LinkedIn – Reflections of an Occasional User

By @cdvallance

I have previously written about my use of twitter and blogs.linkedin

The third social media tool that I use to a limited degree is LinkedIn. I know I don’t use LinkedIn as much as I could. I don’t regularly update my status to share information to the same degree that I use Twitter, for instance, where I’ve begun to develop valued acquaintances.

I primarily use LinkedIn as my professional digital Rolodex. It is particularly useful as a way to stay in touch with people external to my own University. When I moved to the UK from Canada five years ago, I left behind respected colleagues and professional associates. Linking in with them has enabled me to maintain contact from thousands of miles away. I have done the same since being here in the UK and still maintain contacts from my early days here.

Rather than relying on my email contact list which becomes out of date the moment someone moves organisations unless they specifically notify me, since they maintain their own profile I don’t need to update their information myself. Similarly, I didn’t need to tell my connections individually when I moved roles. We simply maintain contact with each other directly through LinkedIn.

I also use LinkedIn as a way to ensure that anyone who wants to know a little about me – positions I have held, organisations where I have worked, my education, etc. has this information easily to hand. I don’t include a complete and detailed CV but if someone wants to know something about my professional profile, it provides a way in. For instance, I have signed up to be a mentor at Kent as a way to actively demonstrate my support for this initiative led by our Learning and Development team and have also had the privilege to take part in the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) new Aurora women’s leadership programme as a role model. Providing connections with my LinkedIn profile ensures that those who are interested can see something about my experience and background before deciding if a mentor/mentee relationship or further contact might be worth exploring further.

I use LinkedIn to learn about other professionals as well. For instance, I have looked at profiles of speakers who come to our University as well as learning about potential contractors and services suppliers. However, while I am a member of a number of LinkedIn groups (including the ODHE LinkedIn group), I have yet to engage with these very actively. With groups, I believe at least one person needs to take the lead in experimenting with and helping to moderate discussion topics and at least a small group need to commit to actively engaging in discussions. This could be a longer term goal. In the meantime, I will continue to check in on LinkedIn semi-regularly and see where the tool might lead over time.

Have you found an effective way to engage with LinkedIn – particularly through the use of discussion groups? If so, do share your insights with all of us so we can continue to learn together.

Cindy Vallance, Head of Organisational Development, University of Kent

MOOC Wordle

A MOOC experience

MOOC Wordle

Experiencing a MOOC
I recently joined 1200 other participants to experience ocTEL, a professional development course for HE staff who want to make better use of technology in their teaching and learning practice. ocTEL might be described as a mini-MOOC; Massively Open Online Courses generally see initial registration in the thousands if not hundreds of thousands.

The course: ocTEL was developed with funding support from the Innovation and Transformation Fund and by a widely distributed team led by the Association for Learning Technology – ALT. They only had one face-to-face meeting; design and development were primarily online collaborative activities. Over 11 weeks, ocTEL offered a range of learning activities (up to 55 hours per week) and channels for communication and interaction. The first ten days were for orientation, to allow us to get used to the various ways of engaging and to support formation of groups around specific learning topics. There were weekly webinars and lots of open educational resources forming online course materials. Tutors posed questions and facilitated course discussions.

Co-learning: I was amongst the hundreds who signed up straightaway for the ocTEL Jiscmail list, only to find my inbox instantly swamped by introductions and responses to the initial question, and then by a similar volume of messages asking to be unsubscribed. Within a couple of hours, a fellow participant had advised everyone to sign-up for daily or weekly digests rather than individual email traffic to the list; an example of the co-learning that is encouraged and expected in this kind of environment, where participants learn as much from each other as from formal inputs from tutors. Many people posted messages in the early days saying they couldn’t find resources, or had forgotten which of the multiple channels to use for what. The levels of supportive comment, constructive feedback and volunteered input through the course discussions were very high and enhanced a feeling of being part of a community.

Webinar woes: ocTEL hosted a weekly webinar, often featuring high-profile figures from the online learning world.  I travel a lot in my work, so thought I could usefully use travel time (trains, or in my hotel room) tuning in to the recordings, if not the live sessions, on my iPad. Unfortunately, the software used for the webinars (Collaborate) does not run on iPads, and I rarely travel with a laptop these days, so this option was ruled out. And my desktop PC at work has no sound card, speakers or microphone. I could have booked a space in our videoconferencing room, but somehow the motivation was never there once I’d felt the initial disappointment. And of course the day job got in the way too.

Communication soup: The course platform captured conversations from participants’ own blogs, ocTEL-hosted forums, a Google+ group set up by participants (not the hosts), tweets with the ocTEL hashtag and various other online spaces. This was the most engaging and interesting part of ocTEL for me: it was innovative in the way material was aggregated into a daily newsletter, and it really brought other participants’ views and learning experiences to life in this daily snapshot.

Summary: The writing of the course and the tutor support were provided by a network of distributed volunteers and there was certainly a feeling of community developing amongst participants. ‘Vicarious participation’ – observing others’ learning rather than engaging directly with the learning activities, as I did, is deemed a legitimate form of participation and is a useful one for MOOC novices. As the course is Open, all the resources are licensed for re-use and will continue to be available (until a future iteration replaces them).

The level of effort and motivation needed to engage appears to be high – and more Massive courses do see a massive drop-off in participation after initial registration. And the degree of commitment and coordination needed to develop a high quality course of this kind should not be underestimated. Many of our universities are developing MOOCs, independently or by contributing to, for example, FutureLearn or Coursera. Will they be a passing fad? Possibly, but there’s much to learn from the process of co-design and co-learning, and not only for technology-enhanced learning but other forms of collaborative, distributed professional development.

ocTEL is available at:

TOOLBOX: A Simple Guide to Hootsuite

In conversation with Marcus Hill, he asked for a simple guide to Hootsuite, so here we are. Hootsuite is designed to enable you to tweet, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc without having to log in and out of each account (the free account allows you to connect to up to 5 accounts, whilst there’s a charge of $5.99 per month if you choose to add more accounts). The main benefit most of you, however, are likely to enjoy, is the fact that you can pre-schedule tweets (e.g. sit down on a Monday for half-an-hour and set up several days tweets), although you will still need to check in to respond to any further engagement. Don’t forget that we earlier looked at setting up a Twitter account – please do let us know how you are using it!

Sign up for an account

Go to Hootsuite.comhootsuiteSign up through your Facebook account, or the simple instructions where it says ‘Sign Up Now’, and follow the screen prompts. Note that when you return to login, the button is just above, in the top right – so do remember your password!

Add Social Networks

The software is likely to encourage you to add a social network as you sign up, but if not/once you have set up your first account, you can add further by looking to top-left and ‘Add Social Network’


This will give you access to the following social networks, so click on the one you want to use: addsocnet

If using Twitter, log in to authorise the account, so that it can post whilst you are off doing other things: authorise

The Dashboard


You can add up to 10 ‘streams’ per account. For Twitter, dy default the first will be the usual Twitter feed you would see on Twitter, the second your ‘mentions’ (where others have used your user name in a tweet), your ‘Direct Message’ inbox and outbox, sent items. You can then add streams tied to hashtags, which is incredibly useful for conferences.

Set Tweets

This is an incredibly simple process (so long as you remember that shorter is sweeter!). write-a-messageSimply start typing in the box, tick for the appropriate social network(s) (don’t default to all social networks, think about the different audiences you have for each). Most of the time this may be all you want but:

  1. Link: Simply copy and paste a long link from elsewhere on the ‘net, press ‘Shrink’, and a shortened link will be included.
  2. Clip: Add a Photo/File (from your hard-drive, although if you’re using this as an app on the phone, straight from the phone).
  3. Schedule posts: I quite often use the ‘Autoschedule’ function, and it spaces them out as it deems appropriate. Otherwise choose a date/time, and press schedule.
  4. Location: Click if you want your location added to a tweet (especiallygood if you’re somewhere exotic!)
  5. Privacy: Works on networks such as Facebook which have different privacy settings, e.g. show just friends/work colleagues.

Checking What You’ve Scheduled

Look to the left-hand menu for ‘Publisher’:

publisherClick and see what you’ve got set (the icons indicate the different accounts):


Is there more?

There’s always more in these apps, but the above information should keep you going for most of what you want. Don’t be afraid to poke around and experiment, knowing that you can always return to ‘Stream’ to read/post, and check out the Hootsuite ‘Help‘ if required.

Social Media Wordle

Calling All Luddites!

In responding to the challenges which face anyone working with technology it is worth noting things haven’t always been as they are now. When reminiscing at the recent ODHE conference in Windermere on items of technology and working practices which have long since passed into history books, we discussed typing pools to write our letters. This made it unnatural to write to colleagues when picking up the phone was a far more attractive proposition. However, given the pace of modern life and the expectations for fast response time, the e mail has become indispensable. Our conclusion was that adjustments we have made will continue with the introduction of new ways of working such as social media, twitter and, yes, even blogging. Progress stops for no-one. The original description of a Luddite may not quite fit modern day dilemmas. Luddites were artisans who protested against the newly-developed labour-saving textile machinery; the stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution (1811-1817,) which made it possible to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work The modern day “Luddite” doesn’t have the luxury to resist the information revolution which has swept across the globe. The proliferation of communications technologies continues unabated. But it doesn’t stop us from questioning the relational effects of e-mailing someone at the next desk, cautious and sensible adoption is the key!

Marcus Hill, Senior Staff Development Adviser, University of Leeds

Charlotte Croffie, Organisation and Staff Development Consultant, UCL

Association of University Administrators – 2013 Conference Reflections

While I have been a member of the Association of University Administrators (AUA) for a couple of years, I attended and presented at their annual conference for the first time in March 2013.

Why the AUA? There are certainly many HE professional associations/networks to choose to get involved in. The ODHE group itself is one, of course. Add to that the many other specialist organisations that include ARC, ARMA, ASET, AUCC, AGCAS, AURIL, AHUA, AISA, AMOSSHE, AUCSO, AUDE, SDF, UHR, and the lists and acronyms go on…

Firstly, the AUA has a substantial membership base of nearly 5,000 in the UK and a significant international presence, including strong connections with similar organisations in other countries. Its annual conference is the largest professional services development conference in the UK HE calendar and typically brings together over 700 delegates.

Secondly, our local University of Kent branch is very active and was thrilled to receive three AUA awards in 2012 including one recognising Branch Good Practice. The enthusiasm of our local membership was instrumental in my decision to also contribute more actively. I also like the idea of being involved with an organisation that is so much at the forefront in encouraging professional services staff to work in partnership with academic staff and students to encourage positive change and innovation in the core business of our institutions.

Thirdly, the AUA is making very good use good use of social media. They had great mobile apps at their conference, they make good use of Twitter (@THE_AUA) and Twitter hash tags (#AUA13) at their events and they use LinkedIn groups (Association of University Administrators more than many other associations I have come across.

The topic I presented at the AUA13 conference with University of Kent colleague Chloé Gallien was: Collaboration as a Catalyst for Change (see materials for session 200). As I mentioned in that AUA conference presentation, social media is just one way we can find new ways to collaborate and build relationships in a more social era.  And as one of my favourite authors, Nilofer Merchant, states: “Relationships are to the social era, what efficiency was to the industrial era.”

The call is now live for AUA14 conference proposals on the topic of Revolution and Reinvention. Why not join in by getting involved?

New JISC Site: Implementing the UKPSF

The following website is being launched at the webinar just starting:


The framework’s central purpose is to help those seeking to enhance the learning experience of their students, by improving the quality of their teaching and learning support. If you have a substantive role in the education of students or staff, it will be relevant to your situation. The Framework provides a means to comprehensively benchmark, develop, recognise & reward teaching and learning support roles within higher education.

Webinar: Implementing the UKPSF in the digital university

images-1Wednesday 17 April, 13.00-14.00

This webinar offers a guide to implementing the UK professional standards framework in the digital university. We look at how post-graduate certificates in teaching and learning in higher education (PGCertHE) courses and CPD processes are adapting to digital technologies, both in their design and operation and in the educational practices for which the PGCertHEs are preparing staff. We introduce a new wiki including case studies of technology-informed practice, indexed against the UKPSF areas of activity, core knowledge and values.

Sign up for this webinarread more about UKPSF, or download previous webinars.