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Tag: social media

My Adventures in Social Media


I presented on the topic of social media along with some colleagues at UCSB twice last week, one for the Professional Development Conference for the Division of Student Affairs on Thursday, March 22 and for a whole-day workshop called “Diving Into Social Media at UCSB” on March 23.  My presentations focused on overview of social media use in higher education. The Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Michael Young opened both presentations in which he talked about the role social media in how we communicate and serve our students. In his words, “we need to evolve and transform so that we can thoughtfully and adequately serve our students.” He acknowledged that in moving forward with social media as part of our university business, we will make mistakes but that he would rather us move forward and make mistakes than stagnate. Personally, the Vice Chancellor’s declaration of social media as a part of our future was an affirmation of what I had observed a couple of years ago, that social media will be an integral part of how we in student affairs conduct our business.

Truth be told, there was a time when I felt like I could not even utter the words “social media” as those words were met with smirks and rolling eyes by the few skeptics who viewed social media as nothing more than a waste of time, a fad not worth investing, and risks not worthy of any benefits. These reactions reminded me of when I started developing websites in 1996 when I was asked “Why do we need websites for?” I realized when I started promoting social media to be formally adopted in our division that it would need the support of the Vice Chancellor.  I used to joke around with a few colleagues that the skeptics who view social media as “stupid” can always talk to the Vice Chancellor about his “stupid” idea.

I joined twitter in August 2010 in part to satisfy my curiosity about this “waste of time” and I have been wasting my time since then. That is if wasting time means creating professional networks, expanding my views of what the future may look like for higher education, including student affairs, and coming to realization that my technology leadership role will have to evolve to keep up with the changing demands of our students.

I’m excited about the future of social media and how we could use it in student affairs.  We’re just starting to figure out how to use social media beyond marketing. I’m looking forward to the point when we will start using social media as part of  social business. I don’t exactly know how we will evolve to get to that point, or how it will look like a year from now.

I asked VC Young once how he sees social media a year from now and his response was “We’ve got to find ways, across the division, to get to our students and constituents in ways that are effective. I don’t always know what that will look like, but this is my view:  if I wait until I fully understand what it looks like, we’ll never get a damn thing done.” I concur.

Student Affairs as Social Business

“Even though we’re operating with the best of intentions in social media, we are still operating from silos. The customer however, does not see silos, they see the company as one.” – Brian Solis, The End of Business as Usual.

Social Business graphic

credit -

I have only been active on popular social media sites like facebook and twitter the last year or so and much of what I have read about how organizations use social media in that time revolves around marketing, communicating and engaging with customers, those external to organizations. However, in the last few months, I have noticed more mentions of social business, which Michael Brito describes as “any company that has integrated and operationalized social media within every job function (and process) internally.” IBM describes social business as “one that embraces and cultivates a spirit of collaboration and community throughout its organization—both internally and externally.” Several companies have already embraced this concept per this report Research Summary: Introducing The 43 Use Cases For Social Business (Social Enterprise) by Constellation Org. Advocates of social business including Mr. Brito, Mr. Owyang, Mr. Solis and Mr Bradley/Mr MacDonald all emphasize the following points in some form: 1) social business goes beyond technology, it involves people, processes and culture 2) embracing the power of collective wisdom from internal employees and customers and 3) holistic approach – no single unit owns social efforts and customer service belongs to everyone in the organization.

(continue reading…)

Social Media Is not All About ROI, It’s About Community

courtesy of

The UC Davis incidents which included a campus police casually pepper-spraying a group of student protesters and students using silent protest as a response to the UC Davis Chancellor illustrates the need for campuses to formally adopt social media to communicate. More importantly,  social media is needed to provide a venue for their communities to express and process their emotions and thoughts when events so shocking as this event requires communities to come together, to have dialogues.

I  was shocked, upset and disappointed at what had happened and as an employee of the University of California system, I was embarrassed and thoughts of “those could have been one of the students I know” and questions like “How can we avoid that from happening at UCSB?” and “What are our campus administrators doing to prevent this from happening?” came to my mind.  I also wanted to know what students are thinking and how they are reacting to the events. I couldn’t wait for campus assemblies few days later to process what I was feeling and to hear what others are thinking. I needed to find and share information and I needed to connect with people that could relate to my perspectives, those who work in higher education, in the UC system, in student affairs, those who work with students.

Throughout the weekend, I had short exchanges with folks I have met online via twitter and facebook.  I found information from blogs, videos from youtube by those who were at the event and who witnessed them firsthand. I found out about UC President Yudof’s response and his plan to meet with every UC Chancellors to discuss how to implement system-wide policies on how to properly respond to these types of incidents. I also found via twitter from a former UC employee that this was not the first time pepper-spray had been used at student protests and that at UC Davis, one student wrote about “administrators, students and police have been coordinating an under-the-radar response team to infiltrate student protest groups, relay information to administrators and police leadership and control peaceful gatherings in response to tuition spikes and budget cuts.”

What I had wished during the weekend was more connections with my  fellow UCSB colleagues, students and those that can relate to me. Believe me, those like me who have the need to connect online will use social media, with or without university approval.  In these times of crisis, universities really need to understand the need for two-way communication and to have avenues for their communities to be able to process their thoughts and provide outlets for dialogues. For those still seeking some kind of  quantifiable metrics to justify the use of social media, how about the fact that sometimes, it’s not all about ROI.


Using Social Media/Technology to Assist International Students

This post is about how technology, including social media, can facilitate the adjustment to the culture, lifestyles and academic challenges faced by international students new to this country. I was at a meeting last week for student affairs managers at our university and one of the topics presented is the increasing population of international students.  The increase in the population could be partly attributed to the active recruitment of our admissions officers in other countries. According to this article by LA Times, the University of California system made the move to recruit more out-of-state students, including international students for geographic diversity and revenue. The unique needs of the international students were also discussed. Some of these challenges include:

  • Constant process of values, beliefs, and ways of life from the moment they arrive without traditional support network.
  • Those for whom English is a foreign language, there is a need for time to adjust and the need for support system.
  • The classroom style wherein the expected active class participation may run counter from their native educational systems.  Specifically, asking questions to the professor may be perceived as being rude.

As I was listening to these challenges, I could not help but reflect on how technology can provide assistance in the transition process of these international students. What resonates with me are  1) the need for a community and support system before they even arrive and during their stay and 2) the need to accommodate the different classroom participation style. As noted in that meeting, the students may know the answer but they may not verbalize them. The list of technology-related ideas below are very limited but they could certainly be components of university efforts to ensure the success of the transition process and retention of international students. In addition, the mention of the products/services below does not imply endorsements but to illustrate what are currently available to my knowledge.

  • University sponsored/managed social networks. While any individual can create groups and pages on facebook, I think colleges and universities should be proactive in setting up, managing and participating in their networks which could include groups, pages and apps within facebook like Inigral Schools App.  There is a lot of value in having students connected virtually, months before they even arrive on campus. Our campus does use Inigral Schools app and from personal observation, I have seen students introduce themselves to others and have conversations on topics that are not even related to academics but rather on similar interests, experience and similar location of origins. During the summer when orientation sessions were happening,  students asked details about what to expect from those who have previously attended them. Additionally, some students who attended the same sessions planned meet ups as well. Towards the beginning of the school year, topics discussed include items to bring for their dorms, class information (including common schedules), and plans to meet up for various activities (running, gym, surfing).
  • Social Media/Mobile for academic use. While the notion of using social media and mobile for academic use, particularly within classrooms as a means of participation is still not universally accepted, I think there is some value to providing alternative methods of engaging international students beyond verbal participation. There was  a study by Dr. Rey Junco that showed the use of twitter in the classroom led to an increase in the engagement and higher semester grade point average for students.  A good example of a system that uses social media and mobile for academic use, including active participation in the classroom is Studio by Purdue. From personal observation on facebook, I also see students collaborating on homework and forming study groups.
  • Personalized online orientations. One of the challenges for international students who are not familiar with the English language during orientations is that they may not be able to keep up with the presenters and comprehend materials being presented. In some cases, they are not able to attend these orientations physically. I think making these presentations available on-line, including one-on-one sessions using software like Adobe Connect, Skype and even Google+ Hang Out which makes these orientations more personal would probably make a difference in having international students feel more comfortable and understand the materials being presented to them.  In addition, general orientation sessions could also be recorded using software like Adobe Captivate and made available on university websites for later viewing.

What other ideas can you think of that could assist the transition (and retention) of international students?



Why Higher Ed IT Staff Should be on Social Media

I was talking with someone working in higher education IT a few days ago about social media and why I have embraced it. He told me  “No way will I be interested in social media. If you watched the movie Social Network,  you’ll know that Zuckerberg created facebook so his buddies could get laid.” He also told me “I don’t want to know what some mom cooked for breakfast.” So I asked him if he has a daughter and he tells me he does. I asked him “Who’s going to teach your daughter about how to properly use social media?” and his response was “Not me.” With the realization that I could not convince him about at least understanding social media and that they won’t go away soon, I changed the topic.  The negative attitude towards social media by some IT professionals is understandable given the security and policy implications. In some sense, social media also represents some loss of control when it comes to what and how technology should be used in the workplace.

Based on my short experience using social media, I would urge other colleagues who work in higher education IT to give social media a chance for the following reasons:

  • Keep up with trends. I have observed the following the last couple of years:
    • Increasing use of mobile devices on our campus by students and staff.
    • Increasing requests from departments we serve to use external software services for their business needs.
    • Increasing social media presence by campus departments, student organizations.

Before I started using twitter last year, I didn’t realize there was actually a term for this phenomenon and it is not unique to our campus.  This trend is called “consumerization of IT” and is defined on Wikipedia as “trend for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business organizations, resulting in the convergence of the IT and consumer electronics industries, and a shift in IT innovation from large businesses to the home.”

  • Understand our customers.  How can we serve our customers if we don’t know their mindset and tools they use? By just observing the communication between students and our staff on facebook and the general conversations on twitter, IT staff can learn a lot about issues/trends that cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Professional Development. Every day I log onto facebook, google+, twitter, youtube, slideshare and other social media websites, I consider them as free learning opportunities. I have only attended 2 conferences the last 4 years due to lack of training budgets but I have used social media as my personal learning network (PLN) and have learned a lot about mobile web development, social media and leadership.  When I read blogs by experts in technologies and higher ed, I find insights than typical articles and websites would often reveal.
  • Be Relevant and credible. As more of our customers demand to use consumer technologies, inevitably, appropriateness and policy issues will come up for discussion.  Would I  really be credible as an IT professional if I don’t even know how these technologies work? Part of the reason why I spend so much time on social media is to research how they work and how they relate to our business, including what issues to consider. If I have to take the position of rejecting a customer’s proposal to use an external service, I want to be able to credibly tell them the reasons for my position. On the other hand, if I do approve their proposal, I need to be able to assist them in using the service that is consistent with university policies and in ways they may not have thought of.
  • Keep up or get left behind. I was told a year ago that social media is a fad and so is Skype so I shouldn’t bother investing any time/resources investigating it for business use. I was also told students do not use mobile devices. Ironically, part of what motivated me to be on social media is to find out for myself on whether what I am being told are actually true. Given the pace at which consumer technology changes, it is a challenge to keep up. I generally spend up to 4 hours most nights just learning new technologies including mobile web and social media and I still feel as if I am behind. In some ways, I consider the time I spend on social media as career investment. I don’t know what IT will look like five years from now but all I know is that the convergence of social media and the enterprise will be even greater than what it is today and I want to be in a position where my knowledge lie in both areas to be employable, competing against our current students who will have entered the work place and who have far greater knowledge about consumer technologies than I do.
  • Learn about hobbies, personal interests; connect with folks with same interests. While I hear stereotypes about IT folks as not being too sociable and have no lives, all the IT folks I work with have some outside interests/hobbies. I spend my weekends watching sports and it’s fun being able to watch the games with others that are in different cities, states and in some cases, other countries.

Social media definitely have some pitfalls but I think the benefits outweigh the risks. For anyone working in higher education, not just IT, the days of questioning the values of social media in higher education is long gone. If we are to stay relevant and provide quality customer service, we need to do our part to understand the current needs of our customers and future trends so that we are prepared to adopt them rather than reacting.

What other reasons should higher education IT staff be on social media?



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