10 questions about social media and digital transformation

Posted by Eric Stoller on August 7, 2017

10 questions about social media and digital transformation


At last month's Tribal SITS Conference in Wales, the digital transformation panel received more questions than it had time to answer. Receiving a plethora of queries from conference attendees via the web, I joined Jayne Aldridge, Executive Director of AMOSSHE / Director of Services for Students Kingston University and Andrew Meikle, Head of Corporate Information Systems at Lancaster University, to answer a variety pack of questions pertaining to all things digital plus higher education.

As you might expect, my remarks for the digital transformation panel were focused around social media, digital capabilities/literacy, employability, and critical thinking. Whilst we divvied up the panel questions so that all three of us were able to share equally, there remained several unanswered questions that related to my presentation.

Presented in no particular order, here are some of the questions that I wasn't able to answer due to time constraints. I've provided short-form answers just like I would had I answered them during the panel Q & A:

Any tips on getting senior management to believe that digital transformation projects are essential/important?

It's always interesting to figure out how to get senior leaders on-board (if they aren't already) a digital transformation project. I'd start with showing why the project matters. What will it do to help enhance the student experience? How will it benefit the university? Also, have other universities implemented this type of project? Use those case studies to help make the case that this digital transformation initiative is important. And, if you can get someone from a university that has successfully implemented an equivalent project, who is a peer of one of your senior leaders, to share their experience, that can be very helpful in moving things along.

Do you think that the social apps have become an electronic version for the ‘garden shed’?

The garden shed reference is presumably a British expression and I'm not sure I know what that means. (Were I on the panel, this is when I would turn to my fellow panelists and ask for help.) However, if the shed reference means that their are too many apps and things can get muddled, I'd start with asking what it is that you are trying to accomplish via social media and then pick a couple of apps that match up with your goals / expected outcomes.

Is it possible to create a truly personal digital experience for students?

There's a lot of talk these days about personalized learning via digital technologies. Whilst data sets, algorithms, machine learning, etc. can be used to feed customized information to students, I'm not yet sold on the idea that a bespoke experience can be achieved at the individual student level. I think that Amazon does a good job of personalizing the customer experience based on user patterns, prior purchases, search history, etc. but that doesn't mean the experience is still really all that personal. It's a lot of "best guesses" using the best tech of the day.

''start with asking what it is that you are trying to accomplish via social media and then pick a couple of apps that match up with your goals / expected outcomes.''

Why is not using Snapchat an issue about digital literacy? I think a lot of people choose not to use some of these apps as some seem rather silly.

There can be a lot of fear and resistance to using an app like Snapchat. I suppose it's more about overcoming the perception that an app can't be useful in the context of whatever someone is doing in their role at a university. Snapchat stories are used by universities all over the world to share curated, ephemeral messages about orientation/induction, graduation, study abroad experiences, athletic events, etc.

Would you agree that when it comes to using digital transformation, there should be a framework for students to educate the educators?

In one way or another, we're all learners. No one is a digital native and no one is a digital immigrant. I think in some instances, students can educate educators. However, it's vital that the digital capacity of students is not assumed to be exceptional simply by default.

How can we police the use of social media in our institutions and ensure usage is not damaging?

I guess I'd ask how we police the use of telephones, email, etc. Social media can be used in a variety of educationally relevant ways...and it can also be used in extremely hyperbolic and damaging ways. I don't think there's a way to "police" social media, nor would I advocate for such a thing. Teachable moments happen online and in-person. How is your university leading the way in terms of teaching digital citizenship and role modeling community, empathy, listening, and care via digital channels?

If you created an app for HE, what would it look like?

That's a great question. I honestly have no idea because I've never thought about making an app for higher education. Maybe I'd do something around the curation of ideas / thought leadership for anyone who's interested in digital transformation and using social media for engagement.

How do you join all the interactions up? We might be good at talking to students but if we can’t measure or share the impact what’s the point?

Some of the best measurement/analytics work pertaining to all things digital plus engagement happens within university communications, marketing, and recruitment. I would talk to those areas within your institution to see what types of tools and measures they are using and see if you can join up with their efforts. Also, sometimes digital engagement mirrors in-person interactions...and most of those brick-and-mortar conversations aren't necessarily measured.

Do you think there is a fear that the use of social media could negatively impact on university reputation?

The benefits of using social media far outweigh the perceived risks. “Fear is the mind-killer.” Universities use social media for admissions/recruitment, teaching/learning, marketing/communications, alumni relations, etc. Don't let fear impede your creative tendencies.

This post was originally posted on Inside Higher Ed and can be found here: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/student-affairs-and-technology/10-questions-about-social-media-and-digital-transformation 


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