“Why Aren’t They Teaching Social Media in College?”

16 Jan

 “Why aren’t they teaching social media?” This is a question I get asked a lot by business professionals in a variety of industries from new media technology, IT, marketing professionals, event planning, and public administration, as well as by other educators. Since I answer this question often, I thought it might be useful to write a bit about how I handle talking with others about the challenges of teaching (with and about ) social media

Teaching Social Media vs Using Social Media to Teach

Social media and web communication strategists are wondering why college faculty are not teaching social media. I actually do not know the rate at which university educators are teaching with/about social media, but I do know it’s happening, and I am interested in learning from those that are engaging in this work. An important point to consider is that academics typically are well-versed in narrow slice of a larger discipline. This “speciality area” is complimented by knowledge about the history, theory, and relevant scholars of that larger research area. Although it may not sound like a lot –it is. This means that academics aren’t teaching social media because social media is probably not their speciality area or may not even be closely related to the larger discipline. This gap between speciality area and social media means many are left wondering what it is and how to go about including it in an existing teaching approach.

I’m sure some where like Harvard, NYU, or USC they are teaching social media, but for the rest of us the bigger and more relevant question is: “Why aren’t faculty using social media to teach? The growing percentage of folks using social media to teach,is still small. I think there are some real barriers that prevent interested and even eager faculty from incorporating social media in their existing curriculum in meaningful ways.

1. Lack of institutional resources: If you’re campus does not have a strong curriculum, teaching, and technology support program already in existence, than interested and eager faculty do not stand a chance. Some people may be really excited about learning to use social media, but if people that know social media are not available, accessible, and ready to help you see your class with a social media part, you are dead in the water. At this point, their are’nt a huge number of universities investing in the “social media educational consultant.”

2. Lack of institutional support: In addition to a lack of institutional resources, faculty may be reluctant to incorporate social media because the university has not given an official “thumbs up,” and more often than not, new media technologies are given a “thumbs down.” Often decision makers are not familiar with social media and think of it as a distraction rather than a potential teaching tool. Also, for those of us that are greener in our careers, if social media and teaching does not clearly move you closer to tenure promotion, then you may feel pressure to set it aside until you have more job security.

3. Lack of knowledge about social media: The lack of knowledge about social media is also linked back to points 1 and 2. An educational institution can help its faculty feel more comfortable and confident to use social media in their classroom by offering training, workshops, and other educational opportunities; however, those efforts do not guarantee that everyone will come to love it. Rest assured there are “late adopters” and “never adopters,” and for some they simply do not see the value of any social media platform and will never pull it into their educational arsenal.

And then there are the Erika Pryor’s of the world. Greener in their career, steeped in the social media technology, and excited to find innovative and creative ways to engage students in the classroom. Don’t fret, eventually, there will be more faculty using social media to teach. In the meantime, when you think about asking this question, consider what you can do to help this person bring social communication technologies into their teaching… you may be just the answer they were looking for. Good Luck!


Posted by on January 16, 2010 in communication, social media


Tags: , , , ,

10 responses to ““Why Aren’t They Teaching Social Media in College?”

  1. Monte Feight

    February 11, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for publishing about this. There’s a heap of important tech info on the internet. You’ve got a lot of that info here on your site. I’m impressed – I try to keep a couple blogs pretty on-going, but it’s a struggle sometimes. You’ve done a great job with this one. How do you do it?

    • Erika Pryor

      February 11, 2010 at 10:58 am

      Monte, Thanks for keeping up with my site. I am so glad you find the content relevant and compelling. I’m sure one reason I’m able to keep up with my blog is because I only have one:) The other reason is because all the topics (communication, social media and education) are important to me; therefore, I’m always reading and searching for information related to these topics. The only advice I can offer then is to do what you know and what you enjoy. Thanks for your feedback. I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the future.

  2. Ferris

    January 26, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Your average web professional, editor, and PR flack can’t get a handle on social media. What are the chances a professor with enough seniority to propose a new class is going to have a good handle on how to use a Twitter machine, much less know what The Facebook is?

  3. Delaney Kirk

    January 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I do teach social media in my management classes-I use class blogs, wikis, have Twitter assignments. However, I find the students tend to be resistant to using some of these tools.

    • Erika Pryor

      January 24, 2010 at 7:15 am

      I’m so glad to find more and more instructors in higher education using social media to teach; however, I’m wondering what you think is behind the resistance you’ve seen of students willingness to use social media in this way? If others have also experienced resistance on the part of students when social media is included in a course, please let us know what you think might be behind it.
      Thanks so much Delaney for passing on your observations. It’s clearly something to think about and consider as we move forward in using new media technologies in our college classrooms.

  4. Anthony DiSanza

    January 19, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Actually, Social Media is being taught – in many universities. FullSail is a for-profit school that has an undergrad & grad program in internet marketing – where social media is a component – as does the University of San Francisco. I just started teaching Internet Marketing at The Ohio State University – where social media is one key component of an overall marketing stratgy. There are several good coursebooks available – eMarketing (5th ed) by Judy Strauss is used at Ohio University; Internet Marketing (4th ed) by Dave Chaffey (see is what I use. I can give you more examples, but would suggest you see – this topic is addressed there – many schools take this up and are looking for ways to use it – it’s just a matter of working with the structure they have and the tools they have. Using social media for the sake of social media isn’t the answer – how it integrates into one’s overall strategy is what’s important.

    • Erika Pryor

      January 21, 2010 at 4:20 am

      Thanks so much Anthony for your feedback and useful resources. I too know that many educational institutions are teaching social media, and importantly, there is a distinction between teaching social media and using social media to teach. What stands out to me is that social media is changing the ways in which individuals and communities engage one another while also compressing time and space. I am excited at using these new strategies of engagement to help students understand how traditional education can be successfully merged with social media. I look forward to many more colleges and universities using social media as an additional educational resource.

  5. Perry

    January 18, 2010 at 3:16 am


    My opinion is control. Until we are prepared to release control and fully engage in the educational process as a relationship between teacher and student, this will not happen.

    Same reasons many traditional “marketing” companies are scared to death of these tools. Suddenly, they are not in control.

    Just my thoughts,

  6. jesspgh

    January 17, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I’ve wondered this myself and I can’t help but assume it also connects to general unwillingness to do the necessary work (bureaucratically, pedagogically, and scholarly) required to accommodate new courses into a curriculum.

    Unfortunately it is another instance of the academy being loathe to innovate and adapt to contemporary communicative circumstances. This is also (at least partially) why newer disciplines and interdisciplines (like Communication or Media Studies for example) are shunned among the more elitist academics seeking to legitimize and further canonize their own (usually overcrowded) areas of scholarship.

    • Erika Pryor

      January 17, 2010 at 3:49 pm

      Jessica, Some of your comments are very true. This resistance means that many of us have to be the “trailblazers” and “trendsetters” and without tenure or job security, it’s very difficult to take those risks. In an utopian world, we will get there, in the meantime we must do what we can as university educators to prepare students for the world they live in. Thanks so much for your thoughtful response and keep fighting the good fight!


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