Professionalism and Social Media: A Preliminary Examination Of Ethical Dilemmas

Sally Sun, Martin Smith, Paul Colwey, Chris Bilboe

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportConference Contributionpeer-review


Social media has become increasingly popular as a tool for teaching and providing support to students in higher education. However, it may have also raised challenges for establishing feasible ethical standards of how it should be utilised. This is potentially the case when considering issues related to privacy, freedom of information or speech, the right of anonymity, equality and diversity. It appears to be a prevalent issue in line with current pedagogical development, which requires an inclusive design that embeds characteristics of a ‘smart learning environment’ to satisfy the needs of students from diverse backgrounds. In this pilot study research, we aimed to explore the expectations and understandings of both students and teaching staff, towards their perceptions of what universities do and how well they do it. Questionnaire data and focus groups were collected from students and staff at two UK universities. These students and staff use multiple social media platforms (WeChat, WhatsApp, Viber, YouTube etc.) in their learning and teaching activities. The study focused on their experiences and attitudes towards the use of social media in higher education. Furthermore, institutional social media policies were evaluated according to the expectations and understanding of students and staff. A perceived performance gap can be found in certain areas, such as monitoring students’ use of language, avoiding the use of personal information, understanding how the information provided will be used etc. In addition, some misunderstanding and a lack of knowledge towards the use of social media can be found in both students and staff. In relation to this knowledge gap, suggestions were made to improve the protocols or policies concerning the use of social media, as well as recommendations as to what is perceived by students and staff as the best practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN18 Proceedings
Subtitle of host publication10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
PublisherInternational Association for Technology, Education and Development (IATED)
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)978-84-09-02709-5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2018
Event 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies -
Duration: 2 Jul 20184 Jul 2018


Conference 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies


  • Ethics
  • Social media
  • professionalism
  • performance gap
  • ethical dilemma
  • knowledge gap


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