As the first decade of the 21st century came and went, the college degree transitioned from helpful perk to resumé requirement, with the National Center for Education Statistics reporting a 45 percent increase in full-time student enrollment from 1999 to 2009. Throughout this growth period, an alternative arose for those unable to attend traditional class sessions on campus: online courses. A simultaneous technological boom came in the form of social media, with websites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter becoming a daily Internet pit-stop. Colleges and universities offering online courses have capitalized on the increase in people using social media by setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts to give current and prospective students access to a hub of useful information.
Keeping Up with #Trends
While many online colleges have campus locations, not all students live within driving distance. A disconnect in location may be inevitable, but Twitter has made it simple to connect to campus life through real-time conversations and informational updates. National University, ranked the number 1 online college in 2012 by the Online Education Database Organization, Tweeted an announcement for a campus event with a link to the event webpage. This tweet will appear in the instantly updated Twitter feed for all those who follow the school.
Going a step further, those attending the event can tweet a trend (a word or phrase preceded by a hashtag, for example, #NUinfosession) on National University’s Twitter account and start conversations with other attendees or those who are following from home via Twitter. This leads to a domino effect of students, faculty and community members following one another, conversing and sharing links and information with people they may not have encountered otherwise.
Do You “Like” Your School?
Whether the answer is yes or no, it could benefit at least saying so through Facebook. Similar to Twitter, Facebook provides a venue for the instant update of important information, solutions to problems, and answers to begging questions. Colorado State University (ranked the number 5 online college) posted “Tune into the live webcast of tonight’s first Stadium Advisory Committee meeting, 7 p.m. MST” with a link to the online broadcast. Status updates like these not only bring awareness to the event, but instantly spawn discussion on the topic.
As soon as the meeting began people were weighing in on discussion topics through that status update in variations of one sentence opinions to well-thought-out paragraph responses. If the school has a good following (like CSU boasting 34,385 Facebook friends), questions and comments are reaching a broader audience in a centralized location. This allows even the more specific questions, such as, “what time zone do I have to follow for the assignment’s due time?” have a chance at being answered, and fast.
Connect to Your Campus
According to a 2011 study conducted by Pew Research, 47 percent of the population are using social media regularly. Putting these resources to good use by connecting with your college or university can allow you to engage from a distance, something that may pose as a challenge for an online student only using email communication. WIth a swift click of the mouse on your favorite social media site, you can be sure that you will never be the last to know.