Use of Technology for Outreach and Engagement



Jamie Miles, Magdalen College, & Simon Clarke, St Peter’s College: OxTweet

Bridging the gap between the university and its students and potential applicants, OxTweet brings together Oxford students from a variety of subjects to share what it is like to live and study at Oxford. It allows potential applicants to gain an honest representation of life at Oxford, pose questions, and have them answered by students on the courses that they are planning to read.

Jamie (above) studies PPE, and his colleague Simon Clarke (right) is a physicist from St Peter’s College who won an OxTALENT award last year. Other members of the OxTweet group include a musician, a chemist, another physicist, a mathematician, a computer scientist, a fine arts student, an archaeologist, a biologist, a classicist, a medic, a lawyer, a biomedical scientist, a linguist, and an engineer.

Jamie said:

As the first student from my school to go to Oxford, I felt that information on what it is like to live here was lacking. I wanted to see what rooms looked like, the food, the people and what an average day entailed. When you are considering a place to study or you have your offer confirmed, this information is invaluable. There was official University material; however, one is always sceptical about the degree of honesty in these publications, as it is inevitably biassed.

OxTweet provides this reality by creating a forum in an informal and interactive environment. The aim of the project was to dispel the myths about Oxford: for example the fact that people don’t walk around speaking Latin, or that students from comprehensive schools can’t get into Oxford. Jamie continues:

To make the project a success, I needed OxTweeters from a variety of subjects with a variety of interests, so the first thing I did was contact my friends. In no time, the OxTweet flock was formed and we began to document our lives. The project then gained fantastic momentum through advertising via the social media of various colleges, the student press, and word of mouth, which led more people wanting to become OxTweeters.

The OxTweet project is now a thriving community of Oxonians who reach out to Oxford-curious tweeters. It has created a discussion in which both parties can honestly say what they think without the fear of saying too much or asking a ‘stupid’ question.

As well as tweeting, Jamie and Simon video blog consistently through the term, from their college rooms and on location. Each has several thousand followers who eagerly await the next installment and ask questions about their lives.

When the project ends, all the tweets will continue to exist in cyberspace, providing a rich and extensive resource about the reality of attending Oxford. Jamie concluded:

We have the tools to connect people, but these tools are only as impressive as the uses we put them to. One should never feel limited by resources. There are a wealth of free tools available to everyone and we are only limited by our creativity to find new and amazing ways to use them.

Also, never underestimate the impact a great team can have on ensuring a project’s success. I am always thankful for the energy and time my friends continue to contribute to the OxTweet initiative.

Scott Billings,  Oxford Natural History Museum: Darkened not Dormant

The Museum of Natural History is new to Twitter, and decided to take the plunge as one of the ways to maintain its profile during 2013 while it is closed for refurbishments to the roof. Scott Billings, the museum’s newly appointed Communications Coordinator, explained how a few social media-savvy members of staff came together for initial discussions to decide whether the museum should have a social media account and how to approach it. Brooking questions such as ‘Does anyone really want a digital Dodo?’, they secured buy-in from other staff, arguing that ‘Not being on social media is like not having a telephone.’ As a consequence, the museum is now keeping the public abreast of its activities – as well as the behind-the-scenes story of the refurbishment – through both Twitter and its blog.

Pip Wilcox, Bodleian Libraries for Sprint for Shakespeare

Pip used crowdsourcing techniques in order to raise money to fund the digitisation of Oxford’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio. In this way, her use of social media represents the latter-day equivalent to the ‘crowdsourcing’ methods which were used back in 1905 to raise funds to purchase the printed copy.

Oxford will be marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. However, this project is also important because it marks a further step in Oxford’s commitment to open educational resources.

The images of the First Folio are released under the Creative Commons license (CC BY 3.0). This allows anyone to:

  • Share the work (i.e. to copy, distribute and transmit it),
  • Remix (that is, adapt) the work; and
  • Make commercial use of the work.

IT Team, Said Business School: GOTO

GOTOGlobal Opportunities and Threats: Oxford – is a new concept: community-based learning and discovery in the context of a business school, which draws on Oxford’s great depth of expertise and research.

The course was developed as a new element of the School’s MBA programme and as an innovative way of connecting with Oxford University alumni. The first module, launched in Hilary Term 2013, considers the impact of increased longevity and falling fertility on the ageing of the global population. The second module, to be launched in Hilary 2014, will focus on the global significance of Big Data.

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