Friend or faculty: Social networking sites, dual relationships, and context collapse in higher education

Cassidy Sugimoto, Carolyn Hank, Timothy Bowman, Jeffrey Pomerantz, Mar 15, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I'm not really happy with this article because it expends a lot of words while not really saying anything, but on the other hand I don't want to pass it by because it draws attention to - and is reflective of - the confusion that surrounds staff-student relations in online social media. I recall that when I first started university it was accepted - and common - for faculty to exchange a pint and off-hours conversation with students, while by the time I was teaching the practice had become much less common and was even discouraged a bit. The same sort of flux exists online, the uncertainty compounded by the fact (as the authors observe) that not all faculty-student relations are the same. And then there aree issues like academic freedom. I think as well the changing style of learning online - where faculty are seen less as authority figures and sometimes even as co-learners - changes the nature of social interactions online. Authority and friending probably don't go well together, but maybe learning and friending still do. (Some good reads in the references, such as this item on friending in pharmacy class, this article on whether to friend, the right to be forgotten ruling in Europe, and this faculty ethics group on Facebook). (Image: The Student Years)

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