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Social Media and Institutional Leadership in UK Higher Education

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This research project examines how senior leaders in UK higher education deploy social media to the benefit of their institutions, their staff and their students. As universities become increasingly digital institutions within complex distributed networks, we suggest it is vitally important for senior leaders to directly embrace social approaches to communication and engagement. Drawing on paradigms from other sectors and outside the UK, we begin the work by establishing the rationale for university leaders to communicate regularly, personally and responsively to support strategic change.

Specifically, we explore how ‘digital leadership’ through social media can:

promote institutional successes and strategies within and outside the University
enhance direct engagement with students, staff and other stakeholders
role model behaviours in relation to digital capabilities
Our work is underpinned by a data gathering exercises, mapping how Vice-Chancellors of all UK universities currently use social media, with specific focus on Twitter and LinkedIn. We have selected these channels because of their widespread use in prof4essional contexts. The quantitative data we provide will establish how regularly these senior leaders use social media and what reach they have with particular networks.

This will be complemented by a number of detailed case studies, looking at how individual Vice-Chancellors build their networks through disseminating interesting and valuable content. Qualitative analysis of the nature and tone of engagement employed by Vice-Chancellors will help illustrate to what extent they reveal individual personalities, humanising themselves, their roles and their examples of student engagement using social media, asking of the greater visibility and personalisation for senior institutional affiliation and belonging amongst the institution’s student body.

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Social Media and Institutional Leadership in UK Higher Education

  1. 1. Social Media and Institutional Leadership in UK Higher Education Sue Beckingham @suebecks and Simon Horrocks @horrocks_simon Social Media for Learning Conference 2017 #SocMedHE17
  2. 2. Context and Hypothesis for our Research ★ majority of existing research on social media and higher education explores its role in learning or student support ★ our work takes an original perspective, exploring the role of social media in institutional leadership and development ★ potential interrelationship: institutions with leaders who embrace potential & role model professional use of social media more likely to provide supportive environment for innovations in social media for learning/support
  3. 3. What is #DigitalLeadership? ★ using digital tools effectively in leadership role ★ social media to engage/influence distributed audience(s) ★ many models and concepts of leadership
  4. 4. Leading in the Digital World Digital media channels are the default mode for a significant proportion of stakeholder engagement and social media, in particular, provides HEIs and their senior leaders with opportunities to communicate regularly, personally, openly and responsively. Qualman 2012 - Digital Leader
  5. 5. What Does #DigitalLeadership Look Like? Twitter handle: @realDonaldTrump Following: 45 Followers: 44.8M
  6. 6. Why is #DigitalLeadership in HE important? ★ Promote institutional successes and strategies within/outside the University ★ Enhance direct engagement with students, staff and other stakeholder groups ★ Role model behaviours in relation to digital capabilities ★ Personalisation of senior institutional leadership Jisc 2015
  7. 7. Humanising institutions Social media can offer a powerful way of curating, celebrating and disseminating examples of excellence in learning and teaching within and outside the institution, exploiting the potential to humanise universities by showcasing the rich diversity of people who work and study within them Notter and Grant 2012 - Humanize: How People-Centric Organisations Succeed in a Social World
  8. 8. Transparency through open communication When this is done regularly by senior leaders, this can connect them directly to key stakeholder groups, influencing and driving positive behaviours towards the realisation of strategic aims. Li 2010 - Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead
  9. 9. Authenticity It is important to find a balance of portraying a personality whilst also acknowledging that a leadership role represents a sector of society and an organisation. Semple 2012 - Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do
  10. 10. Research Methodology ★ Focus on Twitter and LinkedIn ★ Focus on Vice-Chancellors (or equivalent)
  11. 11. A starting point 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media He is available routinely to answer queries from his 20,000 students and 2,000 staff via this platform and aims to follow back every student who follows him. He offers encouragement to anxious students during exam periods or clearing, and solutions to students who may be unhappy with some aspect of their course or student experience, as well as pro-actively supporting student sport clubs and societies. He also regularly embraces YouTube to offer top tips to freshers, share personal experiences and introduce new university ventures, such as #DMUglobal, a programme to encourage and facilitate travel for undergraduates to enhance their employability. Dominic Shellard @DMUVC Dominic Shellard, vice-chancellor of De Montfort University has embraced social media to transform the way he communicates and engages with students, staff and the wider public. (Jisc 2015)
  12. 12. The UK Landscape http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/about/Pages/member-institutions.aspx 149 University Leaders analysed 107 39
  13. 13. VCs that tweet 32/107 16/39 48 Leaders* with an identified Twitter account *Leaders = Vice Chancellor, Principal or similar title
  14. 14. Findability What would you expect to find in a VC Twitter profile?
  15. 15. Findability What would you expect to find in a VC Twitter profile? ● Identifiable username ● Photograph ● Bio includes VC as their role ● Link to university web page / Twitter account ● Location of university ● Potential to also add link to LInkedIn profile ➔ + University bio page including links to Twitter and LinkedIn profiles
  16. 16. Twitter profiles ★ 44 of the 48 VCs completed their bio, however only 75% mentioned their role as VC ★ Just 32 included a link to their university website. ★ Only six of the VCs include a link to their Twitter account on their university profile page.
  17. 17. Twitter Leader Board (as of 10/12/17) Following Followers Tweets @valerieamos Valerie Amos 461 53118 3125 @peterhorrocks Peter Horrocks 808 12653 2206 @anthonyseldon Sir Anthony Seldon 2617 10841 1824 @hallam_vc Chris Husbands 520 10705 4303 @dmuvc Dominic Shellard 1336 9416 53092 @nick_petford Nick Petford 332 3056 5509 @hudvc Bob Cryan CBE FREng 75 2870 4892 @alicegast Alice Gast 13 2494 276 @rhulprincipal Paul Layzell 201 2450 3699 @caracaitchison Prof Cara Aitchison 758 2427 3842
  18. 18. Following 461 Followers 53118 Tweets 3125 Most followers Tweets over 2 weeks Tweets: 4 RTs: 35 Nested RTs: 1 Mentions: @SOAS @BruneiGallery @DenisMukwege @PanziHospital SOAS: The School of Oriental and African Studies
  19. 19. Following 2617 Followers 10841 Tweets 1824 Tweets over 2 weeks Tweets: 0 signed A.S. RTs: 36 Nested RTs: 0 Mentions: 0
  20. 20. Following 1336 Followers 9416 Tweets 53092 Tweets over 2 weeks Tweets: 80 RTs: 200 Nested RTs: 95 Replies: 25 Most Tweets Hashtags: #loveDMU #DMUlocal Mentions: @DMUglobal @DMUlocal @DMU_Pres @DMU_MaC @DMUPentecost @TheGalleryDMU @DMUHLS plus a wide variety of DMU sports teams
  21. 21. Promote institutional successes and strategies within/outside the University
  22. 22. Enhance direct engagement with students, staff and other stakeholder groups
  23. 23. Personalising leadership
  24. 24. Next Steps ★ Interviews with Dominic Shellard, Cara Aitchison and others ★ Detailed content and social network analysis ★ Please let us have your examples of #HEDigitalLeadership
  25. 25. Social Network Analysis Smith et al 2014
  26. 26. References BBC (2016) Trump on Twitter: A history of the man and his medium. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38245530 (accessed 16/12/17) Beckingham, S. (2016) VCs in Higher Ed that Tweet. Social Media for Learning Blog. https://socialmediaforlearning.com/2016/04/10/vcs-in-highered-that-tweet/ Jisc (2015) 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/uk-higher-education-social-media-influencers-named-05-oct-2015 Jisc (2015) Building Digital Capability https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/building-digital-capability Jisc (2015) Building Digital Capability: Being an Effective Digital Leader. http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6235/1/Digital_capabilities_effective_leader.pdf Li, C. (2010) Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Notter, J. and Grant, M. (2012) Humanize: How People-Centric Organisations Succeed in a Social World. Indianapolis: QUE. Qualman, E. (2012) Digital Leader. New York: McGraw Hill. Semple, E. (2012) Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do. Chichester: Wiley. Smith, M. A, Raine, L. and Himelboim, I. (2014) Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters. Pew Research Centre http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/20/mapping-twitter-topic-networks-from-polarized-crowds-to-community-clusters/
  27. 27. Questions / Suggestions #HEDigitalLeadership @suebecks @horrocks_simon