Social media continue to grow and diversify. This images shows a group of people surrounded by social media iconography.

New open course meets growing demand for ethical social media skills

19 September 2016

Good social media citizenry is at the heart of a forward-thinking new MOOC.

A new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) launching today, is giving students and professionals the skills to use social media ethically.

 “Good social media citizens show leadership in public spaces by encouraging and enabling rigorous debate around public issues,” said Dr Jonathon Hutchinson, a University of Sydney expert in online and social media, who teaches the open online course.

“Ethical social media users can steer conversations away from dark places and toward more productive and informative interaction. It is not simply a matter of be good to others: it is the ability to guide others and set standards that help, protect and encourage all sorts of voices.”

How can social media be used positively?

As issues of hate speech, anonymity and data transparency converge, social media continue to diversify, in workplaces and communities. Navigating this fast-changing environment and building safe spaces for debate will become an increasingly in-demand skill, says Dr Hutchinson.

“Social media may soon become the first point of communication for many industries, and if that transpires, educators and employers need to be training their graduates and staff in even the most basic of social media communication skills,” he said.

“Regardless of whether you become a sports podcaster or a botanist, you will need to understand and practise ethical social media.”  

The five-week MOOC has been developed by the University’s Department of Media and Communications and is hosted by global MOOC provider, Coursera.

Why does social media matter?

With five modules, the MOOC examines a range of ethical issues, including social media and disability, births and deaths on social media, and politics and trolling, while delving into how to build online influence, communicate effectively and get the best out of social media data.

The course features interviews with key social media experts, from both within University of Sydney and other academic spaces, along with media and communications experts and industry professionals at the coalface of ethical social media developments.

“Social media innovate and disrupt how we communicate,” said Professor Barbara Caine, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney.

“With these changes come challenges and opportunities to create fair and transparent online spaces. This MOOC shares our wealth of media and communication knowledge across borders, and stresses the importance of an ethical approach at a time when social media is continuing to develop and to become more important."

Luke O'Neill

Media and PR Adviser (Humanities and Social Sciences)