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Improving student induction with social media and to encourage use of social media with student mentors

Part one: Project description

Project fundholder / Project leader

Dr. Hilary Cunliffe-Charlesworth (Christopher Hill)

Funding awarded



Sheffield Hallam University

Department of Media Arts and Communications, Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences

Project title

Improving student induction with social media and to encourage use of social media with student mentors.

Project description

To encourage the appropriate use of social media as part of student induction and raise the profile of social media with academic staff.

Project aims and objectives

To measure, encourage and monitor the use of social media following two initiatives: 1, the development of a template for organising an induction event utilizing geo-social challenges and 2, the engagement of student mentors to encourage and publicize the use of social media 2013/14 2014/15

Further, we planned to ascertain where social media was already being used in the delivery of teaching in the Department of Media Arts, and to raise the profile of social media in HE both within the university and the tertiary sector locally.

Intended outputs (resources e.g. documents, videos, learning objects etc.)

1. Template for a digital treasure hunt appropriate for sharing externally

2. Wordpress site to contain information and related documents and signposts

3. Twitter to answer student questions during induction onwards as required

Intended Outcomes for staff

1. A ready made template for digital treasure hunt for use at student induction – which can be simply adapted for adoption by course teams.

2. Encourage the use of social and digital media on courses

Intended Outcomes for Students

1. Induction digital treasure hunt enables early engagement with peers

2. Twitter to answer questions during induction

Funding outline (how money is to be spent; list items or costs)

4 hours of staff time (including on-costs) for the production of template and advise relating to Wordpress technical issues.

Award of Amazon vouchers to student mentors in recognition of their contribution.

Activities (brief outline of work)

September /October

Trial and refinement of for digital treasure hunt for use at student induction and consideration of faculty based research ‘ Winter is a Coming’.

Interviewed ‘Help Desk’ staff regarding the questions and the timing of questions asked by students. The outcome was that students ask questions relating to course submissions and personal issues such as ill health when an issue occurs.

November/February Faculty Report on Induction of was produced – while this made no mention of social media, it raised the students’ concern at not having course contact or the opportunity for small group work during course inductions.

Course Committees (staff student meetings) raised no specific issues relating to induction. The project lead contacted students directly via Course Blackboard sites and received responses from students across the courses.

January to March Staff discussions around the ethics of social media and the need for guidelines led to wider dissemination of How to use Social Media Responsibly and associated resources, including SHU Social Media Audit, 2013.

Course Leaders approached for nominations for potential social media lead students to assist staff with student induction.

Development of map of staff and modules that embed social media -and where students have established their own social media course forums proved more challenging than anticipated.

Spring 2014 ‘engagement ‘ of student digital rep/s on each course (some nominated by staff, others self nominated).

May/June 2014 establishment and use of MACACES Twitter feed for students to ask questions on - students to self monitor with admin and academic lead.

Redraft for map for how to make a digital treasure hunt.

Publish materials on project Wordpress site to SHU staff.

June/July Completion of induction programmes across department and preparation of information to be sent out to new students.

August/October – monitor twitter feed use and engagement.

Evaluate latest induction programmes on courses.

Originally the ‘employment’ of students was planned to take place in Semester 1. However, this proved challenging - we wanted to ensure students who we ‘engaged’ were going to remain on the course and had a genuine interest. Further, questions around re-numeration, (the introduction of new university finance systems) ethics (what can and cant we tell students to do?) and the views of academic staff delayed the process. With hindsight the slower process has ensured a more robust understanding from the students’ position (why include a treasure hunt just for the sake of it?), ensure the students can be briefed appropriately (social media protocols), and disseminate some excellent examples of staff practice (which was going unrecognised) and hopefully reassure staff who feel uncomfortable with the use and purpose of social media. One clear positive was a closer working relationship between academic and business services (administrative) staff in sharing ideas and experiences of student induction. Also a student course Faculty Representative has in parallel questioned the use of social media in courses, and his research and discussions with key university staff is feeding into this project.

Dissemination routes (e.g. events, posters, webinars…)

September 2013

Poster at SHU Faculty Learning Teaching and Assessment Day

May 2014 Working with colleague in local FE College to test and plans for dissemination outside HE

June 2014 sharing experience so far to develop session for HEA Humanities Conference in June 2014 as part of a digital art trail.

September 2014 SHU Faculty Learning Teaching and Assessment Event

July 2014 launch of Wordpress site external to SHU

Part two: Final outputs

Project resources inventory (list of items created)

Word Press containing information and links to induction resources

including video resource

Template for student induction treasure hunt using social media Apps

GEN722 Infographic.pdf

Advise by students to peers on the issues of social media use

Link to project resources and blog


Twitter: QSHUMAC

Word Press:

How did the project utilise and/or develop digital literacies in the participants?

Attach a mapping of key project activities onto

The use of social media used at student induction Autumn 2013 on: Photography, Film & Media and Animation and Games areas. In PR, Journalism and Media social media use the use and participation of blogging and twitter more readily employed on key modules. The level of student comprehension around the use of social media for research, development of assignments, group work, and student/ staff and peer-to -peer communication is perceived to have increased.

The project led to staff discussions about social media use on modules, protocols and ethics. Also the importance of social media for employment.

Faculty level induction project is taking the experience of this project forward together with the outcomes of a parallel project in art and design.

Key staff on courses in Film and Media, Animation, Games, Media and Journalism promoting the use of social media in teaching and to increase communication.

Student feedback has led to development of student digital mentor for courses to work with course leaders on student induction Twitter feed.

Staff presented on topics related to this project externally at MELSIG, NAHEMI and HEA events in June 14.

General Issues raised by project

Ethics of using social media in courses and modules

Health and safety training for students for staff and students.

Use and naming of social media sites related to courses/modules

Different levels of engagement and usage of both staff and students.

Barriers / Challenges e.g. accessibility

Academic staff concerned about erosion of staff time and issues of privacy and raised valid issues around the impact of social medias.

Health and Safety for filming - Previous use of web-based resourced closed, leading to need for staff training .

Lack of linkage between central university processes for registering formal social media sites not matched by the proliferation of social media usage

Students liked Twitter for fast communications, but some reluctance to post on course feeds rather than own forums. Need to engage all staff in social media developments to ensure parity of understanding.

Solutions deployed to above issues and challenges

Ethical issues addressed via guide’ Using social media for learning’ at university level supported by further documentation.

Health and Safety for filming – use of alternative sources and BECTU course for staff training - on all courses sending student off campus.

Need for increased engagement - circulation to academic staff of information on university protocols on setting up social media sites. New blog led by Administrative Student Support team linking to Department Twitter feeds from September 2014

How the roles/activities of the participant’s learning landscape was effectively changed by the project

The student’s understanding of ethical issues and the role and function of social media in learning had been addressed more widely. Some digital mentors taking active role in questioning use of social media within university more widely.

Brought together administration and academics to review use of social media elsewhere in university and build on existing expertise. Central university area looking at social media showcase event supported cross faculty and course ideas and encouraged new staff participation

Enabled a more robust understanding of where social media is being used and how it is being used across courses, and its potential in HE education.

Recommendations to future projects of this nature

Social media – ask for help from peers who have set up sites rather than those with detailed knowledge – their knowledge can be overwhelming for new participants.

Finding out who are the stakeholders – they are not always where you expect them to be based.

Expect it to take longer than anticipated – this project planned to employ digital mentors at the outset the academic year. We delayed this until the second semester when we know who were the active student participants.

Listen to your critics – the issues raised by them can help you to address weaknesses in your processes and reasoning.