Use Facebook, SlideShare and other internet resources in teaching

17 03 2014

After giving a presentation about Using Open-Access Data in Changing the Learning Landscape (CLL) at 22 Mar 2013, I was very lucky to receive funding from The Higher Education Academy to carry out a mini project embedding new media technology in teaching.

cll-web-banner

I designed this project to encourage students to use Facebook and SlideShare to publish their presentations slides and interact with each other. I conducted this project for a 2nd year Social Sciences UG course called ‘New Media’ from September to December 2013.  I first created a Facebook Page for this course and asked students to ‘like’ the page. In the first session, I told students that they would form groups in pairs and present a 5-10 minutes short presentation each week based on an empirical research paper. There would be 2 or 3 groups each week to give presentations, upload the slides to SlideShare and post the link on the course’s Facebook Page. Additionally, the students who gave presentation were responsible to find good resources related to the topic (eg., articles on BBC website, blogs & videos) and also post them on the Facebook Page.

All students were encouraged to ‘like’& ‘comment’ on a presentation and other resources. I chose Facebook because of the ‘Like’ function could work as a peer-reviewed system for students to have a competition. Each week, there would be a winning team out of the 2-3 groups based on the combined score of ‘like’ from the presentation and good resources on the Facebook Page. The winning team would be announced the next week and receive vouchers as incentives. In this way, students could learn to work in team and learn from each other. The peer-reviewed system encouraged them to reflect and being critical.

The aim of the project is to help students develop technology skills and digital literacy as well as enhance students learning experience and team work ability.  By the end of the course, the Facebook Page was filled with Students presentation slides and resources related to the topic found by students. These can be useful resources for students to prepare for essays and exams.  I conducted a survey at the end of the course with 10 respondents. All of them found it helpful for their own learning experiences while searching for resources to prepare for the presentations. Eight out of 10 found the presentation slides and other resources on Facebook Page ‘a little helpful’ for learning this course. A few students noted the usefulness of this practice. One said, ‘Easy to access the resources, everything in one place.’ Another said, ‘Contemporary way of teaching & learning. Effective.’ Another one said, ‘It is a good way to engage us to learn online.’

However, at the time of the survey which was a week 11 revision session, only 3 out of 10 looked at other resources uploaded by other students, although 9 out of 10 answered ‘very likely’ (3) or ‘likely’ (6) when asked whether they thought they would look at other presentations and resources on Facebook to help prepare for exam.  So hopefully some students would make the good use of the resources later on when they prepared for their final exam.

One of the barriers/inconveniences was that Facebook Page was not very user friendly in terms of its visual presentation as it only showed user name and URL link for a post. To access the content, users had to click ‘see all’ to see the details of the specific resources and presentation slides. This can be solved by creating a Facebook group instead as posts on Facebook group usually have a nice and detailed presentation. Facebook group also has the function to automatically send emails to members for any new messages and comments posted on the group wall.

One student suggested that the tutor should ‘include important notice on Facebook-such as change of class’ and another suggested to ‘make it more interactive’. So one strategy is to have a focus group session to encourage students to talk about how they would like to interact with each other online. Speed-meeting in the beginning of the course and after-class socials might also foster interaction off-line to help students ease shyness and social anxiety to work and interact better online.





#Openaccess publishing for academics in Russell Group Universities–#oer14 Conference Abstract

15 01 2014

Here is an abstract accepted for the Open Educational Resources 2014 conference: Building communities of open practice. This is one part of my PhD thesis which study scholarly communication and open science practice using mixed-methods. This paper reports findings from an internet survey conducted in summer 2013.
Open Access PLoS
Title: Open Access publishing for academics in Russell Group Universities: A 2013 survey report

Introduction: Scholarly publishing has changed its format since the emergence of internet and new technologies such as open source software and public copyright licenses. More and more academic papers are accessible freely via open-access journals (Gold OA) and open-access repositories (Green OA). What kind of experiences have UK based academics had with Gold and Green OA publishing? To what extent do academics acknowledge the importance of OA publishing and to what extent are they aware of RCUK policy on Open Access to research outputs?

Methods: We conducted an internet survey with 1829 academics from 12 Russell Group universities between June – July 2013. Compared to the data sourced from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA, 2013), our sample of UK academics was broadly representative of the UK academic population in research intensive universities as defined by our primary demographic variables of gender, discipline areas and age. The survey data were coded in Excel and analysed in SPSS by descriptive statistics.

Results: The vast majority of respondents (93%) agreed with the principle of making knowledge freely to everyone and 42% were aware of RCUK policy on Open Access to the outputs of RCUK-funded research. Of the respondents who had publishing experiences, 41% had published in open access journals by Gold OA route and 43% had deposited papers online by Green OA route, which makes over 60% of them have had experience with at least one of the OA publishing route. Respondents with Gold OA publishing experience were more likely to be in Medical, Biological and Human sciences, male, older, more experienced and in higher grades. Respondents with Green OA publishing experience were more likely to be in Natural science and Engineering, male, older, more experienced and in higher grades.

Discussion: Older, more experienced and respondents in higher grades would have more experience with applying for research grant and get to know research councils’ OA policy, thus more likely to have had experience with OA publishing. Gold OA model was more established in biomedical sciences and Gold OA journals such as PlusOne, has very good reputation in biomedical sciences. Academics in Natural science and Engineering were more likely to have Green OA experience because in disciplines such as Mathematical Sciences and Physics, a preprint repository called ArXiv had been commonly used as a resource for searching for information and depositing research articles. Gender inequality was found in this study as women were less likely to have permanent jobs, high grades and being assessed in the 2014 REF. One respondent suggested that women ‘tend to use new technologies to a lesser extent (or have slower take up)’, which may explain the gender divide in OA publishing that men were more likely to experience new publishing model. However this current study also found that women were more likely to use social media tools to promote their recent publication. Further research should be carried out to explore the reason behind this contradiction.

References

HESA. (2013). Higher Education Statistics for the United Kingdom 2011/12 [Online]. Available: http://www.hesa.ac.uk/ [Accessed 21 September 2013].





How to run universities’ Chinese #Weibo accounts as a marketing strategy for recruitment and publicity

5 11 2013

Weibo has become the most popular microblogging site in mainland China. Having realised the influence of Weibo, more and more overseas universities have started official accounts to broadcast news and some have tried to adopt this platform for marketing and communication with potential Chinese students. But it can be an experiment and quite difficult for many of the universities as there hasn’t been any standard practice out there to follow.

weibo logo

 

Following my work with Nick Pearce (@drnickpearce) on UK universities’ use of Weibo, I attended a training session by a team of marketing experts from Sina Weibo on June 2013 in London.The speakers included Jason Ge, Managing Director of Sina Marketing Department and Business; Lisa Wang, Project Director of Sina Weibo College & Senior manager of Sina Weibo Marketing and May Huang, Education E-Marketing Manager China, British Council.

Here are some notes of the highlights of the training session.

General Advice: 

  • Have an organised Weibo account—how to organise mass information—there must be a structure behind it.
  • Introducing your universities—not just releasing things about yourself—but use other people’s resources, for example, influential people’s impression of your universities—alumni, students and parents’ talk about you in a good way.
  • People are sending their only child abroad for boarding school, high school, universities, Master degree, etc. Weibo account is like a brand– it takes time to accumulate and occasionally it will get negative comments. Word of mouth—slowly defines how people think of you.

Strategies:

  1. Interact with and influence the parents of the students to build a good reputation with a group of parents.

Talk with students’ parents and through the students’ profiles to find their parents to communicate with. By communicating with the parents, the parents would have a good reputation of your universities.

For example, students might come to visit universities with their parents before choosing which university to attend. You could invite them for events and invite them to collaborate with you to marketing and promoting yourself.

If you are good, Chinese parents are very willing to tell others that their children are doing well. When they see their kids are being independent, the parents would be proud. If a few parents say your universities have good quality, good service, the following business will continue. The parents might tell their friends who also think about send their children to UK, a lot of good things about the universities. This influence could increase recruitment of students.

In order to have the potential customers (parents) to identify you as one of them, who care about children, you need to design the story—how you would like your kids to spend their time in the UK from the parents’ point of view.

  1. The essential information you need to deliver on your Weibo is to encourage people to interact with you.

You need to think about who your targeting audience are. If they are the potential students and you want them to think of you in a good way, you not only release things about the universities, but use other people’s resources—invite parents, organisation, governors, inviting influential bloggers to experience something, organise events for parents of students and let them distribute information about you on Weibo.

Successful co-operators not only tell a story, but collaborate with users to make stories.

Many Chinese people only have one child and as parents, they don’t know the difference of various universities. Thus Weibo is very important to release personality type of information about the universities instead of just about the degree which are on University official site. If Weibo release information about students participating volunteering activities and such outside their courses, parents would have a good idea of what their kids would experience.

Design social experiences, to encourage your customers to follow you and share content. For example, you could campaign a ‘photo on the go’ activity which encourage your current students to take pictures of the campus and town, then share on Weibo. You could also have a food journey for parents who are visiting UK and parents can share on Weibo.

The influential followers are more likely to repost your messages to more people. These could be current students, alumni, media celebrities, successful business owners, etc. Find the influential people (usually with a yellow V) and ask them to repost your messages.

Congratulate on students who have got offers and write Weibo post about it.

When students comment on something and @other students, you can interact with them (better than inviting them) because they already showed interest—interact, message, comment to build strong relationships.

You could also send private messages to students: hello, we are xxx, we hope xxx

You could build a students/alumni group and add them in your list. Then they will be part of your official account.

Invite students join offline activities to get them follow online.

Have a competition and incentives to encourage involvement, such as the photo on the go competition. The incentives can be something meaningful rather than expensive.

  1. Have a personality for the Weibo account—it should be a person with a personality.

You are a person instead of an organisation—for users, they are expected to see characteristics, speak same language & share same interests. You need to decide the image/style of your account–gentleman or down-to-earth? It should have a personal voice with character and down-to-earth instead of being the authority.

For example, China Merchandise bank’s Weibo account has the personality of a young female, easy going, a bit tempered and sentimental, as they are successful for their service.

A post having your voice as a person with a sense of humour, will be more likely to be reposted.

  1. Use and promote the use of # for themed topics; Use QR code for Weibo account—print them, promote them, put them on official site- make it more visible for more people to follow you.
  2. Link a few verified Weibo accounts to collaborate together.

Link lecturers, student, members of staff, organisation and departments Weibo profiles together if you have the man power, time and resources. If not, focusing on one official weibo account and interact with others can be successful too!

  1. Always be up to date with the current hot topic in China.

Use # of hot topic is likely to get your message visible to more people. For example, many UK based individual accounts got popular last year because of Olympic as Sina were pushing those topics for marketing.

Always tap into current topics, but not related with politics.

Final points:

  • Quality is more important than quantity!
  • Subject Ranking, university ranking, tuition fees are important, but parents and students care about other issues— whether the city is good and safe to live, whether there is opportunity for internship, whether they can find a job afterwards, etc.
  • A reliable resource (real people, friends’ friends, trusted celebrities) give accurate information and reasonable yet unbiased suggestions, they are more likely to be influenced.




A case study of UK Universities’ use of #Weibo accounts

3 07 2013

Sina Weibo is the most popular microblogging site in mainland China, considering Twitter is blocked there. According to Sina executive Jason Ge, 33% people in China are social media users and Sina Weibo has 536 million registered users.

Having worked as a freelance researcher and consultant, I managed the Weibo account for Durham University and I am currently monitoring the Weibo account for Aston University to releasing news in Mandarin and communicating with both current and prospect Chinese students.
aston page
It all started with a project with Nick Pearce (See @drnickpearce) from Durham University. We looked at UK universities’ use of Chinese social media site Weibo. I created a Weibo account for Durham and got the account verified. I then looked at many other Universities’ Weibo accounts and did some comparative analysis to explore good practices by those early adopters.

I explored the top 6 universities in terms of Weibo follower numbers—University of Huddersfield, University of Central Lancashire, Kingston University, University of Sheffield, University of Westminster and Bristol University. I compared two universities’ Weibo posts and followers on two dates, namely 27 August 2012 and 17 February 2013. They are University of Sheffield and University of Westminster. Both of them are active Weibo users with many followers and many posts. Westminster’s posts increased the fastest from 535 to 3830 by 616%. They had a blog and often posted summary of a blog post and the link to the blog, introducing study abroad information or information about the university. Sheffield’s posts increased from 1263 to 2000 by 58%. However, Sheffield’s followers increased from 6333 to 8932 by 41% and Westminster’s followers increased from 6097 to 6918 by 13%. So why Westminster’s increasing post had not brought them as many followers as Sheffield who posted way less often?

The answer seems to be ‘interaction’. After exploring the contents on Sheffield’s Weibo page, it is clear that their Weibo account has actively interacted with students and kept it down-to-earth. They have many posts and reposts showing activities in campus and students lives, such as speed-dating event, students eating dinner together and job fair. When students asked for a question regarding to a post, the official account replied in detail. It gave the sense to other student readers that University of Sheffield (account owner) care about them and would communicate with them if they try. Another strategy is to ask question to their followers. For example, Sheffield posted a picture and asked ‘who knows where this is?’ Many students replied. It fostered interaction—not only Sheffield official account interacted with followers, but followers also interacted with each other as they saw there was a relaxing environment when people could discuss things freely.

Bristol’s followers also increased fast in 6 months as their official account actively interacted with students. For example, they congratulated a particular student’s graduation by replying to her post. On Bristol’s account’s message board, they commented on almost every message, thus they had got a lot of questions from students. Kinston only got 3 messages at the time of 17 February 2013. This is probably because Kingston University outsourced their Weibo work to an agency while they only released news rather than communicating with students.





Benefits of Chinese social media app ‘WeChat’: a combination of Facebook and Chat Room for dating

10 05 2013

From 2009 to 2012, Sina Weibo seemed to be dominating Chinese social media world for urban middle classes and young people. The second biggest weibo site created by Tencent, which has identical function as Sina Weibo have not gained same success in the China market. Tencent has been very successful with online-chatting tool called QQ. I was among the first generation who started to use QQ in 1999 and over the years I stopped. After I moved to the UK, I mainly use Skype and MSN to chat with my parents until 2011 when I found out that mobile phone companies, such as Lyca and Lebara, had deals of calling China for 1p per minute. I turned to the more traditional model of communication of making phone calls.

In 21 Jan 2011, Tencent published this smart phone app called ‘WeChat’ (‘微信’). It is a free app to download. Users are able to send text message, pictures and voice messages. By the end of March 2012, WeChat users reached 100 million.

We-chat

Three days ago, my Chinese friend introduced me to download WeChat app on my IPhone. Jian, my Chinese friend who works in Hangzhou city, told me that his middle-aged bosses were all using WeChat and many people who were frequent users of Sina Weibo now prioritised using WeChat. My mum was over the moon when I told her I downloaded WeChat. Apparently she and my aunts had been using WeChat for a few months. They mainly use the voice message function as they see it as an alterative to making phone calls. For my mum’s generation (60 and plus), the benefit here is ‘free’. They might only be saving a few pennies but still this benefit pushed them to learn new technology. Now my mum doesn’t have to rely on me calling her—she can leave me voice messages to communicate whenever she wants without the constraint of time difference. For their generation who have suffered poverty and famine in the 50s and 60s, the benefit of free service means a lot even they are now living fairly well-off.

WeChat has the social function of ‘Look Around’ and ‘Shake’. ‘Look Around’ enables you to see a list of people who have their internet and GPS on ranging by their distance from you. ‘Shake’ is for when you shake your phone, it displays users who are also shaking their phone at the time, regardless of their location. The benefit here is to make new friends. As the users of WeChat in the UK are mainly Chinese students at the moment, the location function help them ‘look around’ and find people they want to make friends with. WeChat ‘moments’ allows updating status with a picture and ‘what’s up’ allows users update their status by texts. This all helps users choose whom to chat and make friends with.

I can see the potential benefit of dating using WeChat. As the purpose of ‘shake’ is to connect to people to socialise, you know the other person also wants to socialise and probably are single. As for the ‘look around’ function, users can set up their profile clearly implying ‘looking for a date’ or ‘I’m single’. Yu, my Chinese friend who introduced me this app, said WeChat has been used by Chinese students in the UK to look for one-night-stands. She showed her list of people in ‘look around’ and I saw a couple of guys’ profiles with a big and clear profile pictures and statuses listed as ‘lonely’ or ‘I want you’. There were also girls’ pictures showing cleavage or having a flirtatious expression. The convenience of dating/mating also thanks to the location function that list users from closest distance to further away. People, who want to use WeChat to connect to friends and family rather than dating or getting harassed by random messages, can always have a profile picture of landscape or something rather than their faces, and turn off their GPS. This is what Yu has been doing since she got a boyfriend, her profile photo is now an object and in this way, no random guys would chat her up.

If more people in the UK know about WeChat the benefits of making friends with people who are near you, I can see it take over dating websites. Unlike dating website, the light-heart of ‘social’ takes the pressure off ‘dating’ and people can build up connections and feelings along with chatting. This is similar as ‘chat room’ which were popular over a decade ago. Instead, you could also see pictures and status which is similar as Facebook.

I could see this app get mass popularity in the UK. It can definitely help many lonely hearts to connect and communicate with others and who knows, there might be a few happy endings!

Fondant hearts





Zombie followers on Chinese #microblogging site Sina #Weibo

3 04 2013

At summer 2008, before I left for my backpacking trip to Southeast Asia and India, KaiXin001 was the most popular social networking site in China. I remember those days when all my old Chinese school friends were parking cars in each other’s virtual spaces.

At summer 2009, I finished my 8 months travelling and went back to China to apply for studying Sociology in the UK, the online social networking world had a dramatic change in China. Following the July 2009 XinJiang riots, Facebook was blocked in mainland China. Micro-blogging started to gain popularity since its launch in August 2009 with the most popular hosts being Sina and Tencent. The most successful so far is Sina Weibo whose overseas users account for 10% of the total members, whilst a growing number of foreign politicians and celebrities, in the areas such as sports and music industries, have started using Weibo to reach out to Chinese audience (Chen and She 2012). Celebrities and NBA starts such as Dwyane Wade and Jeremy Lin, have millions of fans on Weibo. For foreign celebrities, some used Weibo to release news and others actively interacted with fans and replied to their messages on a regular base, such as Michael Owen. When there is a language barrier, they might be use agents to manage their Weibo accounts or only communicate with followers in English.

It may surprise some people that Twitter users would pay money to buy fake followers, which are often referred to as ‘zombies’. See I Bought 27,000 Fake Twitter Followers—and Then Twitter Zapped Them Into Oblivion

On Sina Weibo, “Zombies” followers can be sold online for as little as 1 pound for 70,000 on Taobao (a Chinese version of Ebay) as I checked a month ago. It is common for some Weibo accounts to buy zombies followers to increase publicity as a marketing strategy. It is now a common knowledge for experienced Weibo users that the numbers of fans of a Weibo account may not be trusted especially if this account generates a large number of fans in a very short period. The Weibo accounts with a large amount of followers have a ‘value’ for releasing commercial information. One of the Weibo accounts I personally follow, who writes and posts pictures about travelling, often post advertisements about beauty and slimming products. A popular account would be approached to be paid in exchange of posting commercials.

Like Twitter, Sina Weibo official opposes fake accounts and denies any involvement in creating zombies. However, ‘zombies’ followers are like cockroaches and you just can’t get rid of them.

Previously I worked with Nick Pearce on UK universities’ use of Chinese social media to communicate with potential Chinese students. Nick is going to present our work at ‘Twitter and Microblogging’ conference next week.

Nick told me that Associated Press were investigate the possibility of Zombie followers of Yale university’s Sina Weibo account and asked me to comment on that issue. I did some digging at 6 Feb 2013.

Since Yale is a popular American university, I compared it with the most popular UK University on Weibo, Huddersfield University, who has the highest number of followers. I used a software to see some statistics of Yale’s Weibo account (with around 100,000 followers at the time) and compared with those of Huddersfield (with 30687 followers at the time) and the results shows that Huddersfield has 5.2% active followers (1591 active followers out of total 30687 followers) with 170 followers having verified accounts. It shows a people-rank which calculates the quality of followers and quality of exposure while Huddersfield is ranked 200807 on Weibo. Yale has triple numbers of followers comparing to Huddersfield, but its people-rank doesn’t show any results which means it is too low to be on the rank system. The analysis results showed that Yale only has 11 active followers out of the total ten thousand and none of them has verified account.

I also checked for Michigan University. They have a lot less followers than Yale, but around 25.7% fans are active and 109 fans are verified. According to the statistical analysis, it looks to me that Yale has a large portion of zombie followers.

However, it is possible that these zombies followers come to follow Yale without Yale purchasing themselves. In 2010, a famous presenter from Guangzhou closed his Weibo because he couldn’t stand the fake popularity being followed by lots of zombie fans. One explanation from Sina is that these zombies were generated when users registered by their mobile phones. Another reason for Zombie accounts to follow celebrities or big names are that zombies accounts want to look like real accounts to avoid being found out by administrators. Also there are criticisms of the micro-blogging providers that it might be a marketing strategy for providing zombie fans to newly verified accounts to attract celebrities to register with them, although we can’t verify that. Sina recommend Yale account to new users, so another possibility is that new users have clicked ‘follow’ to Yale when they first registered on Weibo, then abandoned their accounts.

You can read the Associated Press report on this story ‘Zombies’ infest Yale social network account by USA TODAY if you are interested.

Melbourne Zombie Shuffle 04





What you can learn from my experiences presenting at two conferences as a #phd student

28 03 2013

I went to two conferences last year, one in England in the summer and the other one abroad in China. By then, I had done some pilot interviews and reported the early findings in the two conferences.  The first conference I attended was in July 2012, called ‘Co-Production of Knowledge: Social media, STS and …’ in University of York. I gave a presentation ‘Shall we use social media for research?’ The second one was in December 2012 in Macau and it was China New Media Communication Association Annual Conference, in which I presented ‘Use of blogs, Twitter and Facebook by PhD Students for Scholarly Communication: A UK study’.

The two conferences gave me quite different impressions. The conference in York had scholars from all over the world and I talked to a few early career researchers from European institutions who examine similar issues, such as open access to data and using social media to promote research.  Whilst in the conference in China, the participants were mostly from China and a few were from universities in Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. Surprisingly, I met many master students from mainland China. Apparently it is common for Master students to go to academic conferences. One reason is that Master degree in China usually takes 2 years (used to be 3 years) to complete. It gives these Master students more time to do research and present their work which makes them equivalent to MPhil students in the UK.

Benefits:

v  Good for practise presentation skills.

If you think about presenting in a big theatre room, it can be quite nerve-wracking. Luckily, I was not too nervous after all the practices with my teaching work.  Listening to other people’s presentations all day makes you reflect on your own presentation skills when you see ‘bad presenters’ who read out every line on their PowerPoint slides, while the good ones talk without scripts.

v  Improve writing skills

The Macau conference required a full paper (5000 words) to be submitted two months before the conference. One benefit of having a deadline is to push you to write a proper paper. It helps you develop writing-for-publication skills early in your PhD process which we will need sooner or later for submitting peer-review publications.

v  Networking with people and build up network for future collaboration

While meeting other early career researchers who are doing similar research, it is important to keep communicating because you may have a good project to collaborate in the future. I connected those on Twitter and we comment on each other’s Tweets regularly. In this network, as we all use Twitter to publish our work process, it is like being in each other’s working life.

v  Amazing food in Chinese conferences. One benefit of going to conferences in China is the food. It is probably a norm in Chinese conferences that participants go to big lunches and dinners in amazing hotels and restaurants. In the Macau conference, all the lunches and dinners were free and sponsored by local authorities. Some of the dinner locations in Macau had beautiful views as well as luxury sea food.

Alerts:

I really enjoyed attending the two conferences last year and made good connections with academics in the similar fields.  The one downside was that I was sick at both conferences which sabotaged my participation to some extent. I got food allergy and had to go to the hospital A&E in York at the first night. I had to wait for 3 hours in the hospital to be seen by a nurse and by 2am I was too tired to wait to be seen by a doctor, so I left. The hospital was quite far away from the university and the taxi fees were expensive. I also had to skip conference dinner the next day in case the food didn’t agree with me again, thus lost opportunity for networking.

In December, before I left for Macau, I caught the notorious Norovirus from the UK and ended up being nauseous all week during the conference. Another thing to note when you go to a conference in the far-east is the jet lag. I had to skip some presentations to take a nap. Although I still managed to go sightseeing in Macau during the evenings with other participants and enjoyed the conference.

Therefore, as we say in China, ‘Health is the capital of revolution.’ Make sure you take care of yourself when you go to a conference, then you can enjoy yourself and make the most out of it!