What Makes Up A Professional Presence For Academics?

There’s always a question about what makes up a good professional presence for academics.

There are so many different sites which could be registered with and used, and this can look overwhelming to someone new to representing themselves online.

These are the slides I delivered for a recent Higher Education Academy workshop where I broke down the main different components which should be considered. The are hosted on SlideShare account for Thomas Lancaster.

One area I found particularly useful to go through was the different ways in which you can promote academic research using social media, so a number of sites related to that are included.

Mobile, Social and Cloud

Over the past months, I’ve attended events and workshops run by three of the best-known (and biggest) IT vendors – Oracle, Microsoft and IBM.

And, three common themes have been emerging about where the IT industry is heading, and what skills students need to have by the end of a degree within a Computing discipline.

First Mobile. A substantial amount of Computing now goes on within mobile devices, whether these are phones or tablets. Students need to be able to develop apps and mobile websites for different purposes and to present a seamless experience, whether a site is being accessed on a mobile or desktop device.

Second, Social. Integrating social media technology into applications and web sites is essential, both to ensure that content can go viral and to increase the uptake of that content.

Thirdly, Cloud. Developing software and data that is only available on one device is of limited use. Even for something as a game to be successful, it would want to have the opportunity for people to compete against one another and have scores appear in a single high score table. This is something which requires remote storage of the data.

All three of these themes clearly link together. For instance, a mobile web site could be developed to store all of its data in the cloud so that it can be accessed from any device. It could use “Login With Facebook” to speed up access to the site and to promote activity on the site automatically on Facebook.

The challenge will be to what extent universities respond to these changes and integrate these skills within the technical remit of their courses. Certainly, an interesting area to explore further, particularly in my case, the more technical social media opportunities.

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.

The Best Way To Take Notes At Conferences And Workshops?

When attending an academic conference or workshop, it’s always useful to take notes. There might be some good ideas shared during the workshop which don’t exist on slides circulated afterwards (often the case during discussions). And, it’s unlikely that sessions will be recorded (and that you’ll have time to watch them).

But, too often notes end up being hastily scribbled down or not referred to again.

What many events are now doing is encouraging notes to be taken and shared using social media (and tablet devices, smart phones and laptops).

For instance, a workshop I was recently involved with ended up with both Twitter and Facebook discussions (here are some examples of what was recorded on social media during the event).

In this case, the Facebook discussions took place in a Facebook group.

The Twitter discussions all used a consistent hash tag.

Both of these were set up quite independently, and so led to quite different types of discussions.

There are a lot of benefits of an approach like this to people organising (and funding) the events, particularly in the increase in visibility. In both cases, people interested, but who could not attend, joined in the discussion.

The discussion created inside the event itself is also useful, particularly where delegates pick up on similar points, engage in virtual discussion and retweet. The permanent and immediate record of the event is useful for both delegates and organisers too.

There are also criticisms to this approach. One I’ve heard is that it creates two classes of delegates – those who are involved in social media and those who are not. But, this certainly doesn’t preclude people keeping their own paper and private notes.

One way I saw this used well at a recent conference was having a blogger who was monitoring the social media channels for post ideas. That created a permanent record of what was going on to add to the (sometimes hard to find at a later date) social media discussions.

I also know of academics who use a similar approach in class, encouraging students to take and share notes using social media – something which I may well try myself over the coming year.

 

How does this approach work for you? Is electronic note taking at events useful? Just use the Comment box to share your thoughts.

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