Each year Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences hosts a staff development conference in order to showcase and further develop the work being undertaken by staff and students across the faculty. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Working and Daring: Boosting our Students’ Employment Prospects.’ Jon Yorke and I contributed to this theme in a workshop titled ‘Celebrating Staff and Student Achievements through Social Media.’ This blog post, using our workshop as a springboard, shares some of our experiences using social media to enhance the academic experience for both students and academics.

Academics in the School of Law use a variety of social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogs – to create awareness of, and enhance the various teaching, research and networking initiatives going on in the School. For example, we use these social media to promote our research and scholarship, interact with students, promote student achievements, publicise opportunities and events, and network with colleagues and organisations across the world.

Engaging with social media in this way has numerous benefits. First, it allows us to engage with our students in a flexible and accessible way that encourages them to promote their own success. For example, we engage with our students who are on internships in the USA via #USInterns2014. Students share their work tasks, achievements and cultural adventures with us via photos, vlogs and brief Twitter commentary. We can provide students with immediate feedback and encouragement, and celebrate their successes. Also, we can help students to create a professional, yet exciting record of their experiences by creating a regular dialogue.

Second, we can create professional and engaging records of events by encouraging commentary on Twitter and then “Storify-ing” the event. For example, Jon Yorke has “Storify-ied” a Model United Nations event at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I have done the same for our internal mooting competitions and awards ceremonies. By doing this we have been able to circulate our students’ successes to a wider network and showcase our initiatives to enhance the student experience. We can also measure the impact of an event by keeping a record of how many times the Storify is viewed and pinned.

Third, social media allows us, as academics and researchers, to engage with a global network of colleagues and organizations. We can engage in dialogues on important issues and contribute to current dialogues. For example, Jon Yorke recently engaged with the Merium Ibrahim case in Sudan via Twitter and published a related blog post on the Oxford Human Rights Blog. We can also avail ourselves of the most up-to-date newsfeeds in our research areas (including conference information and calls for papers), promote our research via blog posts and Twitter links, network with interest groups, and engage our students in our work.

Fourth, via all these forums, we create a productive and valued academic community between our colleagues, students and external stakeholders. This community improves the academic experience for both academics and students and, importantly, increases the opportunities we all have to achieve.

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Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper

Sarah is a Senior Lecturer in Law and Director of Birmingham City University's Mooting Society. She has been a Fellow at the Arizona Justice Project in the United States since 2010.