A social network used to mean nothing more than a group of people linked together via common interests or a pattern of social relationships. Similarly, a professional network referred to a group of people tied together by professional relationships or career-related interests. These days, nearly any type of network that exists in the “real world” can also exist in the “virtual world,” which expands the connection possibilities exponentially. Although Facebook is typically associated with social relationships, Twitter with information-sharing, and Linkedin with the virtual Rolodex, these platforms embody the same principles: building online communities and sharing information. In the academic world, traditional campuses are slowly learning how to engage online learners by following the same principles.

The big three social networking platforms (by number of users as of January 2012) are listed below:

  1. FACEBOOK – 750 million users
  2. TWITTER – 250 million users
  3. LINKEDIN – 110 million
An estimated 96% of college students are using Facebook and that’s not including the use of these other social networking sites. The obvious fact is that students are not only present, but incredibly active in the virtual world: they are initiating, developing, and maintaining relationships through the use of technology. The Academic Social Network (ASN), a.k.a Academic Engagement Network (AEN), takes advantage of this fact; it is an online space for members of an academic institution to connect with each other and become part of the broader life and culture of an academic institution. Such networks facilitate access to campus resources, keep students up to date with the latest campus news/announcements and events, encourage collaboration and professional networking, and create informal learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom setting.

So how are institutions transporting their presence to online environments? Some institutions have developed proprietary platforms whereas others are using services made possible via an app or outside organizations. Here is a look at some of the platforms (Inigral, OrgSync, GoingOn, WebGreek, & GIN) used to create ASNs/AENs. What’s your institution doing?

Watch Video on Inigral

Watch Video on OrgSync

Watch Video on GoingOn

Watch Video on WebGreek

Watch Video on GIN