Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

Tag: research

Institutional use of Twitter: Can universities surpass brand image to make their social media relevant?

Posted on July 5th, by George Veletsianos in my research, scholarship. 1 Comment

The article below was originally published on The Conversation with the launch of their Canadian-focused site. The original article is on their site, but it is posted here for posterity.

Disconnected: Can universities surpass brand image to make their social media relevant?

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Universities portray campus life as idyllic, but may be missing an opportunity to truly connect with students.
(Shutterstock)

George Veletsianos, Royal Roads University and Ashley Shaw, Royal Roads University

Universities fail to exploit social media’s most compelling features, tending to broadcast their brands instead of engaging students and the public online, new research suggests.

Visualise this: smiling students and successful faculty. In the background, beautiful buildings framed by blue skies.

These are the ways that Canadian universities choose to represent themselves on social media. This picture is somewhat accurate, but a tad misleading.

Social media are a staple of Canadian universities. Twitter — where one can quickly and easily share information, pictures and videos — is particularly used by nearly all Canadian universities. Researchers have generally found that universities use Twitter to broadcast information about themselves, both to potential students and to the wider public.

Twitter use by universities raises many questions for us as educators and researchers with an interest in social media. In our research, we have looked closely at exactly what universities are posting on Twitter, asking two important questions: What messages are universities conveying through their official Twitter accounts? How is university life depicted in their tweets? We examined over nine months’ worth of tweets from public universities in Canada, paying particular attention to the images and videos shared as well as the text accompanying them.

Positive branding

What we found was troubling. Based on the information shared from these official university accounts, one would likely conclude life in Canadian universities is universally gratifying, enjoyable and beautiful.

Students in images were nearly always smiling and happy. Faculty members — almost all middle-age white males — were shown giving speeches or conducting research. Campuses were always portrayed as attractive and sunny, boasting shiny buildings and new facilities. References to graduation ceremonies, groundbreaking research and sporting victories were all too common.

Teaching and learning received much less attention. This is not just a Canadian representation. We replicated our research using the Twitter feeds of more than 2,000 U.S. universities. The results were similar.

Institutional Twitter accounts seem to highlight and market an institutional brand — a positive ideal that they would like the public and potential students to hold. It’s understandable that universities, like individuals, want to present their ‘best self’ on social media. This makes sense from a marketing perspective.

Obscured reality

This carefully crafted and tightly controlled representation gives an incomplete and unrealistic portrayal of the people and activities of the university. There is little suggestion in this portrayal of the struggles students face in their studies, health and well-being, finances, and so forth. There is little mention of the day-to-day effort, difficulty and struggles of teaching and learning.

We are compelled to ask: What is it that drives universities to use social media as they do? In what ways have social, economic and political forces (such as the reduction in public funding and greater emphasis on competition) led universities to use these powerful social technologies in the service of branding and marketing?

We want to encourage Canadian universities to use Twitter, and other social media, in different ways — ways that would improve Canadian society.

Social media provide an opportunity not just to broadcast a message to the public, but to foster two-way engagement and communication between stakeholders. Universities could make more meaningful contributions to our broader society by using social media to summarise research findings for public use, connect alumni with students and provide educational opportunities to those outside the institution.

George Veletsianos, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Royal Roads University and Ashley Shaw, Researcher and Ph.D candidate, Royal Roads University

The Conversation

MA and PhD student research assistantships available

Posted on July 4th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, open, papers, Royal Roads University, scholarship. No Comments

We have two part-time research assistantships open for individuals to work with us (one for an MA and one for a PhD student).

PhD student: https://humanresources.royalroads.ca/job-posting/research-assistant-3-0

MA student: https://humanresources.royalroads.ca/job-posting/research-assistant-2-0

Successful applicants need to be legally able to work in Canada at the time of application, enrolled in a MA/PhD program. They do not need to be enrolled at a Canadian University.

Successful individuals will support an international team of researchers with research and knowledge mobilization activities pertaining to online harassment and faculty use of social media.

Research Dissemination, Research Mobilization, and Reaching Broader Audiences

Posted on June 21st, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, engagement, my research, open, research shorts. 1 Comment

I gave an ignite talk at the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education in early June, sharing some of the lessons learned in creating whiteboard animation videos for mobilizing research and reaching broader audiences. We’ve now turned that talk into a whiteboard animation video. It’s all very meta. Here it is below:

A large-scale study of Twitter Use in MOOCs

Posted on February 1st, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, online learning, open, papers. 4 comments

Researchers have proposed that social media might offer many benefits to Massive Open Online Courses. Yet such claims are supported by little empirical evidence. The existing research exploring the use of social media in MOOCs has been conducted with individual courses and convenience samples, making it difficult to know to what extent research results are generalizable. In this mixed methods research, I used data mining techniques to retrieve a large-scale Twitter data set from 116 MOOCs with course-dedicated hashtags. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, I then examined users’ participation patterns, the types of users posting to those hashtags, the types of tweets that were posted, and the variation in types of posted tweets across users. I found little evidence to support the claims that Twitter as an adjunct to MOOCs is used much/effectively. Results show that learners make up only about 45% of users and contribute only about 35% of tweets. The majority of users contribute minimally, and an active minority of users contributes the preponderance of messages.

Brand new tennis ball with bright fluorescent green felt and white rubber band, surrounded by eight other used balls with duller, more washed out colors, deteriorated nap and dirt marks.

Brand new tennis ball among eight used ones – Image by Horia Varlan CC-BY

These findings do not reveal substantive evidence of learners contributing to multiple hashtags, which may suggest that learners did not find Twitter to be a useful space that provided added value or responded to their needs. Ultimately, these results demonstrate the need for greater intentionality in integrating social media into MOOCs.

I am linking to the pdf pre-print of this article below.

Veletsianos, G. (in press). Toward a Generalizable Understanding of Twitter and Social Media Use Across MOOCs: Who Participates on MOOC Hashtags and In What Ways? Journal of Computing in Higher Education.

 

Video and audio summaries of our research

Posted on August 29th, by George Veletsianos in my research, research shorts, scholarship, sharing. 1 Comment

I wrote a guest post for the Chronicle’s Prof Hacker section describing our use of video and audio to summarize our research findings. The post was published today and it is available here, but I am reposting it below as well.

 

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Street: First pass – CC licensed image

I use an eclectic assortment of learning resources in my courses. Books, peer-reviewed journal articles, op-eds, white papers, websites, documentaries, lecture videos, podcasts. Readings – especially peer-reviewed journal articles – are integral to my teaching, but I am intentional in my desire to go beyond text, to be inclusive and diverse in my selection of learning resources. In my research, and in my attempts to include multimodal learning resources in my teaching, I discovered that we could do a better job at sharing our scholarship.

 

One of the ways that I am using to share my scholarship in different ways is through the creation of short video and audio clips that accompany each one of my published papers. I believe these might be helpful to colleagues, students, and broader audiences. Colleagues might use them as a way to introduce, humanize, and explore a topic. Students might access them at times when listening is preferable to reading. For example, I listen to podcasts on bus rides because reading on the bus makes me feel dizzy. Others might be in the same predicament. Some students in our research noted that they watched video lectures when engaging in other activities – such as cooking – as a way to accommodate their studies in their busy lives. Broader audiences, such as the general public or journalists, might find video and audio clips valuable as well, as these clips contain information that usually resides behind journal paywalls.

We have created a dedicated YouTube channel to host these videos. Here is a playlist of some of them:

 

The audio is hosted on my personal SoundCloud channel. Here’s a playlist:

We follow a simple process to create these. For each published paper, I collaborate with members of my research group to (a) write a script, (b) record an mp3 file, and (c) produce an animated movie. These media are produced by two individuals using off-the-shelf software. One person writes the script and shares it with the other using a shared Dropbox folder. When I narrate the script, I use Audacity to create the audio file. When my colleague Laura Pasquini narrates, she uses GarageBand. We use instrumental music shared under Creative Commons licenses as background. Once the audio file is created, I post it in on my SoundCloud channel and users can stream it or download it from there. Next, we use VideoScribe to create the animation and since the software is cloud-based, we can both review the draft version of the video prior to publication. The final video is then posted on a YouTube account dedicated to these videos.

 

My research team and I are enjoying exploring the many ways available at our disposal to share our scholarship. We know that creating a video trailer or writing a blog post about a publication isn’t a substitute for high-quality scholarship, but we are enthused at the opportunity to use new technologies to mobilize our research. What are some other ways that you have discovered to share your research with colleagues, students, and the broader public?

 

New Open Access Book! Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning

Posted on June 6th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning, open, sharing. No Comments

emergencecoverAthabasca University Press has just published Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning, a book I edited that owes its existence to the insightful authors who contributed their chapters on the topic. Like other titles published by AU Press, the book is open access.

Emerging technologies (e.g., social media, serious games, adaptive software) and emerging practices (e.g., openness, user modeling) in particular, have been heralded as providing opportunities to transform education, learning, and teaching. In such conversations it is often suggested that new ideas – whether technologies or practices – will address educational problems (e.g., open textbooks may make college more affordable) or provide opportunities to rethink the ways that education is organized and enacted (e.g., the collection and analysis of big data may enable designers to develop algorithms that provide early and critical feedback to at-risk students). Yet, our understanding of emerging technologies and emerging practices is elusive. In this book, we amalgamate work associated with emergence in digital education to conceptualize, design, critique, enhance, and better understand education.

If you’ve ben following the conversations in the last two years, there will be some themes that you’ll recognize here. To mention a few: defining emerging technologies; not-yetness; data mining; technology integration models; open and social learning; and sociocultural aspects of MOOCs.

In the days that follow, I will summarize each chapter here.

How long does it take from journal article submission to publication?

Posted on June 1st, by George Veletsianos in scholarship, sharing. No Comments

One of our research papers was published in its final form this morning. Since I had yet another conversation about the publishing industry at Congress yesterday and I keep track of dates, below are the behind-the-scenes details for this particular paper.

Submission: Aug 1, 2015

Minor revisions requested: Nov 6, 2015

Revision submitted: Nov 13, 2015

Minor revisions requested: Feb 10, 2016

Revision submitted: Feb 10, 2016

Accepted: Feb 13, 2016

Unedited article (uncorrected proofs) appears online: Feb 15, 2016

In Press version of the article appears online: Feb 23, 2016

Final version of the article – assigned to a journal issue/volume: June 1, 2016

 

I know (and have experienced) papers taking much longer (and much shorter) to publish. So, four words of caution are probably needed here:

  1. This n of 1 may or may not to be representative of this journal. I had other papers in this journal published under different time horizons.
  2. This paper is in a non Open Access (NOA) journal.Do no take this n of 1 to mean that Open Access (OA) publishers will necessarily publish a paper faster. I’ve had a paper accepted as is with a reputable OA publisher and the whole process took 2 months. I also have a paper with an OA publisher under review that is taking forever.
  3. It might be worthwhile to explore what the differences are beyond OA vs NOA. Reviewer turn-around time is a significant variable in this process.
  4. The paper was published in a journal concerned with education and specifically educational/learning technologies.

 

Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform

Posted on April 25th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS, open, papers, scholarship. No Comments

The scholarly community faces a lack of large-scale research examining how students and professors use social media in authentic contexts and how such use changes over time. Continuing our investigation into how professors and students use social media, Royce Kimmons and I just published a paper in which we used data mining methods to better understand academic Twitter use during, around, and between the 2014 and 2015 American Educational Research Association annual conferences both as a conference backchannel and as a general means of participating online. The first paper we published using similar methods, data, and comparing students and professors’ social media use is here. All of our research on networked scholarship and students’ and faculty members’ use of social media is gathered here.

Descriptive and inferential analysis is used to explore Twitter use for 1,421 academics and the more than 360,000 tweets they posted. Results demonstrate the complicated participation patterns of how Twitter is used “on the ground.” In particular, we show that:

  • tweets during conferences differed significantly from tweets outside conferences
  • students and professors used the conference backchannel somewhat equally, but students used some hashtags more frequently, while professors used other hashtags more frequently
  • academics comprised the minority of participants in these backchannels, but participated at a much higher rate than their non-academic counterparts
  • the number of participants in the backchannel increased between 2014 and 2015, but only a small number of authors were present during both years, and the number of tweets declined from year to year.
  • various hashtags were used throughout the time period during which this study occurred, and some were ongoing (ie, those which tended to be stable across weeks) while others were event-based (ie, those which spiked in a particular week)
  • professors used event-based hashtags more often than students and students used ongoing hashtags more often than professors
  • ongoing hashtags tended to exhibit positive sentiment, while event-based hashtags tended to exhibit more ambiguous or conflicting sentiments

These findings suggest that professors and students exhibit similarities and differences in how they use Twitter and backchannels and indicate the need for further research to better understand the ways that social technologies and online networks are integrated in scholars’ lives.

Here’s the full citation and paper:

Kimmons, R. & Veletsianos, G. (2016). Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(3), 445—464.