Blogging Group Interview Activity (Five Dollar Download)

June 19, 2013

Blogging

The goal of any student employee interview process should be to assess the attitude, personality, and skills needed for the open positions. As with any job, candidates should be assessed on their ability to listen, follow instructions, demonstrate knowledge, and display a positive and professional attitude through their writing. This “Five Dollar Download” Blogging Group Interview Activity was created to do just that.

In a nutshell, student leader candidates are taught how to use the WordPress blogging platform in order to create a short (two to three paragraph) blog post / article on a student life-related topic. The professional in charge of the activity creates a free and private Wordpress account ahead of time and teaches the students how to create a short post using this account. This blogging demonstration should only take 5 – 10 minutes to accomplish allowing time for any questions. The candidates are instructed to choose a topic from a list that is provided to them. Examples include: Tips for Getting Better Grades; Safety Tips for College Students; and Advice for New College Students. Candidates can also create a topic of their own as long as it is related to college life and is educational. The suggested topics sheet also purposely includes a “trap” that some unsuspecting candidates may fall into and ultimately prove to be an unsuitable hire. (*This will be obvious to student affairs professionals and the more savvy candidates.*)

The hiring professional(s) can have the students accomplish the task after the instructional demonstration in a computer lab, on their own portable devices they are instructed to bring with them, or even on their own time with a set deadline. Once the time has expired, evaluators utilize the rubric in order to assess each candidate’s article. This helps to demonstrate a student’s knowledge on college life, and to see if they can professionally articulate that information. This activity not only teaches a great skill that students can use during their lifetime (i.e., blogging), but is also a suitable activity as one point of evidence to assess the employability of student leader candidates.

My assistant director and I developed and utilized this activity as a part of our own student group hiring process, which proved to be very insightful and successful. This was included as one of a handful of assessment activities. The 6-page Blogging Group Interview Activity includes the following: Activity objectives; CAS student outcomes domains & dimensions; materials list; setup; procedure; closure / discussion; activity variations; topics list; blog login instruction sheet; and rubric and assessment form.


Social Media is Bullshit by B.J. Mendelson (*book review*)

January 11, 2013

9781250002952

With the advent and ubiquity of social media over the past 10 years, everyone seems to be a social media cheerleader, including myself. That’s when I came across a book with a completely different perspective titled Social Media is Bullshit by B.J. Mendelson. The basic premise of the book is that social media, particularly from a business standpoint, has been artificially hyped beyond actual results.

The book is separated into four parts: Social Media is Bullshit; Meet the People Behind the Bullshit; How to Sell Bullshit Without Really Trying; and How to Really Make It on the Web. Mendelson illustrates that alleged social media successes always come on heels of large corporations with big wallets, celebrity-backed promotions, and traditional media.

Mendelson states the following in his book: “Offline matters more than online. This will never change. Your location, your circumstances, your audience, that determines everything. Trying to make a niche platform on the Web is a bad idea. Not many people can do it, and most of those who do are either trying to sell you something, were in the right place at the right time, had the right connections, or get backing from the media in some form.” Mendelson’s biggest criticism is against those high-fee-charging marketing consultants and speakers who push the virtues of using social media, but cannot actually demonstrate success or ROI (return on investment) for small companies or the bootstrapping entrepreneur.

The book is 179 pages of actual content, and I was able to read it in one evening. I thought it would be a useful resource for higher education administrators and students alike, particularly those who are involved in social media marketing efforts on campus. Mendelson’s argument offers a different perspective that is rarely discussed on our campuses. To his credit, his argument holds true within the realm of higher education because hundreds of likes and retweets does not necessarily translate into higher admissions numbers, increased student engagement, and more fundraised dollars. While Social Media is Bullshit needs to be read with a grain of salt, particularly since our target market (i.e., college students) are the largest users of social media, the contents of this book would provide great content for staff development discussions and even department and institution strategic plan sessions.

Not only is the book informative, but it is entertaining as well as Mendelson writes in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. However, he is not afraid to hold punches against those he criticizes and offers many examples and case studies throughout the book. Social Media is Bullshit offers a cautionary tale for those who think that social media is a magic bullet upon which you can obtain immediate fame, money, and success.

The first 25 people who retweet or share this post on Facebook will be entered into a random raffle to win a free copy of Social Media is Bullshit courtesy of B.J. Mendelson and St. Martin’s Press.


How NOT to Present a Webinar

January 8, 2013

3d illustration of computer technologies. concept notebook

Recently I paid for and viewed a webinar from a nationally-recognized higher education publication and was thoroughly disappointed with the presentation.  There was a lot of presenter “chit chat” in the introduction, and it finally took 25 minutes to actually get to the content. At the conclusion of the webinar, I felt cheated as I spent $79.00 to have my skills set expanded, but already knew more than what was actually presented. Having viewed dozens of webinars, and presenting many myself receiving criticisms, here are some tips for how NOT to present a webinar.

A webinar is NOT “hang out” time with fellow presenters - I do not like to waste people’s time, and I do not like when people waste my time. This especially holds true with webinars. During various webinars that I have attended, the presenters would spend time going on about the process of working together on the webinar along with a lot of personal “backslapping” that was entirely unneeded. Cut to the chase and get to the content, particularly if people are paying for that content.

A webinar is NOT an autobiographical dump – One professional organization webinar I attended had six different presenters. Each presenter took nearly 3 to 5 minutes each to talk about themselves and their experience. By the time they were all done talking about themselves, the webinar was already a quarter of the way over. Presenter information can be easily listed in the webinar advertisement during participant registration. A webinar is not a job interview so participants do not want to hear you go on about who you are. If you feel compelled to present your background, keep it extremely brief (i.e., 30 seconds – 1 minute total for all presenters) and move on.

Do NOT push another product or service – Many presenters use webinars as disguised commercials. While this may be ok if the webinar is free and you are being up front the intent of your trying to sell a product or service, you should never do this if you are charging for the presentation.

Do NOT improvize – Create an outline, talking points, and copious examples. Do not “wing it” and treat the webinar like a conference roundtable. Registrants have put their faith in you that they are going to hear quality content not off-the-cuff conversation.

Add to the content, NOT the noise – Create the types of quality webinars that you yourself would like to attend. People pay for and attend webinars because they have a problem they want to solve and are looking to you to help solve that particular problem. There are literally hundreds of webinars out there related to higher education, some good…some not so good. I challenge you to create quality content to share among our student affairs colleagues.


Using Twitter to Enhance Orientation and FYE Programs

August 25, 2012
 
 
Twitter is a perfect and inexpensive way to connect with new students and their parents. For those of you who may not be completely adept at using Twitter, you can reference Twitter 101 for Student Affairs Professionals to learn more about the power of using Twitter in Student Affairs.  
 
If you don’t already have one, create and advertise the orientation Twitter handle / name to parents and students and tell them that they can use this to ask any questions they have during the process. (Note: You MUST have someone monitoring this from your office constantly to give a quick response.) Armed with an orientation and / or FYE Twitter account, the sky is the limit for making new relationships with your students.
 
Here are some tactics that you can use to enhance your orientation and FYE programs at your own college or university:
  • Ask students to tweet what they are learning and experiencing during orientation or FYE-related activities.
  • Give them a hashtag to include in their tweets (e.g., #FYE2012; #NewUStudent12). Create a contest and prize for the most tweets over the orientation period (or varying categories: most creative, best advice, most retweeted, most mentioned)
  • Create Twitter scavenger hunts. As students go from area to area, they can send tweets based on a sheet you give them related to information they should be learning.
  • Ask parents to Tweet their best college advice; you would have to create a hashtag for this purpose so you can track them. Otherwise they need to mention your twitter name in the tweet. A “quality” prize (e.g., hoodie, dinner with VP or president, etc.) could be raffled at the end of the orientation period.

Here are examples of specific tweets that you can send: 

  • Show this Tweet at the bookstore during orientation to get 10% off.
  • What do you want to accomplish and how can we help you?
  • Show this tweet at check-in and get a free university lanyard.
  • Who is a new friend you can recommend to follow?
  • What has been your favorite part of orientation so far?

Take some time to search for other colleges and universities’ orientation and FYE departments from across the country and look at their tweets to see what they are doing. You can also simply tweet this question with the #studentaffairs, #orientation, #FYE, and #sachat hashtags and you’ll get responses from many individuals.

What are some other Twitter tactics that you have used to enhance your orientation and FYE programs? Please share your comments below.


What’s Your Story? Using Text-Based Video Marketing (guest post by Amanda Greenhoe of Calvin College)

August 24, 2012

Recently, my team set out to tailor a marketing piece to a primary audience (donors), while still engaging other facets of our school’s constituents. To do this, we told a story that touches them all.

Great things are happening where I work, at Calvin College. It’s a 4,000-student, Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And whether or not you have heard of it, students here are being prepared to serve around the corner and across the globe. Our grads are humble, not timid. They’re principled, not closed-minded. They’re deep thinkers, not surface skimmers.

That’s why our donors give. So, in order to tell them the story of Calvin’s 2011–12 academic and fiscal year, we needed to tell the story of our students. But while our recently-released year-in-review video is first and foremost a gift of gratitude to our supporters, it reaches beyond its primary audience.

After watching the video, students feel privileged to be here. Prospective students want to check this place out. Emeriti, faculty and staff are reminded of their impact. Parents are reminded of the school’s value. The public takes notice. And it’s all because we told a story.

Now, not all storytelling is a home run. This video was effectively distributed to donors via a thank-you email and mail piece that directed them to view the video online. It also gave a voice to many areas of the college, which fostered institutional buy-in.

Let’s not forget that this video is also successful because of its format. It combines engaging text and well done typography with fun, high-quality animation, which makes it watchable and shareable (and re-watchable and re-shareable!) While text-based videos do not offer the immediate visual connection that a photo of a student can bring, these types of videos will not be rendered outdated due to graduated students or updated buildings. Text-based videos bring a visual variety in a marketing field filled with videos of talking heads and those that rely too heavily on voice-overs.

The freelancer we worked with used Adobe After Effects to animate our script. If you are considering using a text-based video, I recommend writing your script in-house and relying on the animator for graphics and music. By writing the script in-house, we saved valuable resources. In terms of writing style, the script is short and to the point, which is key for this type of video.

For these reasons, members of the Calvin community are sharing this video via social media, and thereby spreading the word about the ways Calvin is inspiring students to live fully and faithfully.

Is it time for your school to do some storytelling? Know your story, know your audiences, and tell your narrative well.

How are you sharing your institution’s story and encouraging your students to contribute? Please share your comments below. All who comment will be entered into a raffle to win a Calvin College t-shirt and a copy of the book Okay for Now by Calvin professor Gary D. Schmidt.

Amanda Greenhoe serves as Coordinator for Development Communications and Marketing at Calvin College and as a freelance copywriter. She worked for a magazine, a newspaper, and a publishing house before finding her home in higher ed. She loves talking all things marketing and communications. Contact her via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, or her blog, Reach and Rally.


Using Social Media for Student Learning

April 19, 2012

Being able to maximize college students’ use of social media toward learning is going to be a skill higher education professionals will need to master in order to effectively engage our students. Unfortunately, many university faculty and administrators see social media as a mere waste of time and antithetical to the goals and mission of higher education. On Friday, April 20, 2012 at 2:00pm (EST), I presented a webinar titled Using Social Media to Enhance Student Learning Outcomes as hosted by StudentAffairs.com.

The webinar covered strategies for using social media to develop student learning outcomes as well as how to formulate a plan to assess learning outcomes using such social media platforms as Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. Here is a small sample of social media learning strategies that was covered during the webinar:

Blogging Learning Strategies:

  • Use WordPress as a platform to publish educational information
  • Mine blog comments as qualitative and quantitative data

Twitter Learning Strategies:

  • Utilize unique hashtags for specific classes and programs
  • Employ the “One Minute Paper”: Students will tweet the most important item learned and one remaining question they have
  • Teach “Back Channel” discussion so students can summarize lessons learned from the class or program

Facebook Learning Strategies:

  • “Piggyback” efforts using blogging, YouTube, and Twitter to post educational links and videos on your Facebook page
  • Use “Surveys” and “Likes” as a means to acquire data

This webinar, using CAS standards to develop learning outcomes, demonstrates how college and university student affairs administrators can harness the power of social media as a vehicle for developing, enhancing, and assessing student learning outcomes.

I encourage you and your department colleagues to attend this affordable webinar. Please click HERE to see more details and to register for the replay of this webinar. 


How Student Life Can Leverage Fiverr.com

April 17, 2012

 

Recently I was introduced to Fiverr.com by my assistant director who gave me a quick demonstration of this awesome little service. In a nutshell, Fiverr.com allows individuals from around the world to sell products and services for $5.00. In return, Fiverr.com keeps $1.00 for the transaction. For all intents and purposes, it’s kind of like a mini-version of Craigslist, but with an actual shopping cart and feedback interface.

Products and services can vary from singing telegrams and flyer designs to resume proof-reading and homemade crafts. We went ahead and made our own services available, which include providing team development activities and program lesson plans for only $5.00 (*see below*).

Sellers also offer “extras” on top of the initial $5.00 for extended services or enhancements to the product or service you are buying. For example, I ordered a professional flyer design for a program I am sponsoring. For an additional $10.00, the graphic artist created it in less than two days. It was well worth the extra money for me!

I thought that Fiverr.com would be a perfect platform that both students and student life administrators could mine for valuable services and to sell services themselves. Student organizations could easily use it as a means to fundraise. Administrators can purchase awesome yet inexpensive commercials and designs for department advertising, messages for staff recognition, and even small gifts that could be used as prizes for departmental initiatives and programs. The possibilities are truly endless!

Take a look at Fiverr.com, and leave us a comment as to how you have used the service or intend on using it in the future. 


Smart Social Media Protocols for Student Leaders

March 5, 2012

Student leaders are given a great deal of responsibility and are expected to model professional behavior and conduct. Whether you are a club president, resident advisor, or student government member, your use of social media must be thought out and well planned. While many college students will post every thought or complaint that comes to mind, student leaders must consciously monitor what they post via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media avenues. Student leaders must also be cognizant that any information they post is public so supervisors, university administrators, potential employers, and many others can now view what has been posted.

With that being said, here are five smart protocols to help guide student leaders in their use of social media:

  • Do not post something publicly that you would not discuss with your members – As a student leader, you represent a whole host of varied and diverse interests of those individuals that you serve. Your personal opinions may not represent the opinions of the entire group. Posting something that you would not discuss with you group could turn members against you.
  • Do not use social media to undermine your advisor or university administrators – While it may not be uncommon for you to disagree with the decisions and / or opinions of your advisors or university administrators, how you handle your personal opinions is going to set you apart from others. Posting an underhanded and negative comment will most likely anger your advisor, definitely won’t win you any favors, and it could cost you the respect of those that look to you for leadership. Online cheapshots will only make you look foolish; don’t create an online crusade. Likewise, do not create a “fake” account to complain and whine anonymously. If you have something to say, do so privately or as a discussion topic during a regularly scheduled meeting. Good leaders have integrity and courage to be proactive with difficult and uncomfortable circumstances.
  • Avoid posting personal and “inside jokes” – The easiest way to alienate others is by not including them in the fun. A good leader is inclusive and makes everyone feel a part of the group. Posting jokes that only a select few individuals can appreciate and understand on organization-related pages undermines your ability to create and maintain team cohesion.
  • Respect confidentiality – As a student leader, you will most certainly be trusted with information related to finances, upcoming decisions and announcements, and personal data. Other students are not privy to this information, and it is important that you keep it to yourself and not post it using social media. You should also use special care when chatting online or through text when it relates to sensitive information, because you may not always be communicating with the person you think you are. One mistake can have far-reaching consequences. And as a general rule of thumb, do not discuss confidential information online.
  • When in doubt, ask your advisor – If you have a question or concern related to posting information online, have a discussion with your advisor or supervisor. Seek clarification and understanding before proceeding forward because it is always better to be safe than sorry.

What are some other protocols and / or practices that you utilize on your campus related to student leaders using social media? Please share your comments below.


5 Ways to Give on Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day is that one special day each year to express love and friendship with the people in your life.  This is also a perfect opportunity for your campus organization to spread love and friendship in your community through volunteering, donating, and participating in charity work.

1. Organize or attend a V-Day Event. V-Day is a world-wide movement created to end violence against all women and girls. Click here to read more about V-Day. See how the University of Cincinnati has organized their V-Day Event this year.

2. Collect new and / or unopened perfume, bubble bath, lotions, and make-up. Any kind of feminine luxury item that a person in crisis could find comforting will do. Donate these items to a women’s shelter. “College Feminist Connect” posted an article describing their call to Action: Break-up to Make-up.

3. Maybe your closet is overflowing with Valentine Teddy Bears or other stuffed animals given to you by all of your admirers. Organize a “Teddy Bear and Friends” stuffed animal drive. Donate the assortment to a homeless or women’s shelter where there are bound to be children that can take comfort in a cuddly toy during a time of need. Here is how Connecticut College and Amherst joined forces in their Teddy Bear Drive to benefit a local Children’s Hospital.

4. If you have creative flare, you can make Valentine cards and centerpieces to take to a senior care facility. Here are several links with great craft ideas: Family Fun, Kaboose, Martha Stewart, All Free CraftsOrigami, Candy Free Cards, Valentine’s Day Messages. Talk to coordinators at the senior care facility to work out specific needs at the facility. For instance, candy may be off limits do to dietary regulations.

5. Many hall councils and other campus organizations sell some kind of flowers, candy-grams, or Valentine wishes. Here is a social media take on a traditional idea: Sell Facebook-grams or Twitter-grams on your organizations page or account. For a nominal fee (like $1.00) students can place orders prior to the holiday. Post or tweet the Valentine wishes and donate the money raised to an animal shelter like the ASPCA. Here are some examples of Valentine SMS.

What are some ways your campus organization gives back to the community on Valentine’s Day or any day during the year?  Our readers want to know. Please share your comments below!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2012 from StudentLifeGuru.com.
We LOVE our readers!
@studentlifeguru @reslifesynergy @mhelfrich98


Social Media as a Programming Strategy (*free resource handout*)

January 13, 2012

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

Suggested tips:

  • 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.


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