Sunday 20 December 2015

Social Media for Learning in HE Conference at Sheffield Hallam University

The inaugural Social Media for Learning Conference took place at Sheffield Hallam University on the 18th December 2015. This post is a collection of the activities I was involved in during the conference. Further information about the event can be found on the conference website and this blog post.

Experiences of social media in higher education: barriers enablers and next steps

The first short paper was presented with my research partners Dr Alison Purvis and Helen Rodger. The research was undertaken with colleagues at Sheffield Hallam University. We presented our initial findings from the research and will be sharing the short paper in the forthcoming conference proceedings.

The focus of our study investigates current institutional practice of the use of social media to support and enhance learning. Our short paper shares survey findings; highlighting both enablers and barriers for what is for many, still considered innovative practice where peers are calling for guided support.

There are many examples of social media used in HE to enhance learning and teaching. While some academics are confident in exploring multiple strands of social media and blend them instinctively for a multi dimensional learning experience; others are more tentative, preferring to understand the nature of the tool or process thoroughly, often by learning from others before embarking on a social media based activity (Beckingham, Purvis and Rodger, 2014). There are a broad range of factors, experiences and perceptions that may influence an individual and their resulting use of and expectations of social media as a learning construct.

The aim of the study was to examine current institutional practice in the use of social media in this way, to inform strategic direction and consider implications for future academic development to achieve a positive impact on the learning experience for students.

Fifty individuals responded to an online survey. While the majority of these (n=33) were already using social media in some way in their teaching practice, and mostly had positive attitude to it, the remainder had not. Some were open to the idea, though naturally cautious, but others were clear that it had no place in their teaching practice.

This rich picture presented a variety of barriers and enablers: where confidence was high and support and equipment available; uptake of social media as a technology enhanced learning tool was more prevalent and more successful. There was a strong connection between support (formal and informal) and individual confidence, and a subsequent willingness to try new things to enhance learning.

Recent research advocates the development of digital capabilities including the confident use of social media for communication and collaboration (Beetham 2015); and that where embedded, provide essential skills for future graduates. It is therefore timely to review the skill sets and development needs of staff in order to support the learning of students.

Beetham, H. (2015) Thriving in a connected age: digital capability and digital wellbeing. [Online] Available at:
Beckingham, S., Purvis, A. and Rodger, H. (2014) The SHU Social Media CoLab: Developing a Social Media Strategy Through Open Dialogue and Collaborative Guidance. The European Conference for Social Media, University of Brighton, Brighton, 10-11 July 2014. Available at:

VConnecting live streamed Google Hangout

Thanks to Maha Bali, virtual participants were able to join a 'vconnect' session with Eric, Mira and myself. Maha had put out a call to participate in the hangout, via Twitter and other social networks asking anyone interested to tweet to @vconnecting or herself (virtual buddy @Bali_maha) or by leaving a comment in the blog post. It was engaging discussion around the key points shared by Eric during his keynote. Participants included colleagues from the University of Cairo in Egypt and the University of Warwick. 

Virtually Connecting (2015)

Social media portfolios: building a professional social media profile for presentation in LinkedIn

My second short paper was presented with Andrew Middleton on our HEA funded project 'Connected U' and ongoing research relating to professional portfolios, the use of LinkedIn, and how colleagues develop a rich picture of their personal digital identity and associated scholarship. The website and resources can be found here: A paper will be shared in the conference proceedings. 

This short presentation first reviews the Connected U (Middleton, Beckingham & Snape, 2015), an online digital toolkit of student, alumni, staff and employer video case studies about the use of LinkedIn as a tool for professional profiling. The collection of studies and guidance was produced for a recent HEA funded project.

The Connected U project demonstrated how the social networking tool LinkedIn, as the de facto social media for professional people, provides a useful space for both students and academics to present and manage their professional profiles. LinkedIn, therefore, becomes a necessary and common focus for driving engagement with Personal & Professional Development Planning (PPDP) and for Professional Recognition respectively. More than this, the project asserted that student employability should be framed within a lifelong strategy for being professional, creating an ’employability continuum’. Therefore both students, as aspiring professionals, and academic tutors, as practising professionals, are seen to have a common interest on this continuum in developing skills, habits and reputations and in ensuring they are capable of maintaining their professional standing throughout their careers.

If LinkedIn provides a ‘presentation layer’ driving engagement with professional profiling, how can other social media help to feed this, keeping profiles fresh and up-to-date? This paper will go beyond the cautionary and protective digital literacy discourse about personal management of social media exposure to positively explore digital capabilities and practices. The paper describes the concepts of the ‘digital toolbox’, digital narratives and social media portfolios; ideas which have since been developed as an outcome of the original project.

Middleton, A., Beckingham, S., & Snape, K. (2015) ‘Linking learning: lifewide and lifelong’ Presented at ALT-C “Shaping the future of learning together”, 8th-11th September 2015, Manchester, UK.
Connected U: the digital toolkit on developing professional online presence

Wednesday 16 December 2015

The 12 Apps of Christmas

For the last two years Chris Rowell and Steve Dawes have developed  and shared their online CPD course promoting apps in Higher Education called the ’12 Apps of Christmas’. 

Over the twelve days of the programme, starting from December 1st, Chris and team publishes a daily post with the day’s task by 10am, giving participants the opportunity to work through it whenever there is ten minutes or so spare in the day. Each post contains instructions on a different app, together with tailored suggestions of how to use it with your students and how it might work effectively for you in a professional context.

In general each task shouldn't take much more than ten minutes a day so a nice bite sized CPD opportunity. Participants are advised: "Don’t worry if you get a bit left behind – you can always catch up!"

For those using Twitter there was a course hashtag #RUL12AoC and this provided an opportunity to connect up with others on the course. After the live programme, the materials are made available on the course site to refer back to later, or to catch up on in your own time if you dropped behind.

What makes this course different is that Chris and Steve have reached out to the community to contribute as facilitators and lead on one chosen app. I was delighted to be asked by Chris to facilitate on day 9 with the app Periscope. 

I've written a couple of blog posts on using Periscope in educational contexts:

What made this day for me seeing the app used via a live Periscoped discussion with Laurie Phipps and James Clay.  They talked about Mobile Apps and the work they've been doing on Digital Capability. 

You can access the course here: