Recap: ELDT Show and Tell, Nov 22, Use of Technology to Support the Development of Digital/Employability Skills

 

The SAMR model by Dr Ruben R PuenteduraSusan Halfpenny, Information Services Teaching and Learning Manager, shared with us her department’s work in helping academics to integrate digital capabilities enhancements into student programmes. Of particular interest is the use of Puentedura’s SAMR model, which enables academics to consider if their use of technology is enhancing learning through substitution and augmentation, or transforming learning through modification and/or redefinition. View Susan’s slides (UoY staff only) to work out if you are a Digital Muggle, a Digital Citizen, a Digital Worker or a Digital Maker. UoY staff have the opportunity to attend a similar workshop in January, organised by Learning and Development.


“From WordPress Womble to WordPress Winner” – Guest Speaker Dr. Jude Brereton, Department of Electronics.

In our Autumn Show and Tell session, Dr Jude Brereton from the Department of Electronic Engineering shared with us her success stories from over 3 years’ experience of developing students’ social media skills on the one-year taught MSc in Audio and Music Technology. Digital and employability skills are embedded into the programme and assessed as part of the programme learning outcomes. Students produced blog posts and websites for self-promotion and used LinkedIn to develop their professional networking skills. Apart from encouraging self-reflection and independent learning, the experience has shown them the value of using social media for career development, as Jude detailed in her session.

Keywords: social media, digital capability, employability, alignment of tasks to learning outcomes

What led to the embedding of social media into the programme?

screenshot of Jude's tweet

Jude described her own journey into the use of social media as ‘starting out as a womble’. She signed up for a Twitter account and used it mostly for retweeting (think of it as curating other people’s content), rarely composing her own tweets. She didn’t think anybody would be interested in what she had to say. However, she did want to encourage students to be more engaged in social networks and decided to practice what she preached. She started tweeting, and she set up a LinkedIn group that her students could join to network with previous graduates from the course and view useful information that she posted.

Apart from its alignment to the York Pedagogy, a key driver for embedding social media skills into the programme was the expectation of employers. Top tips received from a graduate employer said students should:

  • Get a degree
  • Learn to programme, and
  • ‘Do stuff!’ (have personal projects and show some passion)

elec_engine

To succeed in the small world (of Audio and Music Technology), students needed to have a professional online presence and portfolio to showcase their work and interests. This was how they could ‘get known’ in the world they wanted careers in. It seemed remiss to not equip the students with the skills they needed to get the jobs they wanted.

The audience was asked to generate ideas about what ‘employable traits’ were. Our top answers were:

  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Team working
  • Project/self-management

These were traits students could demonstrate through creating and maintaining a website with blog posts and projecting a professional online presence.

You can find out more about ‘employability skills’ on the University’s web site. Students can be encouraged to apply for the York Award.

Methodology

Jude decided on the following activities in the programme:

  • Personal/professional website (using WordPress but students could use Blogger or create a website if they wanted)
  • LinkedIn Profile
  • Weekly blog (for example, about team-working for the Public Engagement event or about their research)

For the blogging activity, Jude aimed to ‘build in intrinsic motivation’ and to ‘incorporate active learning’. She wanted the activity to be ‘authentic’, not just something that happened while the students were in University. She also wanted it to be challenging and enjoyable while developing their digital and employability skills.

Staff provided the framework for the website/blog site, nudging and support, and advice on how to blog, what to say and why, and the ‘voice’. Students almost had re-learn how to write for a public audience and gain confidence in writing with ‘I’; they had gotten so used to writing in an academic style. Students provided all the content and had to find ‘followers’ or learn to engage an audience to subscribe to their blog posts. To help them understand how their assignment would be graded, they were asked to devise ‘marking criteria’ as an exercise- what made a good blog site? This made them more cognizant of the traits of good sites and was an effective way to make them critically aware of effective marketing techniques they could implement, for example, offers of free downloads next week as hooks to entice people to return to the site or to subscribe to posts. Students were then able to provide each other with constructive formative feedback.

The assignment formed 70% of a 10-credit module on being a personal professional practitioner. Students were asked to identify and curate their best blog posts (4 – 6) and cut and paste them into a Word document for submission.

Outcomes:

“It’s because you made me do a website!”

Some students started off being critical about the assignment in their blog posts, viewing some of the activities as not being ‘marks related’. With time, however, their updates showed how they were developing a depth of understanding. The website and blog helped them to develop their personal brand, show their digital skills and employability skills, demonstrate self-efficacy and increase their self-confidence. Those who were resistant to the blogs at first became very engaged professionally. Employers were able to look at the blogs and one student was hired as a result.

The use of social media paid off in other ways: Jude was given a window into the students’ lives and aspirations and could be supportive outside of contact time. With the MSc being so short, students can feel like they’re suddenly out there on their own without the support from the University. This made building up connections from day one to carry them beyond University even more important.

Their LinkedIn profile was particularly undervalued while they were on the course but suddenly became an asset in the job-seeking world. Graduates from previous cohorts would often post job offers in the LinkedIn group set up by Jude to connect them.

Key learning points

There are some things to be aware of when implementing this kind of non-traditional assessment. Assessment criteria needs to be clear but flexible (for example, they won’t all look the same). The assignment can feel very open-ended and be costly in terms of staff time and resource for support. However, despite the down sides, there is payoff in terms of learning gain.

What next

If you’re inspired to try out this approach of engaging students with social media, review our advice on the York TEL handbook on pedagogical approaches and ‘Choosing the right tool‘.

Case studies that may also be useful can be found on our WordPress York TEL handbook page.

If you have any questions about anything that was covered in the Show and Tell, please don’t hesitate to contact the E-Learning Development Team (vle-support@york.ac.uk) or Dr Jude Brereton (jude.brereton@york.ac.uk).

We’ll be revisiting Jude’s experience as a case study in 2018 where we will share her links to student work.

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