In a recent comment, a reader requested to quote me in her research which dwelt on social media usage within Kenyan Universities. I was quite elated because the same issue has been doing rounds my mind lately and her comment forced me to put my thoughts on the issue on paper and hence this post.
I can confidently assert that University students are among the most avid users of social media in the country. They span the whole cycle because among them are content creators, passive readers, active participants, those who just share and a few who are yet to embrace social media. This being the case, I don’t have a bone to pick with the usage of social media tools among University students but rather with the organization around this usage and the integration of social media by the University administrations. I am yet to see a Kenyan University that has organized itself around a social media platform despite the evident benefits that Universities stand to gain.
The question that will definitely arise is how will social media help us as a University? Preempting that question, I have come up with a number of ways that Kenyan Universities can utilize social media:
- Communication: Communication is the most basic use of social media. The majority of University students in Kenya are members of the leading social media sites; Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Instead of buying space on daily papers (which are a luxury to University students), an easier, better, cheaper and more viral way of communicating with students is through social media, where they already are. While a few students buy Daily Papers, mobile internet ensures that all students get their information straight to their phones without hassles. And due to the sharing aspect of social media, the University Administration can rest assured that their communication will be shared to all corners of the university on the click of a button.
- Mitigate Strikes and Unrests: Social Media is a powerful listening tool and through it, Administrations can read the mood of the Universities especially when trouble is brewing. A perfect example is the recent disastrous Kenyatta University strike where those suspended were accused of using Facebook to plan the strike. If there is something brewing, you are most likely to first see it in social media platforms and this gives Universities a chance to mitigate unrests before they get out of hand. Students today will not only complain to their friends in person but will take it online and if Administrations were present within these networks, they can respond accordingly to the raised issues and mitigate impending strikes.
- Online Classes: Nothing brings online classes closer to reality than Social Media and Academic Earth best illustrates this. The reality in Kenya is that most lecturers teach across Universities. There were countless lectures that we missed primarily because the lecturer could not make it back to our University in time. We rescheduled many more lectures to accommodate lecturers who were teaching in multiple Universities. A way of ensuring that no lessons are missed is for the lecturers to make presentations and upload them to platforms like Slideshare and/or Scribd and students would then only need to download these on a weekly basis etc and study them. Another way may be through the use of Podcasts or Videocasts to complement the presentations if they are not self explanatory or needed in-depth explanation. The lecturers would then just need to attend only one class a week to tackle any challenges or queries or go through the notes using a projector.
- Events: A University calendar year is filled with events after events and Social Media lends itself to such events. From beauty pageants, talent shows, theatrical plays, great debates, to keynote speeches by renowned speakers; all these can be immortalized by being published in blogs and recorded and posted in YouTube or Vimeo. Too many great events have been lost in memory because only TV stations have the only copies of them in their archives. Social Media allows anybody to use even phones to record such events and publish them online where those who missed or who are in need of a dose of inspiration can search and find them easily. In terms of organization, subsequent teams organizing these events will have benchmarks to work with based on the views of these videos and blogs and peoples reaction to them.
- Alumni: Social Media is a platform that allows people to connect and better yet to reconnect. For Universities, this translates to connecting all its alumni through one platform and reaching all of them at the click of a button. The Alumni represent a great resource for any University and Universities can now get them together on one platform regardless of their geographical location. Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter lists make for an ideal way of connecting the alumnus community of a given University. Many are already friends in these social platforms and creating that initiative as an institution will see such groups grow organically as more alumni invite each other to the group. Social Media is after all about connecting people with interests and what would be of common interest to all alumni is the time they spent at the University together. Mashable has a great post regarding ways Universities are engaging Alumni Using Social Media.
Let me know more ways that you think Social Media can be utilized within Kenyan Universities in the comment section below?