New media are an accepted form of communication and learning among Millennials, the current generation of students making their way into colleges and universities. Implementing these technologies in the classroom has a number of potential positive impacts on the higher-education environment.
New media contribute to higher education by…
- …enhancing professional writing skills.
The brevity of new media encourages students to write clearly and concisely, especially important when using these technologies as professional communications tools. Social media also help students think critically about their contributions to the online community: the ideas and perspectives they share publicly.
- …supporting informal, interactive learning.
Incorporated into the classroom, new media help learners participate beyond traditional channels by allowing them to create personal learning environments. New media can be incorporated into textual assignments, allow students to both produce and access audiovisual content, and facilitate collaborative work and knowledge-building.
- …helping instructors address issues in a timely fashion.
Time-sensitive matters, including questions and clarification for assignments and notification of personal emergencies, are easily handled by logging into Twitter and Facebook. The immediacy of online communication allows instructors to sort out issues before they spiral out of control. Instructors may also use social media to disseminate information related to the course and provide students with quick access to resources on the World Wide Web.
- …allowing students to build and maintain relationships beyond the classroom.
Social networks are used by professionals around the world, and students using those technologies can enhance their networking skills by interacting with authorities in their fields of interest. Relationships with classmates and instructors, which often end with a semester, may be maintained through social media connections.
Applying new media to the higher-education context is not foolproof, however. Before employing new media technologies in the classroom, instructors should carefully consider that…
- …not all Millennials use technology constructively.
Because Milliennials were raised with computers, mobile phones, video gaming systems, and the Internet, instructors often overestimate these students’ technological savvy. Some Millennials lack basic computing skills, and despite their multitasking abilities, they are easily distracted and require some formal instruction.
- …new media use may spur a digital divide among students, their peers, and instructors.
The use of new media in a course requires students to have access to potentially costly technology inputs. Lack of ready access to computers and mobile devices may put some students behind their peers. Likewise, instructors may lag behind their students in understanding social media, putting them at a disadvantage in the classroom.
- …the Web is a free, open, and often unpredictable environment.
Unprotected student-produced content is open for commentary and criticism from non-class-related parties. Generating two-way dialog on blogs and microblogs is a potentially dangerous proposition for students unschooled in productive online interaction. Constant change requires students and instructors alike to stay abreast of new technologies and applications.
- …social media change how students and instructors interact.
The norms of traditional classroom interactions may not translate into the realm of social media. The essence of social media lies in sharing personal information and media content, and such disclosure may result in loss of privacy for both students and instructors.