Monday, March 19, 2012

Could Social Networks Replace Higher Ed Institutions?

by Shelly Blake-Plock

More and more I find myself thinking about the future of teacher preparation and higher ed more generally. I'll be posting at length about this in the coming weeks, but for right now I just want to throw a question out there and get some ideas.

And the question is whether a social network can or will ever be able to grant accreditation, certification, validation, and the like. Maybe I'm just stumbling over my thoughts, but I'm thinking along these lines: we talk a lot about Twitter and PLNs encouraging and making possible great pd, so why not take it to the next level: could professional social networks replace much of what goes on in higher ed professional schools and become in and of themselves accrediting, certifying, "institutional networks"? And would we want that?


  1. Interesting questions...

    I think Social Networks would not replace Higher Ed Institutions but they would help Higher Ed Institutions to interact more activley with the current and ex students. Higher Ed Institutions may use Social Network to:
    deliver valauable material to a student community
    conduct student focus groups/discussion
    enable students to exchange ideas/notes
    conduct team building excercises etc.

  2. I will respond to your question with another question. What is the value of accreditation for students? If a person knows a skill and is able to show that they know a skill, what is the point of having a certificate? If a higher ed institution's purpose is research, I don't think social networks can replace that. If a higher ed institution is a place to gain knowledge and skills, I think social networks can replace that. I am a proponent of making education more accessible so I would want anything that does that.

  3. I'll go with Dr. Gill. Don't worry, social networks may be all the jazz but it won't replace Higher Ed. Don't feel threatened.

  4. Dannon has the right thought. Knowing stuff or how to find out answers is the way to go.I know the money I spent for my undergraduate was not the wisest investment. Making education available to all is the true power of the internet. If that is the end result then isn't it just a natural progression. Brick and mortar building may be a thing of the past first then the institutions thenselfs.

  5. I think Shelly could really be on to something here, especially in the realm of teacher prep. There does not seem to be a lot of talk around teacher prep but with "teacher effectiveness" being such a hot topic right now, it is only logical to put teacher prep under the microscope as well. With a social networking solution (badges, anyone?), we could see the development of a sort of Common Core for preservice teachers that means something to employers regardless of the applicants' geography because the endorsement would mean that a known set of specific, rigorous parameters have been met and that the candidates were supported by their PLN. It could be anything from an alternative to traditional teacher prep in higher ed to, as one commenter suggests, a companion piece to better support the traditional track. As with most of our endeavors, we are limited only by our imaginations. Looking forward to seeing where your thinking leads us on this, Shelly!

  6. Great points Noah. I don't think it is hard to see how social networks can support/enhance Higher Ed Institutions, but maybe Higher Ed Institutions will make social networks a more formalized part of what they do. This might make Higher Ed Institutions more efficient and effective in what they do.

  7. @Noah -- Yes, this is a question I'm actively working on. It seems the biggest obstacle has to do with validation, but we're playing with some ideas of how to fix that.


  8. I'm in my second year of college and so far all of my teacher prep has been introductory and a little vague. I wanted something more meaningful so I went looking online. I've used twitter for several months now to connect to teachers and have found that so beneficial to my prep. I see a real future for integrating social networks into higher ed.

    1. @Nichole -- All 3 student teachers with whom I have worked have offered a similar take; namely that their teacher prep journey spent the lion's share of its time traversing the peanut gallery of learning "about" teaching and precious little time exploring the actual trenches "in" teaching. To be sure, they are both valuable but at least in my (admittedly small) sample pool, it seems that traditional teacher prep is inadequately addressing a major need of aspiring educators. Faced with the - hopefully unacceptable - reality that roughly half of these future teachers will be out of education within their first 3-5 years, improving teacher prep strikes me as an essential component of what the President has called, "The Sputnik moment of our generation."


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