Conference Report Social Media in Higher Education 2015

Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference 2015     #SocMedHe15


I late last year  attended the above conference and this Blog was at that time part of the assessment for PGCert L&T HE . It is a little dated now, but hope the information and links are of interest at this time.

As a fairly recent convert to the use of social media for learning; since mid 2015 I have curated my course’s twitter feed @uclanodp and have limited experience, but lots of enthusiasm.

The 2015 intake also have their Facebook page; a closed group which the College SoMed intern co- opted me into moderating.

The conference was hosted by Sheffield Hallam University, ideally situated a short walk from the city’s rail and metro stations, past a sweeping steel sculpture which borders the thoroughfare paying homage to the city’s industrial heritage.

With a keynote address, 15 workshops and 32 short presentations this was a very busy and buzzing event across two floors of the campus. The need to cherry pick sessions from the programme beforehand was a must despite the extensive programme being hung festival style from our lanyards.   Apologies then to UCLan’s Peter Lumsden and colleagues and Amanda Taylor @AMLTaylor66 who delivered workshops and presented respectively, other sessions were attended.

Eric Stoller @EricStoller gave a humorous keynote with topical content and references to Star Wars. See And his slides at

This educational consultant and digital media expert described his day as no longer being in the 9-5 and asked us to be mindful that our on line activity and our digital identity matters and  our digital presence blurs social and professional boundaries.  There were words too of caution and the need to be resilient in a Social Media world where sometimes there is content which not always appropriate or kind.

Personally I’m finding this blurring challenging and prefer the professionalism of our course Twitter to be separate from my personal Twitter account. Having had one student send me a query to my personal Facebook messages, I prefer some privacy, though on the day having some conversations around this issue I do seem to be in a minority.     Peter L argues a holistic “this is me” presence is his preference. Do any readers have a view on this?

Eric continued by reiterating that what you say and post on line matters, but other themes included that of Listen and Learn ~don’t be anxious about SocMed, the take home perhaps that

“There is no such thing as a digital native; there are a lot of people with varying degrees of digital fluency”

Though Eric later spoke of student needing to graduate with digital competence; or fluency and future job descriptions may well require digital fluency amongst their attributes.

These few lines don’t do justice to the tour-de-force that Eric is and we left the lecture hall enthused for the day ahead.

Heidi Larson and colleagues delivered on their programme for the Educational Development Centre in the USA. Their work in developing a Social Technology Enabled Professional (the STEP programme)   @SocialTechPro was outlined.

They have developed a framework of competencies at levels from novice to expert (echoes of Benner’s (1984) competencies for nursing here). Their rationale being that all, whether skills based or HEI undergrad should complete courses with an appropriate level of proficiency in Social Media. They demonstrated examples from business; do you follow your plumber on SocMed? And their examples may have utility (no pun intended) for business UG teaching. My colleagues in our College SocMed group #UCLanSoMe are making tentative plans to offer a module in SocMed and EDC/STEP competencies may well assist in providing framework for this module.

It is interesting to reflect the Charted Institute for IT continues to offer many qualifications the ECDL being the most well-known but other than e-safety for teachers and plenty of nervous blogs about SocMed content, testing competency in SocMed is lacking, perhaps they have some catch up to do. . The Step programme offers on line lessons and some YouTube content at

The above work also points to firstly an employability agenda, HEI undergraduates graduating with SocMed skills, at present we have only a premise that students are competent and anecdotally perhaps only with some platforms. Achieving a national qualification in SocMed also adds fuel to the “what is a university for” argument rehearsed in the press and literature earlier, it would seem natural to me that a HEI education should give as rich as possible student experience and exposure to the large variety of SocMEd platforms should be part of that experience.

Gardner, L (2012) From Novice to Expert: Benner’s legacy for nurse education

Nurse Education Today, 32, (4) 339 – 340


The Role of SocMed in undergraduate Pharmacy education was presented by Aly Brown @alyjbrown    and Brian Addison @BrianAddison75   from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

This as I recall is one of three only HEI in Scotland offering Pharmacy so the team use a rich mix of podcast and blog to underpin face to face teaching; which was sometimes problematic for students travelling from a wide geographical area, exemplars of a Meds Safety lecture by podcast and a Patient Consultation Package by blog were outlined. Alison and Brian had scoped the student’s present use of SocMed and so the potential for their use of SoMed. SoMed workshops had been delivered for both staff and students.   Cain’s (2009) paper on eprofessionalism was cited as work around conduct on SocMed

Cain J (2009) E-professionalism: a new paradigm for a digital age. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning 1 (2009) 66–70

Lunch beckoned; such was the community feel of the conference that Eric Stoller joined our sofa table; whilst Brian Addison sorted UCLan’s ipad for me Eric shared his gift from conference Star Wars Stickers! I fell into a conversation with a Prestonian John Couperthwaite @johncoup Implementation Consultant for Pebblepad. @pebblepad I was aware that some courses in my college use pebblepad for student portfolios.

The issue of signing of competencies by a placement student mentor was overcome in the conversation. The tech used when we sign a device at our doorsteps as a parcel is delivered can be part of PebblePad on the student’s smart phone. Clearly the issue of a paper competency doc getting lost by a student, as happened recently, may soon be a thing of the past.  has several examples of other HEI achieving just that and a previous seminar on their website has further examples. The cynical would say perhaps lots of Schools at UCLan; yes even courses in my own college use pebblepad. But in such a large HEI perhaps it takes a chance meeting at a conference two hours away from campus to wake me up to this technologies possibility. Are any readers using pebblepad already?

After lunch we were enthused by Deborah Millar @DebMillar24 from Blackburn College who describes her work; Collaborative learning wheels; pedagogical development using SocMed crowd sourcing. A learning Wheel is a simple visual tool the many spokes of which are made up of a learning resource which can be used to enhance Student Learning ,we delegates attempted to complete a wheel via Google docs on the theme of resources for teaching research methods. Deborah remarked that emerging technologies for learning appear to be never ending and help to break down barriers and the “sacred cow “attitude which can abound.

Additionally “If your role is to appraise staff a Learning Wheel is an ideal discussion board for further development”  Break down barriers the session certainly did as ipad declined to play and Neil Withnell from Salford Uni Nursing and I collaborated on a spoke on his device. Deborah tells us Learning Wheels only started rolling; geddit, in 2013, as yet there is no learning wheel for healthcare subjects. Neil, I and others will work on this in the coming months. UCLan’s   Amanda Taylor appears well on the way with a similar for social work.


Lastly to see and hear what seemed like familiar people after following them on Twitter. Wendy Sinclair @wlasinclair and Moira McLoughlin @levylass described that they are nurses both on and offline and had both learned to be digital professionals, again they referred to professionalism, and guidance from NMC and HCPC codes of conduct a theme which had re occurred through the day , with what seemed to be a large number of health HE delegates. We were encouraged by Wendy and Moira to see that our own HE has guidance for students and staff. Wendy’s gentle intro into the Twittersphere was much the same as mine; teenage children, but hers has grown such that her course and its Twitter feed are curated regularly by students.

Wendy and Moira see their use of SocMed as role modelling and mentoring for staff and enable students to develop their SocMed skills and additionally raise the student awareness about what’s acceptable practice on SocMed.

Students are encouraged regularly Blog on their experience of curation and there is a great response in request from their tutors to Tweet their responses to their student experiences, both in theory and placement. This and the speaker’s experiences with the Twitter feed @WeNurses have been published. Sinclair (2015)

In response to my question of whether students taking part is mandated, I was assured it wasn’t but such is their enthusiasm and so the enthusiasm of their students, laggards have followed the early innovators. My own courses twitter feed whilst going well has a small number of student tweeters, plans for in lesson use and tweeting from student placements will follow after being enthused by these speakers.

Sinclair, W., et al., To Twitter to Woo: Harnessing the power of social media (SoMe) in nurse education to enhance the student’s experience, Nurse Education in Practice (2015),

Whilst Moira and Wendy were presenting the session was captured by the talented Sarah Smizz @smizz who has a rare talent of being able to produce a visual representation, infographic is perhaps the pedagogically appropriate word for it, of the session in real time, a group gathered to admire so here is my pic of it taken quickly


I’m hoping giving a shout to Sarah’s talents is my only repetition from Peters Facebook post. Having come from an entirely clinical NHS background where on attending a conference the expectation is that what you experienced will be fed back to your colleagues, this post is lengthy but will be shared with colleagues in my immediate team and the Colleges SocMed group. #UCLanSoMe

You might gather I had a great time amongst people who wanted to share their success and enthusiasm for all Social Media, that success not being big science as some conferences can be, but sometimes small science but big art and yes the socialisation that Social media is and can offer to enhance the Student and yes, teaching staffs’ experience.   Mike Huntington. School of Health Sciences @UCLanODP


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