Social Media Branding For Computing Professionals

Here’s a copy of a talk that I delivered for the Cheltenham and Gloucester branch of the British Computer Society.

The talk is designed to show some of the methods that I’ve identified for Computing Professionals to build a professional brand online, primarily by using social media and their own professional websites.

To keep this presentation light, I’ve included plenty of examples. These are based on my experience, from work I’ve done with students and from other professionals I know who use social media in their business.

The slides are hosted in my SlideShare account (Thomas Lancaster on SlideShare).

The correct use of social media by students is a particularly hot issue within teaching right now.

I do believe that helping students to build their own personal brand whilst they are studying will help them with their long-term career.

How To Create A High Value Web Site In A Day

As part of my continued research and teaching into student employability, I’ve been investigating the best ways to help students to present what they can do online.

One very underlooked technique by students is to create a web site on an area of interest to them (and which will benefit them in a professional sense).

That’s what I’ve demonstrated with the creation of my new web site related to contract cheating (shared with my research colleague, Robert Clarke).

Contract Cheating New Web Site

In this case, the web site serves multiple purposes. As well as being a demonstration to students and other academics that setting up a web site is possible, it also provides a central source for research into contract cheating, which is something that is missing at present.

Setting up a web site like this is something that has been within my plans for a couple of years now, but just didn’t ever quite make it high enough up the priority list to process. In the end, I was surprised how quick and easy this was to create in a way that is also simple to maintain.

The actual site design took around four hours, and is based around the WordPress CMS. I already had the idea for the site. Much of the set up involved adding appropriate plugins and coming up with the right pages and headings to make this quick to maintain. I want this site to be one that I can update with new media stories and research papers, but without needing to spend more than ten minute per post. I also wanted to make sure that this didn’t look like a blog (even though it is based mainly on blogging software).

The other four hours has been spent adding content. I’ve mainly used a curation system for this, finding useful sources elsewhere, acknowledging them, and using this as a base for a discussion article. I’ve also added some of my own ideas, which largely overlap with the discussions that I’ll have when presenting on contract cheating.

I’d estimate around eight hours (or one day’s work) to get all this going, but this could certainly be completed quicker if it was done in one session.

There is still lots more content to add, but crucially, coverage of recent material is there. If nothing else, I can see this being useful on a personal level, as it’s surprising how often I find useful recent news stories and discussions about contract cheating, but these quickly disappear into subscription databases, or fall so far down the Google rankings that they’re impossible to find again. That’s just the nature of the Internet.

Other things still to do include social media integration (this is easy with WordPress plugins) and to add some video to the site.

Most importantly, this is a process that can be replicated by students. I’ve been pleased to see some of my Professional Practice 2 students setting up their own blogs, particularly related to technology and gaming, which are useful to demonstrate a wider interest in the Computing field. WordPress makes it simple to maintain a site, and anything related to the professional world, extended studies or technology is a good item to add to a portfolio. One recommendation I would make is to always set this up on your own domain, rather than being reliant on (and constrained by) a third party.

Still lots to do around other activities, but hopefully contractcheating.com will prove to be useful, as well as a simple example of extended professional practice.

Rescuing Academic Research

Whilst updating my academic profiles on Google Scholar and LinkedIn, I was rather surprised to come across several pieces of research that I’d written but not published in an official academic manner.

This research took several forms:

  • Some papers that had been developed early on in my PhD research and informed my later thesis, but which hadn’t been substantially well-enough “shaped” to submit
  • Two papers that I wrote with a BCU colleague after joining, but which I had rather lost track of asking he had agreed to seek publication for these
  • One paper written with a former MSc project student, which needed reducing in size before it could be published
  • And various papers which had been started, but not completed, with other academic commitments getting in the way

It’s unlikely now that the papers would be publishable without some substantial rework. If nothing else, the fields on which these papers were written will have moved on and the information will look dated. It does, however, seem a pity to have research that has been written but is not published anywhere, so I will look to see if there is any way to resurrect these.

Now, all that comes before other research which has been involved students which could easily be made publication ready (given time):

  • There are several good student projects which I’ve worked on previously with students which could easily be made into conference papers
  • In the Professional Practice 2 module students carry out a research investigation as part of an Action Learning Set. There have been some good efforts for this module too.

Both of these meet the wider requirements of  the “Students As Partners” movement which is rightfully gaining traction across the Higher Education Sector.

There are also pieces of research that I’ve carried out to involve students in modules which could also be published.

Finally, I recently wrote a sample literature review on an aspect of the contract cheating area, designed to show students how they could undertake an assessment of their own. Whilst the Literature Review probably isn’t publication ready in its own right, some gaps in the literature became immediately clear to me.

Generally, these were things that I remember presenting about (or watching other people give presentations on) during research seminars and workshops, but which had never made it through the formal documented process of an academic publication.

Some of these talks could easily be made into an academic conference paper with very little new work needed.

It just goes to show how much research is out there.

My Challenge

My challenge is to see what research can be rescued and used in some other form.

If nothing else, a number of previously published pieces of research are no longer available anywhere. Conferences which had web sites hosted by universities have since had their entire archives removed (one of the dangers of relying on a third party to host information).

I need to go back through the archive of what I’ve done, see what can be made available and see how it can be made available. Just having a single archive of papers and talks (linked to the appropriate copyright holders where necessary) is important, as opposed to stylistically different versions spread over multiple sites.

Just getting everything in order for my own records will represent a big achievement.

Your Challenge

Your challenge is to consider your own academic publications and see what information there is out there and how it’s stored.

If nothing else, I recommend updating your LinkedIn profile to include the Publications and making sure that these are archived on your own sites.

Students, as well, should think if there’s anything you’ve done which contains academic research and which might be publishable with the aid of your lecturers or project supervisor.

How does that sound? Is there anything that I’ve missed or which you wish to add?

Just comment below and do go ahead and share your thoughts.

Who Are You Paying For Assignments?

Just spotted an interesting little remark as part of an online discussion about cheating:

We also had a student to went to one of the contract-cheating sites to do his program.  We then set him up so the offer to code came from one of our own grad students.  When he paid for the code, he was dismissed from the university.

I don’t think that anyone would debate that paying someone else to do an assignment for them is wrong.

There are lots of ways to being caught contract cheating, but paying someone is one of the worst (I wonder if the student got his money back?).

I think that the penalty, in this case, sends out the right message. What do you think?

How To Get A Complete University Education For Free?

If you’ve ever wanted to study a university level subject, but have been put off by the cost, there are now alternatives out there. And, many of these are supported by well known higher education brands and offer access to lectures and other materials for free.

iTunes U has been around for a while now and provides access to content from the likes of Oxford, Stanford and Yale. It’s a reworking of an old iTunes concept where lecture recordings could be made available through iTunes.

iTunes U packages up the content in a neat app (ideally accessed through an iPad), potentially providing a better learning experience. It’s possible to access archived content, or to sign up to follow courses along live (often the same ones that real students are paying for at those institutions).

Coursera is a newer competitor in the free education marketplace and supported by universities including Princeton. The courses are differentiated from those on iTunes U by largely being created exclusively for the site (of course, these often repurpose content that an educator would already be using with their own students).

The Coursera subjects tend to be shorter than those on iTunes U (6 to 8 weeks are common) and rely more on students following on along live with the course. Many of these have areas where support is available (either through the tutor, or peer support with other students). There can also be assignments and certificates awarded for completion.

The big disadvantage for both of these types of courses is that they do not carry university credit. So, they don’t offer an alternative to attending a university where a recognised qualification is needed. However, for many people, particularly visual learners, this disadvantage will be outweighed by the free nature of the resources.

For potential Computer Science students, these can offer a method to get familiar with supports prior to the start of a course. They also allow students to cover areas which are not included in their course (no Computer Science course can cover everything), which can offer an advantage in the job marketplace. They may also be useful to students looking to expand into a new area for a Final Year Undergraduate Computing Project.

Current Computer Science students may also find these useful, as they can offer an alternative way to approach different subjects which they are currently studying. The different presentation styles and examples can help students who find a particular subject difficult, or can help to stretch students who want to develop more advanced skills in a particular subject.

Computer Science tuition is well represented on Courses A. Some of the upcoming courses offered include such staples such as algorithms, logic, compilers, human computer interaction and artificial intelligence. There are also novel areas available, such as web intelligence and social network analysis, as well as the opportunity to pursue areas of personal interest, such as Internet history and e-learning.

When added to the different subjects available through iTunes U, these resources are worthy of a full exploration.

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