Wednesday, 26 October 2011

'Don't affect the share price': social media policy in higher education as reputation management

Facebook culture 3

I'm doing a bit of work on social media policy in universities in the UK.

I'm particularly interested in the ways in which UK HEIs are responding to both the positive potential of social media as well as to its perceived threats.

My hunch - and it's just a hunch at the moment based on some quick reading of sample policy documents and discussions with colleagues at Kingston University - is that the development of social media policies has been taken in response to both the promise of social media in promoting university brands as well as the threat to institutional reputation. The creation and implementation of social media policies are, therefore, playing a role in helping universities manage both the risks and benefits of social media at a time when reputation or brand management is key.

Social media has greatly lowered the threshold technological barriers to creating online spaces, facilitating dialogue and sharing resources. With this ease comes potential threats: could online spaces and digital communication tools allow academic staff to stray 'off message' and publish statements or post media at variance with institutional policy or in some way detrimental to its reputation? There have certainly been cases in the UK of academics doing just this (Corbyn 2008).

What are the drivers behind the development of such policies? I think it's all to do with the context of the marketisation of higher education (Molesworth et al. 2010) and the need for universities to both create a differentiated brand for themselves and protect that brand at a time when they're competing for students. Legal or liability issues are prominent too but there's a lot in many policy documents about protecting the university against defamation.

And the levers? Well, in some policy documents it's more carrot than stick with disciplinary sanctions and management controls in place to ensure compliance.

I'm at an early stage in my thoughts about this so all comments, quibbles and corrections very welcome.

Sample of social media policy documents from UK HEIs

University of Bristol

University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)


Durham University

University of Glamorgan

Heriot Watt University

University of Huddersfield

University of Leicester

Oxford Brooks University

University of Surrey


Corbyn, Z. (9 October 2008). By the blog: academics tread carefully. Times Higher Education Supplement. Accessed 26 October 2011 from:

Molesworth, M., Nixon, E. and Scullion, R. (
eds) (2010). The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer. London: Routledge.

Friday, 1 April 2011

First attempt at a quick guide to Prezi

The stand-out success of the 2010-11 staff development season has been, without doubt, Prezi. We've had double-figure attendance at the workshops we've run and have had to re-book rooms to accommodate colleagues wanting to learn how to use it.

I've also used it on our PgCert L&T in HE and at a recent session of student group presentations 3/5 groups used Prezi in lieu of PowerPoint or Keynote.

It's clearly striking a chord with some colleagues and I wonder why. There's some interesting research to be done here I think. My hunch is that it's partly discipline-specific with those in visual-rich areas (e.g. healthcare, art and design) most to gain from the ability to zoom into uploaded images.

I read an interesting comment on a Kingston University Elgg blog post from a colleague who was drawn to its non-linear potential that fitted well with the theme of her lecture:

I used Prezi (in place of PowerPoint) in a seminar last semester. It was relevant to the content of the lecture since we were discussing the digital future of 'books'. One of the key differences between physical and digital books (aside from the feel and smell!) is that physical books are linear. You tend to read one page after another, one chapter after another. Of course you can dip in and out and use the contents or index pages to find the material you want. But most people read an old-fashioned book more or less sequentially. Digital books, however, provide opportunities for presenting information or stories in a non-linear fashion. Prezi, therefore, was the perfect tool to not just talk about, but demonstrate, the non-linear nature of new technologies.

Kimberly Scheideman, in her blog post A Beautiful Sunrise - PowerPoint or Prezi - What's the Difference? makes a similar point. She claims that Prezi suited her thematic presentation of Eoin Colfer's novel Artemis Fowl better than PowerPoint ('I felt the Prezi captured a concept that a PowerPoint couldn't'). So, in other cases, it looks like the lecture topic or structure is informing lecturer preferences.

More thoughts on this later but for now here's the handout we distribute in our sessions - comments and corrections welcome.

Prezi Guide

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Learning technology review: the student perspective

This is my presentation for the next M25 Group session (31.03.2011):

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Graphic elicitation references

Bagnoli, A. (2009). Beyond the standard interview: the use of graphic elicitation and arts-based methods. Qualitative Research, 9(5): 547–570

Crilly, N. et al. (2006). Graphic elicitation: using research diagrams as interview stimuli. Qualitative Research, 6(3): 341-366

Prosser, J. and Loxley. A. (2008). Introducing Visual Methods. ESRC National Centre for Research Methods Review Paper. (accessed February 14 2011)

Törrönen, T. (2002). Semiotic theory on qualitative interviewing using stimulus texts. Qualitative Research, 2(3): 343-362

Umoquit, M.J. et al. (2008). The efficiency and effectiveness of utilizing diagrams in interviews: an assessment of participatory diagramming and graphic elicitation. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 8(53): 1-12

Varga-Atkins, T. and O'Brien, M. (2009). From drawings to diagrams: maintaining researcher control during graphic elicitation in qualitative interviews. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 32(1): 53-67

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Blogging workshop

I thought I'd park the Prezi I'll be using for this semester's blogging workshops here.