Big Brother for University Sport

Responding to worries about student athletes on social media.

There has been not insignificant anxiety in US higher education about the inappropriate use of social media by student athletes and universities are looking to monitor activity much more closely. On this side of the Atlantic the issues have largely been confined to professional sports people (and Joey Barton).

Whilst there may be general worries in UK universities about student use of Facebook and Twitter these have yet to have the impact that some unfortunate transgressions have had in the US where some universities have banned athletes from using Twitter following concerns about insulting, vulgar and generally questionable posts by players. And also because the coaches suspect social media might represent something of a distraction for players.

Fortunately, for those universities which struggle with monitoring social media usage there appear to be several organisations dedicated to ensuring that student athletes behave themselves. Looking for example at via Varsity Monitor, one of these monitoring outfits, we find they have an interesting prospectus:

For Athletes and Parents:

College recruiters actively review social media accounts to fully evaluate the character of potential recruits. Varsity Monitor works to ensure that social media posts do not negatively impact recruiting or existing scholarship offers.

For Institutions:

Coaches, Administrators and Sponsors need to ensure that Athletes uphold their organization’s standards and adhere to their code of conduct when using social media. Varsity Monitor provides monitoring services that help verify that policies are being followed.

Varsity Monitor provides extensive social media education for athletes and administrators designed to establish a solid foundation for the positive use of social media. Exploring methods and techniques to leverage social media to promote and enhance their brand and reputation.

Just extraordinary. Is it worth it if the teams deliver the results required? Or is is excessive intrusion into students’ non-academic activities?

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Another university league table variation

A league table of universties’ social media ‘visibility’

Econsultancy have published a league table of Russell Group universities’ social media profiles or their ‘visibility’:

The visibility score we use here is based on the total number of links a web domain has scored on the six social sites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Delicious and StumbleUpon, while accounting for different weightings we give to links on individual social sites.

The content linked to includes

news page stories about new research studies and initiatives are quite common. While heavily shared links included software simulations, web cam images, jokes and podcasts.



The league table is as follows:

Social visibility of Russell Group universities

University of Cambridge. Visibility score: 462,823

University of Oxford: 442,758

London School of Economics: 286,859

Newcastle University: 186,184

University College London: 176,202

University of Warwick: 169,462

University of Manchester: 143,186

University of Edinburgh: 131,053

Queens University Belfast: 118,137

University of Glasgow: 72,211

University of Bristol: 70,656

University of Nottingham: 64,381

University of Leeds: 63,802

Imperial College London: 47,321

Cardiff University: 46,053

University of Southampton: 44,106

King’s College London: 31,762

University of Liverpool: 20,444

University of Birmingham: 15,873

University of Sheffield: 9,912

It’s a bit crude but nevertheless fascinating. And it is quite striking how big the gap is between Oxbridge and the lower half of the table. Many of us have a lot to do to catch up.

Finding the good stuff

Social media can be overwhelming…

And this can make finding the really good stuff really rather difficult. The Schumpeter column in The Economist has an interesting take on this.

Most commentary on social media ignores an obvious truth—that the value of things is largely determined by their rarity. The more people tweet, the less attention people will pay to any individual tweet. The more people “friend” even passing acquaintances, the less meaning such connections have. As communication grows ever easier, the important thing is detecting whispers of useful information in a howling hurricane of noise. For speakers, the new world will be expensive. Companies will have to invest in ever more channels to capture the same number of ears. For listeners, it will be baffling. Everyone will need better filters—editors, analysts, middle managers and so on—to help them extract meaning from the blizzard of buzz.

It’s not a wholly original point but it is well made. It’s a challenge for individuals as well as for universities and other organisations. The problem is, I think, the more you fret about it, the worse it seems. Moreover, by the time you have analysed the position, the entire world has moved on. So, don’t worry, just go with it is my lightweight solution to this particular challenge. Hey, it’s Friday.

The difficulties of leading via Twitter

A Cautionary Tale: “A College Unfriends Its Social-Networking President”

The Chronicle of Higher Education carries a fascinating story about a new breed of institutional leader seeking to engage through twitter. Unfortunately, not everyone at the college seems to be fully bought in:

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, may be the only college president to publicly describe his leadership as “in beta,” a product rolled out before it’s fully tested.

He’s tinkered with using social media to connect with constituents on and off campus. He’s blogged, posted video messages on YouTube, and tweeted more than any other college president. (He has more than 175,000 Twitter followers.)

He even has a new book due out this month, called Redesigning Leadership (MIT Press), relating scenes from his three years at RISD and samples of his tweets. One example: “When people ask if I’ve stopped designing I say, ‘No. I’m designing how to talk about/with/for our #RISD community.'”

But many professors at the art school do not appreciate being part of Mr. Maeda’s high-tech experiment in leadership. In March, more than 80 percent of faculty members voted “no confidence” in his performance. To them, all that tweeting feels more like distraction than engagement.

A cautionary tale perhaps for senior university tweeters. But don’t think anyone in UKHE has as many followers as John Maeda. It must be a bigger college than you’d think.

Ranking of Colleges’ Twitter Influence

Ranking universities and social media

Some entertaining nonsense in the past couple of weeks on ranking university use of twitter etc. Chris Sexton beat me to this with her posting on this topic which covers more than I will.

The fact that people are producing league tables of this stuff shows it already matters but it remains difficult to take it too seriously. Will universities start chasing better ‘Klout scores’? According to the Chronicle Stanford tops the list:

Stanford University’s Twitter feed is the most influential among college and university accounts on that microblogging service, according to a new ranking.

The list was published this week by Klout, an online company that tracks the popularity and impact of Tweets and gives every Twitter account a numerical score for influence. Factors reflected in the score include the number of followers a user has, how often a user is retweeted, and how a user’s tweets are being used in the conversation on Twitter

Stanford earned a Klout score of 70, with Syracuse University, Harvard University, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison all following with a score of 64.

The top 10 is rounded out by University of California at Berkley, Butler University, Tufts University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas at Austin, and Marquette University.

Compare this with a brief summary (which you could turn into a ranking if you really wanted to) on the use of twitter by Russell Group universities. It does suggest that UK universities are still a bit behind the curve on this.

And lest anyone think that the ranking of universities on their social media is getting too serious we have this rather entertaining Dutch analysis.

So, serious rankings of social media useage will emerge no doubt but it is all probably a little premature.

Twitter in Higher Education 2010

Report on the use of Twitter in Higher Education 2010

Interesting report on Twitter in HE which includes a survey on academic staff use.

Is Twitter a powerful learning tool or a colossal waste of time? It depends whom you ask. In its second annual survey on the popular micro-blogging technology, Faculty Focus found a great divide in how professors perceive Twitter, including whether it should be used in the classroom or is best reserved for networking with peers.

Of those who currently use Twitter, the most common activities include “to share information with peers” and “as a real-time news source.” Instructional uses, such as “to communicate with students” and “as a learning tool in the classroom” are less popular, although both activities saw increases over the previous year.

Non-users expressed concerns that Twitter creates poor writing skills and could be yet another classroom distraction. Many also noted that very few of their students use Twitter. Finally, a new trend that emerged this year centered on the belief that many feel they already have too many places to post messages or check for student questions/comments. As one professor put it, “I have no interest in adding yet another communication tool to my overloaded life.”

In addition, Times Higher Education has recently published a feature on social media use in UK HE:

The experts seem to be divided not only on social media’s future, but also on their present in terms of their use by academics, and the research that has been done has reached contradictory conclusions. A survey of UK institutions conducted by online consultants Jadu shows a high level of use among academics, with more than 70 per cent of respondents using social media in some way.

And includes this entertaining comment from someone slightly sceptical about the value of social media:

“You can’t get a degree on Facebook; you can’t get a degree from Twitter. Social media are forms of communication; they are no substitute for the university as the place where your curriculum is structured, where you learn. You don’t get a degree for reading books; you read books to get a degree. The same is true of social media.”

So, opinions divided then. No surprises there.

Ways universities share information using social media

Universities using social media

social-media

A very interesting set of examples this: 10 Ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media

What this really highlights is how many more opportunities there are better to exploit social media for all sorts of useful information-sharing purposes. At Nottingham we use just a few of these methods consistently and therefore there remains plenty of scope for development. Some good progress recently but we have a long way to go to catch up with the leaders in this arena.