reached contradictory conclusions. A survey of UK institutions conducted by online consultants Jadu shows a high level of use among academics, with more than 70 per cent of respondents using social media in some way. However, statistics from the US Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, undertaken by Indiana University Bloomington in spring 2009, suggest that take-up is extremely low. Of the academics who responded, 79 per cent claimed never to have used collaborative editing software such as wikis or Google Docs, while 84 per cent said they had never viewed a blog, let alone written one.
Which survey gives the true picture? Can it really be the case that more than three-quarters of academics have had no exposure to or contact with the social-media explosion?