Guest post: Keep calm and carry on learning! by students @Corran_SHU @abbybutler96 @Matty_Trueman @callum_rooney95

From time to time the unexpected happens and it is not possible for staff or students to get into university. This might be through illness, travel issues or as we are currently experiencing adverse weather.

Over the last week the #beastfromtheeast hit the UK and snow has disrupted travel across the country, meaning many staff and students commuting to university by train or bus have been unable to get to classes or meet with peers for group work.

The SMASH team (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam) were scheduled to get together for a planning meeting. Knowing the weather forecast was predicting even more snow and one member had already started going down with a bad cold; it was decided that rather than postpone the meeting, the group would hold an online meeting. This in itself led to a conversation about what space to use and what was required. It seemed a good a idea to share this as a blog post with some tips on getting started.

Here is the guest blog post led by Corran Wood, Abby Butler, Matty Trueman and Callum Rooney, students at Sheffield Hallam University from the Department of Computing.

Getting Started


An online gathering can be a text based conversation or also include audio and video by sharing your devices microphone and webcam. In some cases there can be echoing when using audio and to overcome this it is useful to use a headset. Some laptops now come with a built in webcam or you can use a clip on version. If using a smartphone or tablet, both are built in.

Getting prepared

The person leading the online session will need to invite others to the group conversation. In most cases they will need to know the username and in some cases the email address used for this space for each person. (Having the email option is useful to pinpoint individuals where there are others with the same name).

Choosing a space

There are a variety of free tools accessible via the desktop or as an app, as well as tools that can be deployed within a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) hosted by your organisation.  Below you will find a selection that can be used to create a Tutor-led or Student-led online session or group discussion.


7 ways to hold an online session with students

  1. Blackboard Collaborate
  2. Google Hangout
  3. Skype
  4. Facebook group
  5. Google Community
  6. Blackboard discussion forum
  7. LinkedIn group

1. Blackboard Collaborate

How it can be used
Blackboard Collaborate is a simple, convenient, and reliable online collaborative learning tool that provides a virtual classroom experience. It allows tutors to engage with students by creating video conference calls, online meetings, file sharing and discussions. Moreover, the ability to collaborate and make real time annotations on documents with the addition of emojis makes this tool a student and tutor friendly application.

How to get started
The maximum number of participants for a session is 25 with up to 400 users in a chat. If it is the first you have used  Collaborate you may have to download the Blackboard Collaborate Launcher. The maximum number of simultaneous talkers is 6. One of the attributes is that the session can be recorded.
Further support

2. Google Hangouts

How it can be used
Google Hangouts is a useful tool that allows users to communicate with each other using video call. Other features include chat and screen sharing. Users can schedule a meeting using Google Calendar and Gmail.

How to get started
You will need to create a Google account and log in; a computer or phone with a camera and microphone (Learn how to use your camera and microphone when you start a video call for the first time); an an internet or data connection. From your phone install the application from the Itunes, Android or Chrome web store. You can use Hangouts to talk with multiple people at the same time. You can send messages in a group conversation with up to 150 people, or have a video call with up to 10 people.
Further support

3. Skype

How it can be used
Skype is similar to Microsoft teams and can be used either via an application or online. Skype allows for individual and group calls through an online chat, video or audio. Telephone numbers can be called or contacts added by username. Skype allows for the sharing of documents and the feature of showing participants individual computer screens which can be useful to show others.

How to get started
Create a Skype account – this can be done using a personal email.
Download the application onto your device or alternatively Skype can be accessed via an online web browser. Add contacts via username or email and get connecting! Up to 25 people can connect in a call.
Further support

4. Facebook Groups

How it can be used
A good tool for group work, chats can be set up in Facebook messenger or a Facebook group can be created (either public or private) for greater variety of usage. A Facebook account is needed but it is not necessary to be friends. Features include: sharing photos, videos, polls and creation of plans.

How to get started
Participants need a Facebook account then someone will need to either set up a group or group chat. 150 people maximum (according to Facebook community).
Further support

5. Google Community

How it can be used
Google Communities is an online platform that allow for the sharing of information whether public or private. They allow for information to be shared, and likes and comments to be added expressing your opinions. This is a shared area to allow for a ‘community’ to be created between individuals.

How to get started
Participants require a Google+ account, from there you can create or search for communities of interest. Once a community has been created, it can be managed by the creator. This includes adding individuals, removing individuals, moderating posts and comments and editing the layout of the community. There is a limit of 30 people joining the community per day. Individuals who join the community can share posts or information, and comment and like other posts and comments.
Further support

6. VLE discussion board

How it can be used
A discussion board known also as a discussion group, discussion forum, message board, is a space where users can leave and respond to messages. This could be in the form of a Q&A, a debate or conversation. Alternatively multimedia such as YouTube video could be added as a focus for questions and discussion.

How to get started
This will differ depending on the VLE used by your organisation. Examples of VLEs include Blackboard, Moodle, PebblePad and Canvas.

7. LinkedIn group

How it can be used
LinkedIn groups enable virtual interaction in a professional environment without the need to be friends with the other participants. LinkedIn members with similar interests can link together and share business and career interests. The main feature is the ability to engage with other members without being connected with them directly.

How to get started
Participants require a LinkedIn account, and the group owner will have to set up the group for other members to contribute. The owner does not have to be connected to those who join the group. The group can have up to 20,000 members, according to the LinkedIn help page.
Further support


7 Apps for group discussions

  1. Snapchat
  2. HouseParty
  3. WhatsApp
  4. Slack
  5. Trello
  6. Twitter group DM
  7. RabbitTV

1. SnapChat

How it can be used
Snapchat can be used as a group discussion via private groups. People are able to send snapchat photos and videos as well as images and videos from your phone camera roll. These can be edited with text and emojis etc. Text chat can also be sent in the group. Bitmojis can be used as an individual avatar. Private groups can now have their own story so people are able to post to the story for repetitive viewing. A very quick and easy method of group discussion but messages need to be saved or will disappear in 24 hours.

How to get started
Create a Snapchat account & create a new group. Add accounts through contacts, usernames or local accounts. Maximum number of people is 31 plus your own account.
Further support

2. HouseParty

How it can be used
An application used to host video group discussions with the addition of text input. It can be used regardless of type of device (as long as you have a front camera and can download the application). Groups can be created and the ‘houseparty room’ can be locked so only the invited can enter. Houseparty room links can be shared.

How to get started
Create a Houseparty account & add contacts via link, numbers, username. Add friends to the room or create a group and call the group. Able to pause your video and look at other content on your mobile whilst still on chat through audio. Users can video chat with up to 8 people and are notified when a friend enters the app so you can decide if you want to join or not (without having to decline a call).
Further support

3. WhatsApp

How it can be used
WhatsApp Messenger is a free messaging app that uses your phone’s Internet connection 4G/3G/2G/EDGE or Wi-Fi, to let you message and call friends and family. WhatsApp allows users to send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, documents, and Voice Messages. This a great tool to use for groups to actively engage and discuss using a variety of multimedia platforms to enhance the experience.

How to get started
To get started simply download the WhatsApp app from the Android, Itunes or Chrome Web Store, it uses your phone number so you don’t have to worry about pins or usernames. It also links with your existing address book allowing you to contact them via WhatsApp.
Further support

4. Trello

How it can be used
Trello is a free online tool that enables participants to manage project tasks though collaborating on a planning board. Groups can engage together and create, update, move and delete task descriptions from different columns. The boards are kept private and participants can only view the boards they are invited to edit.

How to get started
Participants require a Trello account, and the owner of the Trello board adds new members using their email address so they can each contribute. Each Trello board can have unlimited members, and each account can belong to an unlimited number of group boards according to the Trello help page.
Further support

5. Slack

How it can be used
Slack is an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge”. The app allows you to create multiple channels that are either private or public and you can choose to add a purpose to let members know what the channel is about. There is also the option to send a private to direct message to between 2-9 people. This is useful for short conversations that don’t need a whole channel.

How to get started
First, visit to create a new Slack workspace. All you need is an email address that you can access. There are a few ways to give new people access to join a workspace: send them an invitation by email or allow them to signup using their email address.
Further support

6. Rabbit

How it can be used
Rabbit is a free online streaming service, it allows you to share your screen with friends and colleagues from anywhere. Some of the features of Rabbit include: watching videos in-sync, video, voice and message chat’s and browsing the internet.

How to get started
Everyone who uses Rabbit requires an account, one individual creates a ‘room’ which they can add specific individuals (up to 25 people) or leave ‘open’ for anyone to access. Once this room has been created the link for the room can be shared though your Rabbit friend list, Facebook Messenger, Facebook, email or a simple link. When everyone is in the ‘room’ the video, audio and multimedia options can be used.
Further support

7. Twitter Group Direct Message

How it can be used
Direct messages (DM) do not have the 240 character restriction, so can be used to have a detailed threaded conversation. There is an account limit of 1,000 Direct Messages sent per day. Once you reach this limit, you can’t send any more Direct Messages for the day. Within a direct message you can share links, add images, GIFs or emoji.

How to get started
Users need a Twitter account and to be connected. You can start a Group DM session on Twitter at any time by heading to the “Messages” tab. Click the “New Message” icon toward the top of your screen on web, or the speech bubble icon on mobile, and search for the names of people you’d like to add. You can give your group conversation a title.
Further support

We hope this post has been useful and encourages you to try new ways to communicate and collaborate online. If you have additional spaces you recommend please share in the comments.

Posted in Communication tools | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Blogademia: Introducing blogging as a professional tool in academia


The term ‘blogademia’ is cited by many as being coined by Saper (2006). Sadly however this paper is no longer accessible. I came across it as I was researching this topic having been asked to give a short 15 minute introduction to blogging as a professional tool for academics at Anglia Ruskin University. The term seemed a fitting addition to this blog post.

Why engage with blogs as a professional tool?

  • Blogging can help academic writing
  • Reading others’ blogs can open up new perspectives
  • Reflect on your own development
  • Connect with thought leaders
  • Provide a forum to critically discuss new ideas

 “In this new landscape, the academic of today has many options for communicating the findings of their research: whether to discuss ideas and results in a blog post, upload a working paper before submitting it to a journal, or to use social media to share their findings on the big story of the day.”

Introducing the Impact of LSE Blogs project Arrebola and Mollett 2017


Blogging vs a Website

blog vs website

Adapted from Mollett et al 2017:75

One of the key benefits of creating a blog is that it is very easy to publish new content. Clearly if it is your own you have sole access. However it is becoming increasingly popular to ‘share’ a blog whereby multiple authors contribute to posts. A website that is owned by an organisation, for example a university, tends to have a more complex approach to adding new content – from a technical perspective but also because there are multiple gatekeepers and for good reasons protocols for format and design of content. A valuable alternative is therefore creating a blog. Many institutions now enable WordPress sites and these can be requested via IT services. The URL will include both the university URL and the title of the blog. An example is below – The Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference blog.


Why start a Blog?

Why start a blog? Pat Thomson (2015) offers the following reasons suggesting that blogging can help academic writing. Blogging…

  • can help you to establish writing as a routine
  • allows you to experiment with your writing ‘voice’
  • helps you to get to the point
  • points you to your reader
  • requires you to be concise
  • allows you to experiment with forms of writing
  • helps you to become a more confident writer

David Perry’s (2015) simple three rules of academic blogging are as follows:

  1. Pick the right platform
  2. Write whatever you want
  3. Write for the sake of writing

Finding something you are interested in and would like to write about is an obvious place to start.

Types of Academic Blogs

Blogs can take a variety of forms:

  • Self reflective (the blog could be public or private for your personal benefit)
  • Multi-author blogs (MABs) as opposed to single author
  • How to guidance
  • Discipline focus on your research or learning and teaching activities
  • Promotion of publications – books or journal articles
  • Learning and teaching (pedagogic research)


Getting started

  • Choose a blogging platform
    I’d recommend WordPress, but do explore other options such as Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Wix, Weebly, WikiSpaces or Google Sites. Other options include LinkedIn, Medium, Facebook.
  • Give your blog a name
    This needs to be succinct enough so that people will remember it, and also clearly indicate what the content is about.
  • Consider buying your own domain name
    You can explore the options through WordPress, but there are also other ways to do this. As offers change over time I’d suggest you google this to get the best deal.
  • Design your blog using a simple theme
    WordPress offers over 100 different free themes to choose from.
  • Add an about me page
    Assuming you are going to create a public blog and want people to read it, adding your details is a useful addition. Readers may want to discuss your posts and do this offline rather than through the comments.


Help and Support

WordPress offers a comprehensive collection of articles

WordPress support
Structuring your posts

  • Give each post a compelling title
  • Chunk content under sub headers
  • Make use of bullet points
  • Use images (preferably your own or those with Creative Commons licences
  • Embed YouTube videos or infographic posters


Engaging your audience

  • End your post with a call to action (to encourage reader comments, questions and discussion)
  • Enable comments (that you can screen first)
  • Engage with comments left by readers (or delete the undesirables)
  • Link your blog to your Twitter account (to auto tweet new posts)
  • Add social media sharing buttons
  • Allow users to sign up for email alerts

Monitor engagement using free analytics within the blog


Blogs to explore

Below is just a small selection of blogs I’d recommend you explore both for content but also to see the different styles and approaches that can be taken.



Arrebola, C. and Mollett, A. (2017) Introducing the Impact of LSE Blogs project.
Mollett, A., Brumley, C., Gilson, C. and Williams, S. (2017) Communicating your research with social media. London: Sage
Perry, D. (2015) 3 Rules of academic blogging
Saper, C. (2006). Blogademia. Reconstruction, 6(4), 1–15.
Thomson, P. (2015) Blogging helps academic writing



Posted in Blogs | 4 Comments

Never stop learning – Where you can learn something new in 2018

Never stop learning

Over the years I have engaged in a variety of learning opportunities which have included attending evening classes at local schools and then as a mature student at university.  However attending classes in person is not always convenient for those with family commitments. When we think about alternatives to face to face learning it is fair to say that many of us may think first of all about the Open University. Established in 1969 it has provided many with the opportunity to learn at a distance and now online. Other universities also offer distance learning opportunities, alongside the traditional face to face offerings. Many began as correspondence courses where students were not physically present and posted text books and workbooks to complete and return. In the main these tend to be considered as formal learning, leading to qualifications on successful completion of coursework or exams.

In recent years the development of affordable technology has given many access to online information and a thirst to learn in different ways. The use of social media has opened up opportunities for social learning, where individuals can interact and learn with and from others irrespective of location and time zones. This could be for formal credit or simply for pleasure.

Technology supports both synchronous and asynchronous learning, which opens up flexibility and choice of when to learn. Audio podcasts allow learners to listen to recordings wherever they choose to, and many do this as they commute to or from work. Webinar technologies have enabled group verbal conversations to take place online, along with chat functions where users can type short messages to each other. Videos can provide helpful ways to learn visually and at your own pace with the ability to rewind and replay.  Indeed through YouTube videos I learned how to mend my washing machine! learningAs a result, there are now a multitude of online learning opportunities available, many of which are free. Choose from informal or formal, short or extended courses, and learn with others or independently. Develop or learn new skills, take up a new hobby or engage in a full online course.

Below are a just a selection of some of the online courses now available.


Develop new skills and hobbies

Chesscademy – Learn how to play chess for free.

Craftsy – Includes baking, knitting, quilting and photography.

Drawspace – Learn the basics if drawing.

Pianu – An interactive way to learn piano online.

Yousician – Your personal guitar tutor for the digital age.


Learn a new language

Babbel  – Discover a new language experience.

British Sign Language – Learn BSL at your own pace.

Busuu  – The free language learning community.

Duolingo – Learn a language for free.

Lingvist – Learn a language in 200 hours.

Memrise – Use flashcards to learn vocabulary.

Plain English – An opportunity to learn in plain English for crystal clear communication.


Expand your knowledge –  Search the largest collection of online guides.

Highbrow – Get bite-sized daily courses to your inbox. – Learn technology, creative and business skills.

Khan Academy – Access an extensive library of interactive content.

Learnist –  Learn from expertly curated web, print and video content.

Squareknot – Browse step-by-step guides.

TED-Ed – Find carefully curated educational videos

United for Wildlife – Learn about the key issues in conservation.


Take an online course

Alison – A wide range of free courses.

edX - Take online courses from the world’s best universities.

Coursera  - Take the world’s best courses, online, for free.

Curious – Grow your skills with online video lessons.

CreativeLive –  Take free creative classes from the world’s top experts.

FutureLearn – Courses from universities and specialist organisations.

OpenLearn – Offers a wide range of free courses.

Skillshare – Online classes and projects that unlock your creativity.

Udemy  – Learn real world skills online.


Learn how to code

BaseRails  –  Master Ruby on Rails and other web technologies.

Codecademy  –  Learn to code interactively, for free.  –  Start learning today with easy tutorials.

CodeCombat – Learn computer science while playing a real game.

Code School  – Learn to code by doing.

Dash  – Learn to make awesome websites.

DataCamp  – Learn R, Python and access data science courses.

DataMonkey  – Develop your analytical skills in a simple, yet fun way.

DataQuest Learn data science in your browser.

Free Code Camp  –  Learn to code and help nonprofits.

One Month  –  Learn to code and build web applications in one month.

Platzi  –  Live streaming classes on design, marketing and code.

Thinkful  – Advance your career with a 1-on-1 personal mentor.

Treehouse  –  Learn HTML, CSS, iPhone apps and more.

Udacity  –  Master in demand skills and earn a Nanodegree recognised by industry leaders.


What would you add to this list?


All images used are from Pixabay and have a free to use CCO Creative Commons licence

Posted in Social Learning | 1 Comment

How to save a hashtag search on Twitter


Public domain image via Pixabay

Busy conversations

If you are a user of Twitter you can’t have escaped noticing the use of hashtags. People use these keywords preceded by # to add emphasis to what they are saying, but also use them to filter collections of tweets sharing the same conversations. Typically this includes organised chats and interactions at planned events and conferences.

To capture all of the tweets sharing the same hashtag can be done easily by searching for the hashtag in the Twitter search box. What you may not know is that you can save this and other searches to come back to.

Saving searches

To save a Twitter search via web

  1. Enter your search into the search box.
  2. At the top of your results page, click the more icon  and then click Save this search. Next time you click the search box, a pop-up menu will display your Saved searches.

To save a Twitter search from Twitter for Android

  1. Tap on the Explore tab 
  2. Enter your search into the search box.
  3. At the top of your results page, tap the overflow icon  and then tap Save. Next time you tap the search box, a pop-up menu will display your Saved searches.
Note: You may have up to 25 saved searches per account.

To remove a saved search via web and Twitter for Android

  1. Click or tap anywhere in the search box at the top of the page.
  2. Find the saved search you’d like to remove listed below Saved searches (web) or Saved (Android), then click or tap on the X next to the search to remove.

To embed a search via web

  1. Enter your search into the search box.
  2. At the top of your search results, click the more icon  and then select Embed this search.
  3. Follow the instructions to create a search widget that you can add to your website. Find more information in the developer documentation here.
Posted in Communication tools, Twitter | Leave a comment

Need to get more organised? Meet Google Keep: save your thoughts, wherever you are and with who you want to


Google Keep has been on my mental list for some time but I hadn’t got around to using it until now. Why did I wait so long?!

Keep can be downloaded as an iOS or Android app for use on your phone or tablet, accessed as a Chrome extension or via your browser.

I’ve been exploring Keep on my phone as this will be my go to device to add notes on the go. From the app you can:

  • hand write notes using your finger (includes an eraser and highlighter)
  • add audio notes
  • take photos
  • pin your important notes to the top
  • give your notes coloured lables
  • add collaborators to share notes with (from your contact list or via email)
  • set date/time or place (location) reminders
  • archive or bin completed tasks/notes

From your desktop there are some useful keyboard shortcuts:

Keep keyboard shortcuts

Keep keyboard shortcuts

Capture what’s on your mind
Add notes, lists, photos, and audio to Keep. Quickly capture what’s on your mind and share those thoughts with friends and family. Speak a voice memo on the go and have it automatically transcribed. Grab a photo of a poster, receipt or document and easily organize or find it later in search.

When and where you need it
Need to remember to pick up some groceries? Set a location-based reminder to pull up your grocery list right when you get to the store. Need to finish a to-do? Set a time-based reminder to make sure you never miss a thing.

Share your thoughts with family and friends
Next time you go to the store, share your shopping list on Keep and watch as items get checked off in real time. No need for text messages back and forth. Get things done together, faster.

Find what you need, fast
Quickly filter and search for notes by color and other attributes like lists with images, audio notes with reminders or just see shared notes. Find what you’re looking for even faster, and let Keep do the remembering for you.

Always within reach
Keep works on your phone, tablet and computer. Everything you add to Keep syncs across your devices so your important stuff is always with you. (Syncing across your devices requires internet connection.)

For further tips and support visit the Google Keep Help Centre.

Posted in Curation tools | Leave a comment

Creating an effective university communication plan


An effective communication plan is essential no matter how small or large the request, be this to create a new department Twitter account, a course promotion poster, a video of student work, a new blog to share teaching and research excellence/student achievements and learning gain, or a website to promote research. Whilst most universities will have a dedicated corporate communications/PR department, the role of communication extends much further.

Time spent planning is
time well spent

Considering this from a higher education perspective, a communication plan may involve internal or external audiences. These could include the following:


  • Academics
  • Staff
  • Students (undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD)
  • Boards of Governors
  • Student Union


  • Alumni
  • Parents
  • Prospective students
  • Prospective academics
  • Prospective staff
  • Professional Bodies
  • Donors and prospective donors
  • Funding agencies (public and private)
  • Other partners or stakeholders
  • Higher education thought leaders
  • Competitors in higher education
  • News media
  • Visitors and the general public

With the increasing use of open social media platforms, for example blogs and Twitter, it is wise to remind ourselves that no matter who the intended audience is, the information shared trough these channels can be found and read by anybody.

Before we start to communicate to any audience it is therefore important to develop a clear plan. David Caveney from Comms2Point0 says that this process will help to clearly outline a concise and compelling need for the communication activity or campaign. He goes on to say that all sections of a communications plan should reference supporting evidence, formal, informal, quantitative and qualitative.

Comms2Point0 have generously shared this free download of a step by step guide to ‘the who, the how, the when and the why of planning an effective and efficient communication campaign’.

Comms planning guide

The ten step plan below is a summary of this poster and presents valuable pointers and useful questions to help you through each of the 10 stages.

Why do we need a plan?

Steps 1-3 of the comms planning process should help you clearly outline a concise and compelling need for the activity or campaign. These look at the importance of setting the context, outlining the aim and overall goal, and creating a set of smart objectives.

1. Context: Set the scene. Include references and links to relevant corporate/business plan priorities. Detail the issue driving the need for dedicated communications activity.
Include headline evidence/data/stats which demonstrate need or issue.
2. Aim: Outline the desired overall goal – the results the planned activity needs to deliver.
Are you imparting knowledge? building an image? shaping attitudes? stimulating a want or desire? or encouraging an action?
3. Objectives: Create a set of SMART (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based) comms objectives – they should clearly set out outcomes and impacts (not the comms inputs).
What internal data supports or informs the objectives? Is it market trends? national/sector reports? good practice examples? or published data?


4. Strategy: Scope out the campaign in a single common sense campaign. Use the KISS approach – keep it short and simple. This should function as a useful shorthand tool for explaining the campaign to others.
Revisit and finalise this section once the rest of the plan is completed.
5. Audiences: Who are you trying to reach and what do you want them to do? Think of both your primary target audiences and the people who influence them (secondary audiences).
Prioritise groups – acknowledging available time/resources.


6. Message/content: Be clear – jargon-free, no technical language, be relevant. Be concise – can you deliver these messages in just a few seconds? Be consistent – messages must be repeated if they are to sink in. Create an engaging content plan, tell stories and create material that is memorable and shareworthy.
Remember you calls to action. What do you want people to do?


7. Channels: Be specific, research your audiences, understand what they’re interested in, ‘where’ you can find them and which platforms they’re engaging with. Understand who or what their influences are.
Start with audience groups and build your channel mix around it, not the other way round. A good mix will successfully blend one to one, one to few, and many to many.


8. Timeline: Set a realistic timeline split into ‘preparation’, ‘implementation’ and ‘review’. Set milestones and factor in a little flexibility.
Breaking complex campaigns into phases will maximise resources and maintain focus on achievable impacts.

With what?

9. Resources: These include people/time/budget. Assign tasks, estimate all likely spend (including a 15% contingency). Be realistic and honest about the likely returns you can achieve with the resources you have.
Don’t start with a set campaign budget and portion out spend. Cost out your plan and build your budget from the bottom up.

How did we do?

10. Evaluation: Evaluate based on communication objectives. Record quantitative and qualitative impacts. Share results. Write case studies. Celebrate success and learn from mistakes. Demonstrating return on investment (ROI) is key.
Prepare simple headline reports for upward communication/share ROI results. Gather quotes, take photos, record video, capture state and share results.

By failing to prepare,
you are preparing to fail

A communication plan is never set in stone. It needs to be reviewed for each initiative, even if the context appears to be the same. The final evaluation stage of any campaign can help highlight any potential issues or areas for improvement. Things you may want to consider:

  • Are you using the right platform/medium?
  • Are you providing the information your audience(s) want?
  • Are you using the right tone in your comms?
  • Are you giving your audience(s) a voice?
  • Are you listening to your audience(s) – what feedback are they giving?

Communication is an integral part of marketing. Successful marketing focuses on the full marketing mix, known as ‘The 7Ps of Marketing’:

  • Product or service – what we are providing?
  • Price – what we are asking for in return?
  • Place – where the product or service is delivered
  • Promotion – how we communicate what we do
  • Physical evidence – helping our customers to see what they are buying
  • Process – effectiveness of our systems and processes
  • People – those of us who come into contact with our customers and stakeholders and what we offer

Whilst these are important considerations, a communication strategy should go beyond marketing what your university offers. An essential part of a communication strategy is storytelling. With the wide range of communication channels including social media at our fingertips we can not only engage our audience(s) but invite them to contribute to a dialogue. If we want our audience to be part of the community then we need to find ways to include them in the conversations – communication as a dialogue rather than simply a monologue or broadcast.



Caveney, D. (2017) Your essential new comms planning guide. Comms2Point0.
McCarthy, E. J. (1964). Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. Richard D. Irwin: Homewood, IL.

Posted in Communication planning | Leave a comment

Student Guest Blogpost: SMASH (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam)

SMASH logo

SMASH (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam) is a team of four IT with Business Studies students from Sheffield Hallam University looking to incorporate social media for the purposes of aiding higher education learning.

Corran Wood
Jess Paddon
Ola Mazur
Sher Khan

Originally the team attended the SocMedHE16 conference at Sheffield Hallam University (having individually applied for one of 10 free student places). It was an interesting and exciting conference showcasing how lecturers and students alike were using social media to aid and develop their teaching/learning throughout higher education.

After attending this event and with the guidance of Sue Beckingham the team formed a group to look further at social media for learning. The team met weekly and set out to achieve the following objectives in relation to social media use at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU):

  1. Helping staff to identify and use social media tools for communication and collaboration within and beyond the classroom (Learning Activities).
  2. Helping students and staff to identify and use relevant social media tools to curate and organise information relating to learning (Organising Learning).
  3. Helping students to prepare digital portfolios to openly share outcomes and projects to develop a professional online presence (Showcasing Learning).

1. Learning Activities

First and foremost, learning activities. From the conference and also teaching in SHU it was clear that social media was being used in a variety of different ways to communicate with students in and out of lectures. Three key tools lecturer used for learning activities were: YouTube, WhatsApp and Socrative.


Every student is different and each prefers to learn in their own way, i.e. visual learners, auditory and kinaesthetic etc. One such test can be taken here to assess the preference of learning style. Bearing this in mind it’s useful for lecturers to adapt their teaching styles in ways that would allow them meet all three types. Here’s where YouTube comes in handy. One lecturer used video scribe to create revision based videos which they then published on YouTube. This came handy for students looking to revise the material but in particular for visual learners.


Often Lecturers and students communicate either verbally or via email. But one technique a Lecturer used was to communicate with their students through the ever popular tool WhatsApp. In particular this was useful to create groups for classes/modules and then allow the students to communicate with the lecturer via the groups set up. Although certain lecturers may feel that this may be too personal possibly, it did however allow for rapid communication between students and lecturers.


Often lectures are a one sided push of information. However one technique used by a lecturer to make their class more interactive and to involve the students to participate was to use the Socrative application. This allowed for students to take part in polls related to class materials and vote during the lecture in which case the lecturer could provide feedback on the results to aid students learning.


2. Organising Learning

Social media tools can assist in the collaboration of learning, as both students and staff have multiple modules to organise and complete work and collect information on.

Google Docs

When completing group-based projects in modules, it is often the case that students face issues to do with arranging suitable times to meet and to complete these activities. The three main applications, Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets aim to solve this issue. By using these applications, tasks can be collaboratively fulfilled in real-time sessions, with further information about who has completed what work within the assignment, to aid peer feedback, and this can be used effectively by lecturers to record weekly task marks, and keep tabs on who has completed what in their students’ groups assignments.


Pinterest, a more image oriented social media, can be used with the creation of ‘boards’ to define each module and learning topic being discussed, wherein a different board is used for different topics. Staff to student sharing of boards can be utilised with this site, to exchange useful links and sources and can be used to collect important information in one specified location which is crucial for revision. This is especially useful for more visual learners with the use of image based content.


Significant posts can be taken from different social media sites, in order to create stories to organise learning into appropriate sections for effective learning. These posts can be found by hashtags to curate all this information shared with these tags into a story board. Narratives can be added with these story boards to aid learning underneath the playlist of storyboard videos.


3. Showcasing Learning

Why spend long amounts of time completing work and research projects if you aren’t able to share them with other academics and professionals? Social media platforms are key for enabling users to share their work amongst others’ in order to expand their own knowledge and their peers work.


A professional networking site to build connections to other people working within similar industries and with similar interests to you. University projects can be uploaded including other people who have contributed and who you have collaborated with and your clients. Qualifications can be showcased, as well as academic achievements. This is a popular way to discover potential candidates for a position by HR departments within companies.


Specified plugins and themes can be used to create web pages based on chosen topics. Blogs style articles can be written within these for reflection and showcasing learning. Links to other social media channels can be used to showcase other aspects of learning.


Slideshow presentations can be uploaded from past conferences and learning conventions to enhance others’ learning, and curate resources for learning. Slideshare can be used by academics for lecture material and students for assignment research.


Users can post and interact with tweets from other users, including high-profile users. Twitter may be used to promote projects completed and showcase work and achievements completed, as well as acknowledge and share other users’ work and features include ‘pinning’ specific and current projects/events to the top of your Twitter profile.

Below is an infographic summarising how social media can be used for learning.


Guest Bloggers


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Creating and using YouTube playlists for learning and teaching

YouTube playlists

A playlist is a collection of videos that anyone can put together and choose to share with others. For example you could curate a playlist of your favourite music videos to play back to back. Increasingly people are using their mobile devices to access and watch short videos on the go, providing an abundance of micro learning opportunities. Whilst videos can be embedded within PowerPoint presentations it can also be helpful to include a link to specific playlists from your class VLE, blog or website to help users locate the collections more easily. Curated playlists could also help you organise videos by topic, to refer to at a later date.

A playlist in YouTube is easy to put together (see the instructions further down) by selecting existing videos already uploaded to YouTube. However you may also want to consider creating your own videos and then making themed playlists.  Below are some suggestions on how playlists can be used with your students, for your own professional development and also for sharing your research.


Playlist suggestions

For your students

  • During induction week ask students to record ‘about me’ videos and share as a class playlist – ask students to share their favourite food, music and hobby.
  • Motivating music to use as students enter and/or during class when undertaking hands on tasks.
  • A playlist of short video clips used in a lecture.
  • A collection of ‘how to guides’ created as video screencasts.
  • Using the ‘flipped approach’ ask your students to watch video clips in their own time and and provide a number of questions. The answers can be then discussed in class.
  • Record a collection of group online discussions using Google Hangouts on Air
  • Create short revision tutorials.
  • Compile themed collections of TED talks or Khan Academy STEM tutorials.

For your own CPD

You can also seek inspiration for your own professional development from playlists created  by others:

Disseminating Research

Another option is creating your own videos to share your research. A good example of this is Research Shorts which are short research video summaries by George Veletsianos and the Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group. These videos examine issues relevant to educational technology, digital learning, networked scholarship, and student/faculty experiences with technology and education.

Make & find your playlists

  1. Start with a video you want in the playlist.
  2. Under the video, click Add to Add to playlist .
  3. Click Create new playlist.
  4. Enter a playlist name.
  5. Use the drop down box to select your playlist’s privacy setting. If it’s private, people cant’ find it when they search YouTube.
  6. Click Create.

You can find your new playlist from the Library in the Guide on the left side of the screen.

Delete a playlist

  1. Select a playlist from the Library in the Guide.
  2. Click the menu icon .
  3. Click Delete playlist.
  4. If you’re sure you want to delete the playlist, click Yes, delete it.
  5. Note that your old playlist may live on in viewers’ watch histories.
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Celebrating learning gain and teaching excellence through social media and digital narratives

Sharing teaching excellence and learning gain


I facilitated a workshop at the  SEDA Spring Teaching Learning and Assessment Conference in Manchester on celebrating learning gain and teaching excellence through social media and digital narratives. The theme for the event was The quest for teaching excellence and learning gain: issues, resolutions and possibilities. One of the key issues was not only defining what is meant by the terms teaching excellence and learning gain, but grappling with how the impact could be evidenced and measured.

The context for the theme of my workshop and the conference is the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). In short the Government is introducing the TEF and aims to recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching.

The workshop I gave intended to get participants thinking about how we can use digital narratives and social media to capture and celebrate:

  • good teaching – through sharing openly what has worked well and why
  • student learning achievements – along the learning journey


The Teaching Excellence Framework

The beginning of the presentation (see below the embedded Slideshare presentation) provides definitions of what teaching excellence and learning gain are and also some information about some of the other components. HEFCE provide the following definitions:

“Learning gain can be defined and understood in a number of ways. But broadly it is an attempt to measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education.”

“Teaching excellence is defined broadly to include teaching quality, the learning environment, and student outcomes and learning gain.”

HEFCE  – The Higher Education Funding Council for England

The three components of teaching excellence are:

Teaching Quality
Includes different forms of structured learning that can involve teachers and academic or specialist support staff. This includes seminars, tutorials, project supervision, laboratory sessions, studio time, placements, supervised on-line learning, workshops, fieldwork and site visits. The emphasis is on teaching that provides an appropriate level of contact, stimulation and challenge, and which encourages student engagement and effort. The effectiveness of course design, and assessment and feedback, in developing students’ knowledge, skills and understanding are also considered. The extent to which a provider recognises, encourages and rewards excellent teaching is also included within this aspect.

Learning Environment
Includes the effectiveness of resources such as libraries, laboratories and design studios, work experience, opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction and extra-curricular activities in supporting students’ learning and the development of independent study and research skills. The emphasis is on a personalised academic experience which maximises retention, progression and attainment. The extent to which beneficial linkages are made for students between teaching and learning, and scholarship, research or professional practice (one or more of these) is also considered.

Student Outcomes and Learning Gain
Focused on the achievement of positive outcomes:
• acquisition of attributes such as lifelong learning skills and others that allow a graduate to make a strong contribution to society, economy and the environment.
• progression to further study, acquisition of knowledge, skills and attributes necessary to compete for a graduate level job that requires the high level of skills arising from higher education.


Open learning through storytelling

In 2010 David Wiley spoke at TEDxNY about openness and said “If there is no sharing, there is no education.” Building a culture of sharing can help teachers develop a worldwide learning community for themselves and their students. Learners who share what they have gained through learning, can inspire others and also provide rich content for their personal development portfolios.


Whilst there is a growing community of educators and students sharing good practice and achievements, it is rarely labelled as ‘teaching excellence’ or learning gain’. I provide some examples of how learning and teaching is shared by students and academic peers by using social media and digital technology within the SlideShare below. What is evident, is that the way this is done by both teachers and learners, is very often a series of bite sized stories. This could be a few minute video or screencast, a short blog post, a Tweetchat, a SlideShare presentation embedded in a LinkedIn profile, or a Twitter or Facebook update. Social media channels are useful spaces to share these digital narratives easily and to a wide and relevant audience.

Using ‘garden’ as an analogy for learning, the presentation considers how this might be portrayed and shared visually to tell a story.

The formal garden

formal gardenTo tend a formal garden takes a team of gardeners, huge amounts of time and money. When sharing information, there is a tendency to wait until there’s a team in place who can devote time to produce a scripted video or written piece, which often then has to wait for edits and changes before it can be published publicly. Granted the outcomes are polished and professional but taking this approach can only capture a tiny segment of what is going on. What is being missed?

The production garden

production gardenEach year universities all over the world celebrate the graduation of students, capturing the long ceremonies on video as the students cross the stage. However it doesn’t capture the personal stories of the individual students and what they have achieved during their learning journey. 

Diversity of gardens

diversity of gardensUniversities are full of a rich diversity of students and teachers who all bring something different to the learning and teaching experience. Different courses will have a variety of teaching approaches but there is much to be learned from other disciplines, and this can lead to cross-disciplinary approaches.

The cooperative garden

cooperative gardenWe need to look, listen more deeply, and learn not to make judgements too quickly. The common dandelion is often seen as a garden pest and yet this feeds the bees who pollinate the fruit trees and flowers. Taking time to learn about different and innovative approaches can be enlightening, even if they do at first seem wild!

Growth and transformation

growth and transformationSharing the stories of learning journeys can help others see how an individual can grow and transform. In the initial stages growth is often not evident, and yet looking back it is possible to see the huge steps made and the hurdles that have been overcome. Reflective practice can provide learning opportunities when shared openly.


We need to move on from only celebrating and sharing the ‘polished’ versions of teaching excellence and learning gain. Encouraging both teachers and students to share their teaching and learning stories as digital narratives, and sharing these through social media can provide so many others an opportunity to learn from their achievements. Furthermore liking and commenting upon the stories of students and teachers not only acknowledges they have been read but can lead to mutually valuable cooperative and social learning. This in itself has the potential to result in shared learning gain for all.


Further reading

David Wiley TEDxNYED 2010

Higher Education Funding Council for England

Teaching Excellence Framework: year two specification (2016:8)

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Digital Stories – Creating Moments on Twitter


Twitter Moments enable users to curate a succinct digital story. This can be done from the web or mobile devices. Bring together Tweets, photos and videos. You can also upload your own image as a cover for your story.

Choose from Tweets you’ve liked, Tweets by account, search for Tweets or add a Tweet link. You can take your time curating your Moment story and save it as a draft. Then choose to publish when you are ready.

You also have the option to publish a Moment privately. Select ‘share moment privately’ and then simply copy and paste the Moment’s URL. Only those you share the URL with can see the Moment. It won’t be visible on your profile page.

In the event you want to remove a published Moment there are options to ‘unpublish moment’ and ‘delete moment’. There is also an edit button so you can edit a Moment in draft or published form.


How Moments could be used for Learning

  • Bring together Tweets from a specific conversation
  • Curate Tweets relating to a specific topic in the news
  • Research and gather Tweets for a project
  • Gather Tweets to highlight Fake News for later critical discussion
  • During a lecture or a conference like the Tweets you wish to later gather
  • At the end of a class ask students to Tweet a reflective post with a designated class hashtag – the Tutor can then gather and share
  • As above but ask students to answer a question.


How to create a Moment via web

There are three ways to begin creating your own Moment. You can access Moments through the Moments tab, your profile page, or through a Tweet detail. To get started all you need is a title, description, Tweets, and a selected cover image.

Twitter Moment


From the Moments tab:

  1. From the Moments tab, click the Create new Moment button.
  2. Click the Title your Moment field to give your Moment a name.
  3. Click the Add a description field to type in a description for your Moment.
  4. Choose Tweets to add to your Moment:
    1. From the Add Tweets to your Moment section at the bottom of the page, quickly access content to select Tweets from Tweets I’ve liked, Tweets by account, Tweet link, and Tweet search prompts.
    2. To add a Tweet to your Moment, click on the checkmark icon 
  5. Click Set cover to choose a cover image from one of your selected Tweets, or to upload an image from your computer. Drag your selected image to set a Mobile preview, click the Next button, then click the Save button.
    Note: To change your selected image, hover over the cover image and click on Change cover media. After you’ve set your cover media, the source will be credited below the image.
  6. Once you have Tweets in your collection, click on the up  or down arrow buttons  to the right of a Tweet to move it up or down.
  7. Click on the delete button  to remove a Tweet from your Moment.
  8. Click on the crop button  next to any of your selected Tweets to make an image selection for mobile viewing.
  9. Click the Finish later button at the top of the page to save a draft.
  10. When you are ready to make your Moment live, click on the Publish button at the top of the page.

From a Tweet:

  1. Click the more button 
  2. Select New Moment to add the Tweet to a new Moment.
    Note: Any completed Moments or drafts you have in progress will also be listed in the drop-down to choose from.
  3. Follow the directions above to complete your Moment.

From the Moments tab on your profile page:

  1. Click on the Moments tab, then click the Create new Moment button to get started.
  2. Follow the directions above to complete your Moment.

Note: Access all of your Moments (draft or published) by selecting Moments from your profile icon drop down menu.

More options while creating a Moment via web

From the More menu at the top of the page:

  1. Click on ••• More while in draft mode.
    1. Select Choose mobile theme color if you’d like to apply one.
    2. Select Mark that Moment contains sensitive material if appropriate.
    3. Select Share Moment privately to copy and paste your Moment’s URL to share privately with others.
      Note: The Moment will only be visible to people who have the URL, it will not be visible on your profile page, or published on Twitter.
    4. Select Unpublish Moment to unpublish a Moment you have previously published.
    5. Select Delete Moment to permanently remove the Moment from your profile and Twitter.
      Note: You will see a confirmation pop-up message to confirm the deletion.

After you’ve saved your Moment as a draft:

  • You can click on the Edit button under the Moment description to continue editing your Moment.
  • Click the Tweet button under the Moment description to share your Moment with your followers.
    Note: The Tweet compose box will pop up giving you an opportunity to edit or add to the auto-populated Moment title and link in the compose box.
  • Click on the more button  under the Moment description to send your Moment via Direct Message, and to view the copy and embed links to your Moment.
    Note: As you scroll through your saved or published Moment you will see a menu pop-up on the left hand side to conveniently Edit, Tweet, or Message your Moment.

For further instructions go to:

Image: Pixabay – Public Domain licence

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