Posted by: cslfconnects | September 9, 2008

What is Web 2.0 for Higher Education?

By Mariana Evica

And Amie Aragones
Connecticut Student Loan Foundation

September 4, 2008

The internet has permanently changed and accelerated the way we communicate: as individuals, Financial Aid and allied professionals, and as institutions.  Web 2.0, or Social Networking, is the next phase in the evolution of communication on the internet.  Here’s information pertaining to who is using it, how it can support higher education and why you need to become involved.

What is Web 2.0 and Social Networking?

To understand the term “Web 2.0” is to grasp a little bit of tech-savvy slang.  Web 2.0 as a descriptor is intended to imply, that like a new software upgrade, that this version of the Web is “New!” and “Improved!”  Or course, it’s the same old internet, technically, but what has changed and why is it an improvement?

Very simply, the “old” internet was about presentation – one way communication. Web pages were static sites that people would visit, look at, and often not return to if the site lacked additional value.  That version of the web was like traditional publishing and didn’t offer a lot of interaction.

Gradually, as access to creation and maintenance of web content became easier and less expensive, media-rich ways of two-way communication such as blogs and social networks emerged.  The internet-using public discovered it had a lot to say, create, distribute and discuss.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project defines a social networking site as:

“…an online place where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to other users.”

In other words, a social network is an online community for social interaction, connection and sharing. They range from age-specific spaces for children to professional career networking sites.  Any given social network may use any or all of the current methods for communication and sharing common to Web 2.0.

How are people collaborating and using Web 2.0 and Social Networking now?

  • Blog – short for Web Log, like an online column or diary, often about a single topic or theme, blogs fall along a spectrum from personal to professional.  A blog can be individually or collaboratively written, and invites comments and further discussion.
  • Wiki – collaborative reference sources, where authorized contributors add to the knowledge base. Ex: Wikipedia. Can be used on smaller, more specialized and controlled scale as well
  • Social Networking Platform – membership-based online “spaces” with user-friendly interfaces designed for members to interact with each other. Ex.: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning
  • Forums – message board or thread-based online discussions where users can post initial messages to spark discussions on a topic or solicit feedback
  • Media Sharing – Users share media content (pictures, video, and audio) via many methods of distribution: email, posting on one another’s social media profiles, subscribing to friends’ channels, etc. Example: YouTube and Flickr.

Who uses Social Networking?

“In the past five years, such sites have rocketed from a niche activity into a phenomenon that engages tens of millions of internet users. More than half (55%) of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites….”

~ Pew Internet & American Life Project national survey of teenagers 1/3/07

How can the higher education community use this and why?

Members of the Higher Education community have a common need to share information and resources with each other as well as to reach students, families, and members of the academic community. The flexibility of the platforms, coupled by the fact that students enthusiastically embraced the methods and technology first make this an ideal match.

  • Vertical information sharing to connect with students and families
  • Horizontally to share information and resources within the higher ed community
  • Because social media promotes not just two-way, but many-way  community-style sharing, resources are shared efficiently
  • Knowledge is accessible to many and many get to contribute and be heard

Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education has been the standard bearer for information and communication for the post-secondary education community for many years. Its online version supports 1 million unique visits and 12 million page visits per month.  Now The Chronicle has embraced social networking and Web 2.0 for all it has to offer.  Users can communicate, interact and share information globally with media, opinion and shared resources:

Classroom/learning uses

  • Classrooms go digital: course info, lesson plans, supplementary materials, etc., are posted and allow for questions, comments and discussions by students
  • Example: – the public blog for the University of Minnesota course GWSS 3307 – Feminist Film Studies: On Media, Representation, and Women Who Make Movies
  • Example: – The University of Chicago School of Law has this faculty blog with podcasts to discuss curriculum, lectures and current events that impact teaching at the school

Distribution of School/Community Information

  • Blogs and social networks announce community events
  • Many schools now using blogs and mobile phone alerts for crisis communication. If comments are allowed, students and families can provide valuable personal assistance to one another. Example:  Tulane University’s recent blog for Hurricane Gustav on their emergency notice page:
  • Libraries connect with students, faculty and other libraries: Temple Univ Library
  • School blogs range from informal to official, numbering in the thousands, many substituting for or enhancing PR communications
  • Example: Stanford Univ Press blog
  • Example: Dickinson College


  • A Google search for “admissions blogs” returns over 1 million results
  • Schools now routinely use blogs as a tool for recruiting students, affording them an insight into the school and an opportunity to interact: asking questions about the admissions process, the school and its community, and other questions. Questions regarding other areas, such as Financial Aid, can be effectively redirected to the appropriate people.
  • Example:  A recent entry on MIT’s Admissions blog that addresses admissions statistics at MIT:
  • Example: Oregon State University’s admissions blog that provides a context for how OSU relates to the world:

Best Practices for Higher Ed and Non-Profits in the Web 2.0 Environment

  • Previously uncharted waters are now gaining more defined boundaries as Social Media professionals like Heather Mansfield of Diosa Communications ( ) aggregate and share information:
  • For example, institutional users of MySpace and Facebook are encouraged to maximize all social networking platforms by using their profiles and pages to drive traffic not just to their primary domain, but also to presences on YouTube, Flickr, or other social networking sites in order to broaden the opportunity for visitors to get to know the organization.  Heather also encourages users to funnel an organization’s social network visitors to join their organization’s email marketing/newsletter campaigns, to use every opportunity to bolster connections from prospective students through alumni.

Reaching Teens and Post-Secondary Students Where They Are

  • The Pew Internet & American Life Project also cites that 48% of teens visit social networking websites daily or more often; 26% visit once a day, 22% visit several times a day
  • Also cited: statistics suggest that demographics do not drive teen social networking usage over all: by household income (greater than and lesser than $50,000) 55 and 56% respectively are active users and by ethnicity (White, non-Hispanic versus Non-White) 53 and 58% respectively are users. With a +/- 5% margin of error, this indicates the statistical differences are insignificant
  • Data from 2007 from MySpace itself indicated over 65 million users. More recent stats cite more than 110 million monthly active users
  • Recent research by Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research ( indicates a huge surge in Facebook use, however, with growth soon to approach use on MySpace:
  • More than 60 million active Facebook users, an average of 250,000 new Facebook registrations per day since Jan. 2007, an average of 3% weekly growth since Jan. 2007 and active users doubling every 6 months
  • Facebook maintains a 85 percent market share of 4-year U.S. universities

Some Examples of Schools Using Social Networking

  • Wide variety of school pages, ranging from student/alumni-produced, un-official “fan” and “scoop” pages to more officially/professionally created and administrated pages
  • Currently in use at all levels and categories: community colleges, public and private institutions, etc.




A very small number of lenders currently have Facebook and/or MySpace Pages:

Lenders who blog on separate platforms:

So What Now?

The time is now to become acquainted with social networks and all the associated media: blogs, video content and their social sharing sites, such as YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, and other independent blogs and social sites.

How to begin?

Sign up!  Social networks make it free and easy to start.  Become familiar with privacy controls and functionality at your own pace, deciding how much or how little you wish to present. Then, search for existing contacts among friends, professional contacts, family members and institutions. Search based on your personal and professional interests – discover what is already out there and what is not (yet!)

Join the CT Financial Aid group on Facebook!

After you sign up for Facebook, find us and join the discussion!  You can either search for the group using the search feature or try this link to join (you must be logged in):

Visit CSLF on MySpace and Facebook:

Come and find CSLF and friend us and take advantage of a very rich resource for parents and students on MySpace and Facebook:

For more information on best practices in higher education, visit and explore the website of Heather Mansfield, called Diosa Communications. Heather Mansfield has pioneered best practices in social networking for a variety of Non-Profits and schools on MySpace and Facebook:

For a list of schools on various social media sites:

Copyright 2008 Mariana Evica, Amie Aragones and The Connecticut Student Loan Foundation



  1. […] For more information on Web 2.0 for Higher Education, please see our comprehensive primer on social media: […]

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