McGraw-Hill Higher Education Execs on Social Media Trends, Student Profile Monitoring, and LinkedIn for Students [Google+ Hangout on Air]

Wednesday, I, along with several other journalists, had the opportunity to interview Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, and Stephen Laster, chief digital officer, about the state of educational technology, in a Google+ Hangout on Air. I asked the execs about:

• Their opinions on social media monitoring of students;

• LinkedIn’s recent announcement on opening up the social network to students starting at age 14; and

• McGraw-Hill Higher Education’s own social media strategy, and trends in social media and higher ed.

Here are excerpts:

Question: What trends are you seeing when it comes to social media and higher education? Also, talk about how McGraw-Hill Higher Education uses social media.

Laster: So, social media, when we talk about it and higher education, there’s two sides that we could consider. One is the student life side of social media. I’m not going to go into that because frankly I’m not an expert in that, although I’m certainly learning about that every day. But social interaction mediated through technology in terms of learning experiences is immensely powerful, and what we are seeing on campuses across the world is the walls of the classroom coming down.

So, a great example is one of the simulations that we recently launched, Government in Action. It’s not social media in the way you think about Google Hangouts, but what it does allow students to do is socially connect while playing a purposeful game. And this idea for students to connect outside the walls of the classroom be it through campus-provided social technology or be it through general-purpose social media, it really gives the students additional access to themselves, to their learning teams, and it allows them to bring in the immediacy of the world into their learning area as well. So, what it does is, it allows and sets the stage for learning anywhere and anytime. We at McGraw-Hill think that is wonderful because we believe in a digital world, and when you take vetted, proven, pedagogy content, and you wrap it with the ability for students to connect with each other in many different adaptable ways, learning never stops, and we think that’s very powerful.

Kibby: When it comes to what we do on social media, we are very supportive of open everything, and so we want people to have access to all McGraw-Hill. I am very active on a day-to-day basis on Twitter @BrianKibby. I blog, and our students have direct access to us. What we get in return for that is, we get better ideas for products and services. To not take advantage of all those unique features that are out there today in social media, we’d be foolish. We are very much engaged in it.

Q: Do you think colleges and universities should monitor students’ and student athletes’ social media profiles as part of the admissions process?

Kibby: I don’t. I’m a former college student, and I’ve got kids, and I think we all do. I don’t. I just don’t.

Laster: What I think admissions offices need to do is really focus on making sure that they connect with and embrace those students that fit into their institutions. I think it’s really about, how do we create learning communities of committed learners of all kinds? So, I don’t know if they should be monitoring them or not. I do think though that our young generation needs to be smart about social media. It probably starts back in K-12 to be honest with you. I think by the time they get into higher ed, those habits are formed.

Kibby: When it comes to colleges and universities, as an employer, and from a very positive perspective, absolutely we evaluate a student or potential employees’ social footprint. Can they write? Do they understand how to use the media? From an employer’s perspective, absolutely we look at their facility with the social world, and it’s interesting that very few students actually take advantage of it. I’ll be talking to the freshman class at UMass-Amherst, and I’m often stunned by the few students who really understand how to use social media.

Q: What do you think about LinkedIn’s recent announcement that students 14 and up will be able to open LinkedIn accounts?

Kibby: I’m a big supporter of it. I love the idea. I’m often stunned at graduating seniors really not understanding how to differentiate themselves with employers, whether it’s blogging or Twitter accounts, or other mediums that are available. So, I’m very supportive of LinkedIn doing that. I think it will make it more interesting for admissions counselors. I like the way they’re thinking about these things.

Other journalists who participated in the Hangout were: Mercy Pilkington of Good E-Reader, Dian Schaffhauser of CampusTechnology.com, Joan E. Solsman of CNET, Melissa A. Venable of OnlineColleges.net, Chantal Da Silva of Techonomy, and Melissa Ezarik of University Business magazine.

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