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Will Social Media Pioneer the University Of The Future?

Social media can do a lot of cool things, like launch wee babies from post-college obscurity into weblebrity stardom, but we won’t likely be seeing the Twitterversity of YouFace issuing a Bachelors of Micro-Marketing anytime soon.

Last week’s Social Media Week panel on “The Future of Social Media in Higher Education,” was a lot like watching an awkward blind date.  Sure, social media and higher ed might have a lot of common interests like “iPhones” and “Facebook”, but they probably shouldn’t be planning on having internet babies anytime soon:

Mashable’s Adam Ostrow envisioned a future where college professors might amass tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and use social media to “build their personal brand”, while Fordham University’s Dr. Kathleen King saw a future where the classroom might become increasingly accessible through virtual courses using technologies like Skype or Facebook.  Jatched.com co-founder and NYU undergrad Mary Casey predicted a future where augmented reality might enable students to point their iPhones at objects and gain instant visual access to layers of information.

College professors as web celebrities?  Virtual courses?  Augmented reality apps and iPhones as required texts?

Each of these innovations comes with its own unique set of baggage, not least of which is the fact that institutions of higher education do not operate like savvy corporations.  By the end of the hour long panel, serious issues like educational access and the economic barriers that might prohibit widespread adoption of new technologies never had a chance to be fully addressed.

As higher education faces crippling budget cuts during this “Great Recession,” perhaps the question we should be asking is not how social media will change the way students learn in the classroom, but how social media might be harnessed to rescue higher education from the brink of disaster.  Kickstarter for Universities, anyone?

Watch the full panel on social media and higher education here.

(image via Switched)

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