My Assistant Director, Justin Schiefelbein, (@ResLifeSynergy) and I have decided to use social media as component of our new community programming model with our community assistant staff. While most student affairs departments use Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the like as a means to simply market or communicate departmental announcements, social media can be used as a platform for facilitating and assessing student learning outcomes.
We have decided to think “outside of the box” and incorporate the use of social media as a programming requirement with our community assistants. While the “traditional” programming model still has merit (which will we will continue to use), the opportunity to engage students online to educate and encourage dialogue is ripe with opportunity. This is even more so particularly because we are in charge of a large student apartment community, in which traditional programming can be a challenge.
Our community assistants are each required to develop two social media programs per semester. Each is given access to the community’s WordPress.com account (http://vulcanvillage.wordpress.com) so they can easily write blog posts related to their program. We provide them training so they know how to public using WordPress. Their submissions are first approved by us prior to us actually submitting them (i.e., they do not have direct access to publish). Access to other social media account are coordinated through all of our full-time staff so the CA’s have access.
Here are the guidelines / requirements that we are using for developing a social media program:
- Utilize social media as a vehicle for the program (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Thoughtful, focused, and developed
- Primarily educational in nature
- Must include interaction in some form
- Must be planned at least two weeks in advance, including sumission of program proposal
- Cost = Maximum of $50 for any materials and / or prizes to induce participation and interaction (with prior approval); will be specific to your institution’s budgetary arrangements
- Marketing: Use all avenues, including social media, email announcements, invitations, signage, etc.
Social media program examples:
- Participating in Green Practices
- Online Harassment & Bullying
- Sex Ed: Are You Being Smart & Safe?
- Alcohol Use & Abuse: When Enough is Too Much
- How to Develop a Resume
- Social media programs can be either one time or part of a semester-wide campaign. Example: our “Green Education” programming will continue over the course of the semester with multiple blog posts, Facebook and Twitter advice, YouTube videos, and educational webinars.
- You can do polling and simple surveying to see what students want to learn at your college or university (“What do you hope to learn while here?” could be a simple Tweet or Facebook comment.)
- Tie your social media programming to student learning outcomes based upon CAS and Learning Reconsidered Outcomes.
- Assessment efforts can be utilized by using SurveyMonkey.com or another survey tool to pre-test and / or post-test participants. You can also simply use comments from Facebook and Twitter as qualitative and quantitative assessment data.
Here is a free Social Media Programming handout, which illustrates guidelines, programming examples, modes of interaction, how to encourage participation, and ways to assess.
Please feel free to share this resource with your student affairs colleagues.
Twitter is a very powerful resource that all Student Affairs professionals should embrace and utilize on a daily basis to enhance their work. While many individuals within Student Affairs feel that Twitter is merely a novelty or distraction, there are in fact many purposeful ways in which Twitter can be used to advocate, educate, empower, and network with students and other Student Affairs professionals from across the globe. Here are 10 ways in which you can use Twitter within your department and division:
- Program Publicity – One of the most practical and least complicated ways in which you can use Twitter is to publicize any and all events and programs that you may have. Tweeting event information days and hours prior to the actual program can serve as an easy event reminder. Program announcement tweets can also include website links for more details about the program, including registration information if applicable.
- Advising / Mentoring – Because Twitter is based on an SMS system (messaging), you can use it in order to communicate with students whom you advise and / or mentor. Simple tweets of encouragement or advice with those students who “follow” you can prove helpful in developing meaningful relationships. This can be done publicly for everyone to see or you can “direct message” the individual privately so only they can see the tweet.
- Program Assessment – Mining tweets for qualitative and quantitative data can be invaluable for program assessment and even departmental reviews. After a program, simply ask the students who attended to tweet the most important thing they learned and one question that they have remaining in 140 characters or less (or two tweets if necessary); this practice is called a “One Minute Paper.” Create and give them a “hashtag” associated with the program (e.g., #Greeklife12; #AOD12; #Wellness12; etc.) to include within their tweets so that you can track everyone’s tweets afterward. To encourage participation, those who tweet are eligible to win a raffled prize. You can aggregate tweets from over the course of a semester to illustrate evidence of the various student learning outcomes you have developed.
- Club & Organization Communication – Organization advisers and student leaders alike can tweet valuable information to the student members of their curricular and extracurricular clubs and organizations. Content related to the club’s interests can be tweeted and even discussed during regular club meetings.
- Staff & Student Recognition – Public displays of recognition for both staff and student achievements and contributions can mean the world to them. Tweeting a few words of kudos is a free and simple way to recognize students among their peers. As a bonus, this can help them to acquire more Twitter followers in the process.
- Staff Development & Training – Twitter is a wonderful way to find and share a wealth of resourceful information related to literally any topic. Using a “hashtag” along with a keyword in a twitter search (e.g., #leadership; #reslife; #greeklife; #studentaffairs; etc.) can help to easily find resources that others are tweeting and re-tweeting.
- Vendor Discounts – Tweets can be use as a marketing platform to create and spread bookstore, campus eatery, and special event (i.e., concerts, comedians) discounts. This tactic can be combined with various contests to reward those who respond to trivia questions
- Leadership Development – Many tips, blog articles, and other associated leadership resources can be shared and discussed through Twitter. Students can tweet about their leadership experiences throughout the semester.
- Advice, Facts, and Tips – Twitter is a free and easy way to distribute department-specific educative information. Tweets related to student learning outcomes can be utilized as a part of a semester-long educational campaign. These tweets can include links to online resources for more extensive reading.
- Emergency Announcements – Twitter can be used as an effective way to send out emergency announcements to a large amount of students, faculty, and staffers. Keep in mind that individuals must follow you in order to receive the tweet. Obviously this emergency announcement strategy should be used in junction with other options such as mass texting, website updates, and email given that not everyone uses Twitter.
On May 25, 2011, I presented a session at the PASSHE (PA State System of Higher Education) Student Affairs Conference in Cheyney, PA titled “Using Social Media for Professional Development & Networking Opportunities.” During the session I illustrated the benefits and virtues of using Twitter for professional development. One of the key points of the session was the use of the Twitter “hashtag” (#) to help expedite keyword searches for student affairs-related Tweets.A Twitter hashtag is a means by which someone can easily tag a keyword or topic for others to find. There are a multitude of hashtags in the Student Affairs Twittersphere, and I created a directory that I hope you will find helpful. Please understand that this directory is not exhaustive, but lists the most used hashtags by Student Affairs Tweeters / Tweeple.
Here is a FREE Student Affairs Twitter Hashtags handout. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues and students.
A special thanks goes out to Christine Scholl for designing the handout.
The members of your organization are your lifeblood. Always remember that your organization’s success is solely dependent upon its members and their regular participation. Many organizations’ senior leaders can concentrate on executive board business and easily forget their members. Remember to put your members’ interests first and put time and strategic thought into developing your relationship with them while they are members of your organization.
- Find out why your members are involved in the organization. People join clubs and organizations for many varied reasons whether it’s for skills development, gaining new knowledge and experience, or purely for recreational and social reasons. Knowing specifically why each member is involved will help you determine what you need to do or what activities to develop and provide in order to keep them interested and participating regularly. Simply put, meet their needs.
- Regularly check in with your members. I once learned that people don’t care about you until you show how much you care about them. This rings very true regarding your organization’s members. If they feel personally disconnected at meetings and activities, there’s a good chance that they are going to stop participating.
- Give members a reason to stay active and involved. People’s time is important so treat your members almost like they are customers; treat new members like they are prospective customers. If you’re not meeting their needs or the organization activities are perceived as not fun or simply a waste of their time, they will stop participating.
- Praise members publicly and thank them often. Make time during meetings to praise members for their participation and the good work that they do for your organization. Make a habit of thanking members often. Simple gestures such as giving hand-written notes, public posts on social networking sites, and other small tokens of appreciation will be accepted by your members with great welcome.
Click for a free Member Development Assessment activity. Please feel free to share it.
As we near the beginning of the fall semester, student leaders and student affairs professionals alike will be planning activities and programs for the year. There are varied thoughts on what characteristics make for a “good” activity or program so we’d like to suggest our own philosophy on program development.
- Create activities and programs that you yourself would like to see and attend. Many times student leaders such as resident assistants plan activities because it’s simply a requirement. Look beyond the requirement and develop activities and programs that you wish would have been available for you to attend before you became the program leader. Everyone’s time is valuable so make it count.
- Take full advantage of free resources on campus and / or within the community. Make connections with various department administrators on campus and see what expertise, advice, and resources they can offer. Such areas you should take advantage of include the following: the counseling center, diversity office, health & wellness, public safety / police, career development, women’s center, recreation / intramurals, etc.
- Do a simple assessment (survey) to see what types of interests people have and develop activities around those interests. Creating small and simple surveys through Facebook, SurveyMonkey, PollDaddy, and TwtPoll are free and relatively easy ways to find out about people’s interests.
- If at all possible, keep it simple. When it comes to activity and program development, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Small and simple ideas can make for great programs!
- Partner with other groups and organizations to share the workload and budget requirements. Find other leaders that will support your ideas and help with the implementation and marketing of the program. If you involve more people, there’s a good chance that they will in turn invite people to participate in the activity.
- Look for community volunteering initiatives that you can turn into a programming opportunity. There are numerous community organizations that are looking for volunteers and more than willing to work hand-in-hand with you. Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, the Y, youth & civic organizations, and local schools (K-12) can offer many activity and program opportunities for your organization or staff.
- Use the local price of a movie ticket as your guide for “per person” cost in terms of program budget effectiveness. The gauge of cost effectiveness I use with my staff is roughly $8.50 per participant per program. Was this program roughly worth the cost of a movie ticket? So if a staffer spends $85.00 and 10 people participate, in my estimation, this was a successful program budget-wise because it ended up to be $8.50 per person. But if a staffer spends $250 on a community-wide program and only 10 people show up, this ends up being $25.00 per person! Granted, those 10 people may have a great time, but from a budgeting standpoint, was this a good return on the investment?
- Offer opportunities for participants to put something on a resume or within a portfolio. People will participate if they can see a benefit coming from the program and “get” something out of it (and it doesn’t have to be pizza or some sort of prize!) Workshops, skills training, and volunteering opportunities (see #6) offer people the ability to list this as an accomplishment they can show to potential employers in the future.
- Partner with other team members to plan and execute the activity. You don’t have to go it alone. The old saying “Two heads are better than one” holds true with activity planning. More individuals developing the program can offer different insights and bring something unique to the experience that may not be there if you do it alone.
- Have fun! This is the best part of activity and program planning and implementation. Fun is contagious. If you can demonstrate a track record of fun, others will naturally want to be involved.
Click for a free handout listing of 650+ activity and programming ideas. Please feel free to share it.
Inspiring team member confidence should be an important part of a “Leadership Evaluation.” Team members need to have confidence in one another, be able to discuss easily ideas with one another without hesitation, and foster a sense of confidence among all of the members of the team.
As the team leader, creating “purposeful” conversations centered on team issues are symbolic in that you are setting the stage for what is an appropriate way to express thoughts and ideas in an open and respectful manner. If you create a team culture in which teammates solve problems together without unnecessary conflict or without always having to have the team leader intercede, everyone can concentrate on the actual mission and vision of the organization.
Here are some recommendations on how to create a team culture of confidence and communication:
1. Recruit team members that already embody the ideals of your organization’s culture.
2. Purposefully match team members on projects so they can experience “wins” together for good progress.
3. Hold regular team-building exercises during team meetings in order to demonstrate important team lessons. (Don’t simply have ice-breakers or other exercises just for the sake of having an activity; have a real purpose behind it.)
4. Be a role model for your team. Always be positive (but not fake), and speak well of your team everywhere you go.
5. Make it fun! It’s not all about work. Take your team on a fun outing in order to spend social time with one another.
Click for a free Colleague Discussion Activity sheet. Please feel free to share it.
How are you inspiring confidence among your team members?