David McGillivray

Professor, interested in events, culture, digital participation & sport.


Harnessing the power: Social Media in HE and beyond

Having participated in a few ‘events’ relating to social media over the last week or so, I thought it necessary to blog about the status of social media use in HE and how we can learn from what is happening outside of the ivory towers that we (apparently) occupy. Two main events motivated this post – first an internal university workshop on social media in HE and second, attendance at Glasgow’s social media week (@socialmediaweek, #SMWgla).

The first event was an internal one and involved @grahamjeffery and I delivering an informal, relaxed and discursive workshop on social media in HE with senior colleagues in the Faculty of Business and Creative industries (see slides).  In a two-hour session we were able to de-mystify the social media phenomenon, drawing attention to its potential rather than emphasising the ‘risks’ associated with Twitter, Facebook and blogs.  As you’ll see from the slides, there are a number of ways that HE institutions can utilise social media (learning & teaching, communication, b2b activity and knowledge exchange).  However, few institutions have a coherent strategy for their use of social media and this is why it is so important to ensure people at every level of the organisation are informed about the good and bad of various tools and techniques. In my own institution, there are pockets of real expertise and we need to harness this for the benefit of other Faculties if we are to effectively use social media. 

At the second event, social media week in Glasgow, I sat through (and contributed to) a very engaging session on CNN and Nokia’s engagement with social media for breaking news. Peter Bale (@PeterBaleCNN) and Craig Hepburn (@craighepburn) discussed the implications of social media for news organisations and I think their advice is something that HE institutions can certainly learn from if they are to successfully harness the power of social media as a learning and promotional tool.  To quote some of the phrases used by Peter and Craig, they urged organisations to ‘listen’, to ‘cede control’, to ‘accept that the audience makes you more accountable’ and to ‘manage the flow of information’ (rather than discouraging it).  The key thrust of this session was that traditional journalism practice is being transformed by social media and the journalist is increasingly ‘decentred’ – a phrase that was also used in the ‘social media for HE’ session I hosted the previous week.  In HE, it is the academic (and their knowledge claims) that is being decentred.  He institutions seem to be in a mindset to dismiss Peter Bale’s advice to ‘cede control’ and ‘accept that the audience makes you more accountable’, yet surely educational establishments should be the ideal place for conversation, connecting, critique and communication.  

One of my roles is to promote innovation in learning and teaching (hence my participation in an awareness raising workshop for senior staff) and that brings with it a responsibility to consider how we can embrace available technologies to deal with identified needs across my Faculty.  I’ve been playing with the potential of Audioboo for recording short audio and sharing this in learning and teaching contexts. Why not use this ‘free’ tool for recording general feedback on a bundle of essay scripts?

Academic feedback (mp3)

Why not utilise the 5 minute podcast available to provide oral feedback to those students who prefer that medium, or those studying at distance?  It’s more personal, it could well be more efficient for staff and it can be recorded and uploaded directly from a smart phone device or sitting at your computer.  Like Voicethread, students could also record their own reflections to be shared with the rest of the class, or even to be assessed formatively (e.g. a five minute presentation on a key concept).  

Audioboo is also a really cool tool for recording your thoughts and sharing them when perhaps you have little time to create a blog post.  I’ll leave you with an example of my shorter audio version of this blog post, created yesterday.

Social media in HE and beyond (mp3)





David McGillivray • September 22, 2011

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