As we race towards the release of our Penn State Blog pilot I am bumping my head into the same question over and over again — will our students care? This isn’t really something I am being asked by people in general, this is one of those nagging questions that one of the various voices in my head is repeating. We all know that students do live fairly digital lives and the fact of the matter is that they are doing it more and more — especially when it comes to participation in social sites. Not sure if you’ve heard of MySpace, Facebook, or YouTube but PSU students have. Here’s just a couple of data points for you from a November PSU PULSE Survey on social software usage at our University:
- 83% of Penn State students use Facebook (with the number at 90% at the University Park campus)
- 50% of Penn State students report having a MySpace account
- 85% of Penn State students report watching video on YouTube
So if you look at those numbers you can see they are consumers and producers of the digital lifestyle. You might argue that simply watching a video isn’t really taking part, but if you consider that about 16% of our students have posted video you see that there is a solid percentage contributing (BTW, at 80,000+ students 16% is a nice number). The results of the survey are not really surprising, but they do paint a very interesting picture for us to build a case for new services and opporutnities at the University — or do they?
At second glance I have to return to my question of will they show up if we build it. I am fumbling over this specific question and I am obviously going to take a wait and see attitude. Will they come out of their existing spaces to participate? Probably not … but the better question is if we can come up with reasons to pull them out and participate in our environments. The funny thing is that when I say “our” environment I am actually talking about their space. We want to publish their blogs/media/stuff into their personal webspace so they can actually take it with them when they go. I wonder how Facebook feels when you say, “thanks for the free account, but I’d like to take my stuff with me.” I can’t imagine they make it all that easy.
Another strange thing going on with all this is the Facebook’s CEO recent comments about becoming a publishing giant … relying on new tools within the FB environment to encourage its users to create and contribute stories. I found it both very interesting and disturbing. I can say from experience that it is very hard to maintain identity at too many places … in other words, blogging in both the FB and at their other PSU sites may be a lot to ask. They spend a lot of time in the FB — consider that about 25% report spending five hours or more a week in there! I know from other results that is more than they report spending on homework and is close to half of the typical weekly class load!
So, the question is being asked again in my head — will our students care? I’d like to know what you all think and I am really interested in seeing what we do about making it important to them. Or should we?