Imaginary Construct of a Social University

In the industrial era, organizations became more powerful by being bigger; in the Social Era, companies can also be powerful by working with others. While the industrial era was about making a lot of stuff and convincing enough buyers to consume it, the Social Era is about the power of communities, of collaboration and co-creation. In the industrial era, power was from holding what we valued closed and separate; in the Social Era, there is another framework for how we engage one another — an open one.  – Nilofer Merchant (Since it is a quote, I didn’t copy it. However, you can ask me to!)


The progress of the social era has started. The educational leaders should research its relation to the future of colleges, schools and universities.

So what exactly is the social era? How does it differ from our past which has been called the digital era? The great place for its analysis is the social media which the educational technology space of today comprehends. According to Nilofer Merchant who has authored 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era it is difficult for us normally to use the word social without attachment of media at its end. According to her, it is crucial we understand the word social properly which is the essence of social media. We need to understand the social concept which is essence without actually relating it to social media. The social era is actually quite independent of the social media. We need to understand what true social is and how it contributes towards us creating values, making decisions and defining worth. We will gradually start seeing the role of this social essence in our universities, colleges and institutions.

According to Merchant the social era gives power to the concept of community. The connections are real value creators. The collaboration has developed into a hierarchal structure. Whenever social media is involved, we expect many types of interactions which we can relate to social experiences. However, according to Merchant, it is the strong social model on basis of which successful and progressive companies are built. Online platforms such as Udemy, Udacity, Khan Academy, Edx and Coursera are some of the fine examples of such social model success. The step we should be taking is the recreation of the institutions, universities and schools in social image. We need to redefine the concepts of interactions, construction of values and processes. The steps of cutting classes, increasing student tuition and reducing the faculty members for balancing our budgets are proven poor approaches. It is time we reinvent ourselves with innovative concepts following the progressive concepts of Merchant.

The innovation and reinvention of old institution systems requires a bit of working. This includes the appearance, titles, replacement of email systems in the newly formed social institutions. The decision of union evolution and decision making without involving committees is even more thought provoking. The difference it would make if each individual’s contributions are made critical would be huge.

Thus from the digital age, we proceed to more of a learning stage which is social era. The social revolution is beneficial for individuality. We are moving from isolated and generalized norms towards the individual empowerment community where interconnection and proper networking would determine the evolution. This leads to highly learning society.


Reinvention of Faculty Development in the New Social Era

All things will assume a social form when preceded within social era. One of most important examples is the faculty development program. This specific example can be found within most institutions and colleges. Faculty development programs need replenishing of resources and ideas. The teaching and learning are always evolving; however, the budgets are not. This has dwindling effect on the progress, leading to underdevelopment of these programs, not matching up to full potential of evolution.

According to statistics by the Sloan-C survey reports, the online classes have increased substantially in USA. The availability of the online classes has made a beneficial impact on the non-traditional learners. However, this has also presented many challenges and clear need for growth within faculty members. This is because the preparing online lectures and face to face academic interactions for students present a huge need for management. This also induces many new challenges along with staying updated according to changing trends. Unfortunately, a few institutions have actually provided the faculty support in parallel to these activities.

The decision to change Course Management System (CMS) is a campus wide decision which has potential of affecting the campuses near and far. CMS is a system which provides faculty the technology to deliver the online classes as well as manage their face to face lectures or do a mixture of both. The technology provides the toolkit to manage their content, along with providing tools to introduce the concept of constructivist learning.

CMS is changing constantly. The change is actually refreshing. However, the approach which is adopted to adjust to this change is bad. When traditional strategy is used to adapt to this change, the system becomes inefficient. We need a social strategy to maximize efficiency.

There is a reason CMS change involves a lot of work. It brings a lot of burden on entire faculty, causing faculty members to start the whole setup from ground. Some institutions have resources for creating online classes which allow ease of faculty members. Some however, don’t provide this facility which causes a lot of burden on faculty members with complex schedules. Those people who manage multiple things at once have to undergo a lot of stress and management to full function. In an interview with a faculty member whose only source of training was the two hour lecture she attended in person. She had no support staff to provide her with necessary resources.

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