Using LinkedIn Groups with students and alumni in Higher Education


LinkedIn Groups are where professionals can exchange their knowledge and build relationships. They provide a place for users that have shared interests to engage in discussion, raise questions/find answers, post and view job opportunities, and establish themselves as knowledgeable in their field.

You can find groups to join by using the search feature at the top of your LinkedIn homepage or by viewing suggestions of groups you may like. You can also create a new group focused on a particular topic or industry relevant to you. Group admins (creator of a Group) can choose to review requests to join or ask for additional information to make sure potential new members meet their membership criteria. Membership approval in this case is solely up to the group admins. Groups can be public or unlisted. You must be invited to join an unlisted group.

Using LinkedIn Groups

Share your expertise
Whilst many of us are reticent to say we are ‘experts’, it is likely that we all have experience in our given field. Helping to answer other peoples questions is one way of demonstrating this.

Once part of a group, you have the opportunity to connect to new people and engage in discussions related to your chosen niche/specialist area. Often these can be people you may not have met face to face, but with shared interests they can become valuable members of your professional network.

Within this space you can reach out to ask for advice or feedback on a new initiative or process. Respondents will often share links to various resources.

Learn from others
Initially you may simply ‘listen’ in to the developing discussions. Through this you will learn very quickly the value of such interactions and see the rich information that can be shared through these succinct interactions.

LinkedIn map

Today, there are more than 414 million professionals on LinkedIn from around the world. Professionals are signing up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two new members per second. There are more than 40 million students and recent college graduates on LinkedIn and are LinkedIn’s fastest-growing demographic (LinkedIn 2016). These figures speak for themselves and demonstrate the growth of this professional social networking forum.

The way we connect, communicate and share knowledge has changed dramatically. Not only can we augment face to face and traditional modes of communication such as email and telephone by engaging in dialogues online, new apps are making this even easier enabling users to do so through their smart devices. We are no longer tethered to desk top PCs and can interact whilst on the go – in between meetings, commuting and at times that are convenient to ourselves. The LinkedIn Group app makes this even easier.

LinkedIn Group app

Using LinkedIn Groups in Higher Education

Below are some ways Groups are being used.

Specialist areas
By joining groups related to your specialist area, you can immediately connect with industry experts within or outside of Academia. A group could be set up to serve as a discussion group for a time limited project.

Alumni groups
There are a number of approaches you can take:

  • University Alumni Group – one group that all can join when they have graduated. This is usually created by the Alumni central team.
  • Department Alumni Group – a group that spans a distinct department, for example the Department of Computing.
  • Course Alumni Group – specifically for students who have studied on one course, or perhaps a collection of similar course. This type of group could be created by a designated member of the Course team. Initially the Academic would invite current final year students and alumni they are in contact with.

The benefits of creating an Alumni Group at course level is that a community can develop more easily due to the nature of its size. Whilst current students the Course Leader can encourage them to join this group. When they graduate they remain members of the group and irrespective of where they go on to work will update their contact details on their personal profiles.  This means that Academics have the opportunity to invite alumni back as guest speakers, and in turn alumni can contribute to the group by posting placement, intern or graduate job openings, and engage in discussions, answer questions  and share their expertise and experience in industry.

Student Led Groups
Special Interest Groups are a great example. At Sheffield Hallam University our students have set up a Women in IT Society. Members are students from course across Computing, so the students are using this space to share information, provide reminders for meetings and events, and as a general discussion forum. This means that all students can keep up to date with what is going on and catch up at a time that is convenient for them.

Tutor Led Discussion Group
A group could be set up for a specific module or course to provide a space for discussion and the sharing of related resources. This is a useful way to introduce the wider benefits of professional networking to students. Developing confidence to partake in discussions with peers, can be a good way to build confident digital communication skills.

LinkedIn Group Updates

When you join a Group the default is to send you a daily digest email of all activity in the group. For some this may be useful, however if the group is busy the number of emails may be overwhelming. You have the option to change this setting to a weekly email or to receive no updates. This can be done by going to the settings tab at the top of the Group page. You may prefer to check for updates by using the LinkedIn Group app.

LinkedIn Help

The link below leads to a useful collection of help guides which take you through how to set up a group and invite people, finding and joining a group, communicating within a group and more.—getting-started

About Sue Beckingham

A National Teaching Fellow, Educational Developer and Principal Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
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