A couple of good questions were posed by Rachel in the comments of my recent Student Affairs 2.0 blog post. I thought there would be value in sharing my response as another post as it allows me to elaborate on my thinking and explain some of the actions being taken at my school.
At Ryerson, we are in the process of creating a full-time position that will be dedicated to fostering the development of a digital student community. The student life promotions team, that we created a couple of years ago, was one of our first coordinated attempts to facilitate community development online and the thinking is that this team will become part of the responsibilities of this new position.
As for the second question, I agree that spending time together face-to-face is very important. I do not anticipate a major shift in where a student affairs professional spends his/her time over the next few years, especially at well established schools. However, the rapid emergence of new schools, like those online, dictate that different approaches must be adopted by student affairs or we risk falling behind or not being included altogether as decisions are made on where future resources are directed. It is rare in my experience to see a student affairs job posted for a school that does the bulk of its work online or interact with a professional from one of these schools at a conference. This is concerning because online education is big business now as the recent PBS broadcast, College, Inc., demonstrates.
Perhaps an even more important reason for student affairs to deliberately take steps to get involved in online communities is that our students are already there is high numbers that will continue to grow. I see no value in fighting this reality. In fact, I see tremendous upside for students affairs to accept it because it will increase our understanding of how students are interacting and learning.
My response to Rachel's questions is obviously driven by my experience and views. Please feel free to share your views so more perspectives can be added to the mix.