Social media have started to penetrate and change academic practice in various ways over the last few years. Academics nowadays make use of weblogs and Twitter to build networks and communicate within their profession as well as for disseminating their research to a wider audience. In addition, a whole set of targeted social media portals offer researchers specific services for scientific collaboration. This technology-enhanced facilitation of scientific collaboration and communication on a global scale is causing transformations in scholarship as it offers alternatives in scholarly practice. In the light of these transformational processes resulting from the adoption of social media in academia this study set out to look at the very specific target group of researchers active in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning and explore their specific social media practice. This multidisciplinary area of research is characterised by a strong heterogeneity in terms of actors, including researchers from diverse domains, such as computer scientists, educational scientists, cognitive scientists, etc. In addition, this target group has a specific research interest in latest information and communication technologies from an educational perspective. Thus, the target group partly includes people who are not only using social media for their own scholarly practice, but who are also researching how to use social media in educational contexts. In addition, some actors in this specific target group include social media in their own teaching activities.
Interestingly however, those who study the implementation of social media in educational settings do not necessarily use these technologies for their own scholarship. This work is specifically focusing on the value that social media plays for the specific target group with regards to their career development and reputation in the community. The driving question about the value of social media usage for the personal careers of researchers active in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning has been addressed in a qualitative way, closely analysing a set of heterogeneous cases from the community following a grounded theory approach. Overall, three types of social media users emerged: the heavy user, who constantly oscillates between different social media tools and is permanently online, the targeted user, who is aware of the possibilities of social media for their professional practice but does not want to spend too much time on it and finally the restricted user, who makes a very limited use of social media. The tools landscape and usage pattern that unfolds across the three different types of users is very heterogeneous and driven by personal preferences, working styles, personality traits, etc. One of the main implications of social media penetration in scientific practice of this specific target group is the emergence of peer pressure. This social phenomenon is confirmed across the three user types. While at first sight heavy users tend to exert peer pressure and restricted users register a pressure coming from their peers to be more active in social media, a much subtler picture unfolds when having a closer look. People adopt different strategies and different digital identities to cope with the perceived peer pressure. In addition, the actors in this study are currently facing changes in their professional environments caused by the advent of social media.
These changes are noticeable in the whole academic arena, not only within the specific research field of Technology Enhanced Learning. A culture of openness towards publishing and collaboration has started to establish itself and influences the way research is disseminated.
Boundaries between the professional and private live of researchers are fading and traditional hierarchies are weakened. Social media are used deliberately to create reputation and to promote one's career. This holds especially for younger researchers, who have less established contacts in the community. Overall, social media have caused transformations that we are experiencing on various levels ranging from the individual perspective and personal use to the peer perception and the changes in organisational structures. The awareness about these changes is great amongst researchers in Technology Enhanced Learning. While the level of adoption still differs a lot across the community there seems to be an agreement that one cannot escape these transformations completely and that they offer new opportunities for the profession.