A few weeks ago I heard a presentation about how Humbolt State University was using the social networking site Ning to engage new students and enhance their impending college career. Ning differs from Facebook in that rather than focus on a giant “community” of friends, it creates communities that are very specific to a group, club or other like minded people. HSU had great success creating a Class of 2013 Ning group that became very active and basically took over the group from the university’s administration, which was the intention.
SDSU, I learned, hadn’t done something similar using Ning, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a Class of 2013 group in Facebook. It was started by a member of the Class of 2013 and it is, currently, the most active of all the groups in which I am a member. That tells me these new Aztecs are excited about starting their collegiate career. Discussion threads on the page include everything from dorm assignments, to classes to ID cards. They are getting to know each other before ever getting to campus. They are sharing their experience already in a real, meaningful way.
And we, the university, didn’t have to help them do it. While not terribly surprising because this generation was raised using these kinds of technologies, it is amazing to me that such a form of early socialization can happen, organically and in such a robust way. Early socialization is critically important to the success of college students. And so these students, I believe, already have a leg up on past generations.
The group currently has more than 700 members and is growing by the day. It’ll be interesting to watch this group over the course of the next year to see how it evolves and if it becomes even more, or less active as these new students meet in person and become real friends, as opposed to virtual friends.