During the last two weeks I’ve been starting my review of the JISC resources I’m going to use as part of the project and my first port of call was the Online Promotion of Research Expertise project carried out for JISC by Rightscom Ltd. The project produced a final report – useful for my current research where I am aiming to review current practice on social media tools within the higher education sector – as well as a self-assessment tool which I will use in the next stage of my research – establishing a benchmark for where Coventry currently is in terms of social media use.
The project final report was based around a review of University websites – the team looked at 75 in the UK as well as some overseas for comparison – which coincides quite closely with what I’m looking at and some key findings stood out:
Firstly, the assertion that there was “too little interactivity and too many brochures” resonated very closely with our experiences at Coventry, in fact this was essentially the rationale behind our initial bid to JISC! Brochures definitely have their places, it’s really important to have tangible publicity materials but these days people expect websites to be much more than a repository of downloads. Something that other members of our team are looking at for this project is for this improving the interface for our publications when they’re in digital form and although this doens’t solve the problem of “too many brochures” presenting them in more innovative and interactive ways may be a big step forward.
Secondly, the report found that social media was used mainly for student engagement – again something we’ve found at Coventry. Even social networks aimed at business users such as Linkedin weren’t used in a co-ordinated way by HEIs. The presence of staff on Linkedin was entirely down to personal choice and there was no drive towards a “corporate” presence. Interestingly, I attended a conference recently where someone from Linkedin spoke about how businesses could use the network to promote their brand so I’m definitely going to look at that as a possible tool for trialling by research groups once we get to that stage of the project.
The final point in the report that I found interesting was the assertion that online channels were unimportant in establishing business and community relationships but very important for maintaining them. This is something I’ll be keen to explore when we start doing focus group sessions as I would see the University’s online presence as it’s shop window in many respects and the way we had envisaged this project progressing was to help us create more partnerships through more effective use of different social media.