Becoming the LinkedIn University: students and staff – developing our professional profiles together

Andrew Middleton & Sue Beckingham
@andrewmid / @suebecks

Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.2

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Short Abstract
Professional recognition and identity are important to all staff and students. How each of us fosters and maintains our professional identity is problematic. In this Social Digital Age maintenance of good reputation requires a fluent life-wide engagement with professional profiling as exemplified in the idea of a life-wide “LinkedIn University”.

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Detailed Outline
We report on the outcomes of our HEA Employability project which sought to promote student engagement in Personal & Professional Development Planning.

Not only is engagement in PPDP important to employability, it develops a student’s learning capability, and their sense of being and becoming. The project began by questioning where PPDP sits, challenging views of it being a teaching, learner support, or career development problem. PPDP underpins all these and, reflecting on last year’s conference, is best understood as a life-wide and lifelong habit best fostered while at university to develop the reflective graduate capable of taking care of their future. This requires PPDP to be a meaningful concept to the learner. The project has sought to ‘un-problematise’ PPDP so that the learner, and all those who support learning, embrace its importance.

Thomas (2013, p.10) says, “higher education institutions should aim to nurture a culture of belonging within the academic and social community. This should be encouraged through active student engagement, across the institution…” So while PPDP remains pertinent to teaching and learning, it comes from a life-wide view of learning while at university (Jackson, 2013a; 2013b).

The project aimed to concretise this life-wide view of learning, employability and PPDP by focusing first on the ‘presentation layer’; creating and maintaining a professional profile to present ourselves to others. By establishing good presentation practice using LinkedIn (the de facto online social media professional profiling tool) the meaning of, and engagement with, PPDP becomes clearer to the aspiring and practicing professional.

The ‘professional profile’ connects strongly to ideas about professional recognition and reputation for academic staff. A mutual interest for staff and students is now envisaged in which each models good practice and supports the other in using online social media.