#SocMedHE15: starting the conversation about social media for learning
Long post alert! This post originally appeared in the University’s showcase magazine, Review, as a full-length feature of about 800 words. But it’s a really interesting piece about a fantastic social media conference, and it’s worth sharing here.
In December, a team of educational developers from Sheffield Hallam organised the first ever conference on the use of social media for learning in higher education.
The Social Media for Learning in Higher Education 2015 Conference featured over 60 speakers from eight different countries, and from 35 different higher education institutions, and other digital learning organisations.
Helen Rodger, senior lecturer in digital capability, was part of the conference organising committee. She says there was a clear need for a sector-wide conversation about the impact and application of social media on the global learning landscape. And the team were confident that Sheffield Hallam was the right institution to start this conversation.
She says: “The boundaries of social media are changing all the time. More tools and opportunities are emerging, and behaviours are adapting. It’s important that educators recognise and engage with the impact that social literacies have on business and society, learn to harness the power of social media, while remaining mindful of the wider challenges.
“We had three major themes for the conference: the changing learning landscape, the applied use of social media in teaching and learning, and the challenges faced by individuals and institutions in responding to changes. But, in the end, what really mattered was that people, who were all desperate to talk about it, came together to share their experiences of social media in learning, to become a community and begin the conversation.”
Education consultant and Inside Higher Ed blogger Eric Stoller delivered the opening keynote, offering his predictions for ways that UK universities could harness the power of social media tools.
Eric says: “Social media will continue to be used by universities for marketing and communications in 2016. However, an emphasis on the student experience will drive more use of social media by areas like student services, academic advising, career development, financial literacy, and mental health.
“The greatest areas of impact will be in career development – using social media to enhance employability – and as part of a digital identity component of a university’s digital capability scheme.
“I think there are going to be more individual administrators who start to use social media for student success and engagement. Marketing, communications, and PR are already using digital channels, but the real breakthrough will be when student services operations work in tandem via social media to support the student journey once on campus.
“In the US, there are scores of institutions using social media to enhance teaching and learning. In the UK, it’s a bit less consistent. I know that Sue Beckingham at Sheffield Hallam has done a lot of work with digital identity and LinkedIn for teaching and learning.
“Social media adoption in higher education has been much slower than in the business world. When universities realised that social media could be used for engagement, support, teaching, learning, and community-building, that’s when things started to change. Digital channels enhance the work of academics and educators, and in 2015 and beyond, today’s student needs to be fluent in using social media for the purposes of employability and career development.”
— Sheffield Hallam Uni (@sheffhallamuni) December 18, 2015
Helen agrees that things are moving quickly for higher education institutions, and that staff also need to be digitally fluent, but also to be flexible and responsive.
She says: “As practitioners, we’re surfing a very large wave at the moment, and it’s one that can change direction at any time. Sharing best practice and learning from each other are central to us adapting to the opportunity.
“The thing that really came across from the 2015 conference was the focus on the development of digital capabilities, particularly in the area of managing professional identities in digital spaces.”
— Charles Hardy (@charleshardy) December 18, 2015
— Andrew Middleton (@andrewmid) December 18, 2015
Based on last year’s success, and the need to keep up with the constantly changing landscapes of education and social media, the 2016 conference is already shaping up to be bigger and more focused, to pick up on the significant related issues faced by higher education.
“We’ve had a huge amount of positive feedback from presenters and delegates,” Helen says. “Including lots of feedback from Sheffield Hallam staff who were involved. Overwhelmingly, the message was how great it was to be a part of this leading edge discussion, and how it made them feel proud to be a part of this University. The next step for us is to evaluate the conference to understand more about what why social media for learning is important, and this focus informs our strategies for the future.
“The conference had a huge impact in terms of reputation. Sheffield Hallam University is beginning to be known internationally for leading a critical discourse about the use of social media for learning in higher education. And that’s something everyone at Sheffield Hallam can have a role in.”
Want to get involved in #SocMedHE16? Submissions are now being accepted for the 2016 Social Media for Learning in Higher Education conference. And you can follow @SocMedHE on Twitter for more information.
Joe Field, social media manager