Insights: Five ways that social media can benefit academics

December 8, 2014
Raina Delisle
Dr. George Veletsianos

Dr. George Veletsianos designs, develops and studies digital learning environments. He leads a research group – consisting of post-doctoral researchers Laura Pasquini and Peter Shepherdson and master’s student Rich McCue – and their goal is to understand the practices and experiences of learners, educators and scholars in new digital environments, such as social networks and open courses.

Veletsianos, who is Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology, recently wrapped up the first offering of Networked Scholars. The course was Royal Roads’ first massive open online course (MOOC). It introduced participants to the tools and practices associated with academics’ participation in online social networks.

Here, Veletsianos and Pasquini offer five ways in which academics could use social media and networks.

Network with colleagues

Higher education faculty and academics are adopting social media in growing numbers. A 2011 survey, for example, found that 45 per cent of higher education respondents use Facebook for professional, non-classroom purposes. Joining social media networks allows scholars to connect with colleagues, offer resources and discuss issues of professional interest.

Solicit feedback and reflect on your research and teaching

Academics increasingly share their work online, often engaging in activities that impact practice. Academic-focused social networking sites, such as and Mendeley, and general interest sites such as Twitter and SlideShare provide scholars with places to distribute, discuss and expand on their research and teaching.

Reach multiple audiences

In sharing in open social networks, scholars enter into interdisciplinary territory and often break down barriers between academic disciplines. Not only are the traditional walls of the academy thinner online, but academic work could reach broader audiences, such as practitioners and journalists.

Cultivate your identity as a scholar 

Social media and online networks allow scholars to manage their online identity, track their citations, identify their spheres of influence and connect with colleagues. These tools support different ways in which knowledge can be produced, shared, negotiated and acknowledged.

Become more open

Using social media and online social networks means being a tad more open, and that’s good for all of us.Openness is the practice of sharing resources and materials (e.g., syllabi, lectures, research papers) in a way that allows others to retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute them. Social media and online social networks often support an ethos of openness, enabling academics to share their work more frequently. A more open approach to scholarship allows knowledge and education to flow more freely and to be used more widely.