Learning about Social Media at Oxford

“I feel much more equipped now to talk about how to move about in the social media world. Basically before I knew and used Facebook, LinkedIn and a bit of Twitter – but now I feel like I can use and strategize with more tools, thereby expanding my network and making the information I (and others) produce more accessible and visually pleasing.”

The demand for training and expertise in the use of social media and communication technologies for academic practice has grown over the past few years, to support  public engagement and outreach activities, as well as the progression of an academic career through a powerful online presence and social networking.

The University of Oxford offers a number of training courses in the use of social media and supporting digital technologies.  In an effort to pull together training provision and offer a co-ordinated and visible path for University members to develop their skills and knowledge, a team from IT Services and the Bodleian Libraries developed Engage: Social Media Michaelmas (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/itlp/engage).

Running over Michaelmas Term 2012 (October-December), the Engage programme offered a full term of events to explore different social media tools and strategies for use in an academic setting. The approach was two-fold with both offline and online pathways that learners could follow or dip into to suit their own needs.

The  schedule offered over 50 courses, workshops and talks. Courses were pulled together from existing series, such as those provided by the University IT Learning Programme, and supplemented with new training workshops. Highlights included:

  • Wikipedia: sharing your expertise with the public
  • Twitter for Academia
  • Online presence (introductory and advanced workshops)
  • LinkedIn – Designing your academic profile
  • Facebook Pages that work
  • Security and privacy online: Social media

A lunchtime seminar series was launched by Professor Marcus Du Sautoy (Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford) and invited guest speakers from within the University and beyond shared their success stories and lessons. Titles included:

  • Blogging the truth in health research
  • Podcasting in teaching and learning
  • Social media and building alumni relations
  • Crowdsourcing digital image collections
  • History in real time with Twitter
  • Using social media to disseminate your research

The aim of the series was to inspire attendees to experiment and try new things with social media tools, and feedback from attendees was positive:

[it was] good to hear someone else’s experience of working with social media and then be able to discuss issues around it in a free and open discussion.

[it was] fascinating and good that these were observations from someone who is really doing it.

Events within the Engage programme attracted over 740 bookings, and the lunchtime seminars were turned into a series of Creative Commons licensed podcasts that has seen 419 downloads from iTunesU and 623 visits to the University’s podcast site (http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/engage-social-media-talks). [1] A number of these talks were also written up as case studies and added to the IT Service’s Case Studies in Innovative Practice site (http://blogs.it.ox.ac.uk/ltg-casestudies/category/innovative-practice/).

Discussion of social media’s place in the University setting is on-going, but the excellent exemplars of uptake this programme saw means that the departments involved in Engage will be hosting their own award for excellence and innovation later in the year, providing a platform for those who have run with the programme to showcase their achievements to the University.

[1] Statistics gathered between 14/10/12 – 91/01/13

[2] 23 Things for Research is inspired by the first 23 Things Oxford and based on the original 23 Things program which ran at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County in the USA in 2006. In the same spirit, the 23 Things for Research programme was released under Creative Commons as an Open Educational Resource, enabling global reuse.

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