|Teaching and Learning Forum 2010 [ Refereed papers ]|
The University of Western Australia
Student Services at The University of Western Australia is piloting the use of the online social network Facebook to build community around potential, prospective and enrolled students. The UWA Student Services Division focuses considerable attention on the early part of the student journey; from enrolment through to Link Week (week 3) and beyond. However, attention is now being broadened to include the pre-enrolment period which is seen as a particularly key time in building a positive relationship with incoming students. Staff are using the page to provide more comprehensive and consistent communication and to refer students to existing face to face and online programs and services. The intention is not to replicate or replace any existing services, but to create a personal, friendly and welcoming online presence. A Facebook fan page called 'UWA Students' invites fans to join and is open to anyone who feels a connection to the University. It is available at: http://www.facebook.com/UWAstudents
Student Services is charged with the recruitment, admission, administration, support and engagement of UWA students and as such offers a broad suite of face to face programs and services aimed at scaffolding a well-rounded and fulfilling student experience. Since 2008, the Division has been testing and implementing ways of extending its work with students into the online environment.
Students are able to connect with UWA staff that are available for face-to-face contact (staff typically use their real names on the Facebook page) although much of the value in the project is that students can participate in the page as much or as little as they like so that various levels of student participation and engagement are enabled. The page also meets the 'just-in-time' and 'just-for-me' principles of good service delivery to students, and facilitates quick responses to student inquiries or comments.
In summary, the UWA Students Facebook fan page offers the potential to
The page is checked at least daily to answer any fan postings. The status update (which appears on fan home pages) is updated twice a week and the profile photo is updated every 2 weeks with the aim of generating original, relevant and stimulating content whilst also avoiding overburdening fans with 'promotional' content. Student-related content being produced by Student Services using other online tools (such as Flickr, Sitepal, Slideshare and YouTube pages) can be aggregated on the Facebook page meaning that a variety of applications can be used at different times during the University calendar. The page also features a set of links to other Facebook fan pages related to the University including, for example, the UWA Student Guild and Science Union. The relationship between the UWA Students Facebook page and the University's official webpage conforms to two key rules; 1) that there will be minimal provision of advice or information using the Facebook page which will instead promote the official sources and refer students to them where appropriate and 2) that information provided to fans on the Facebook page should also be available via other means for any students who do not access the Facebook page. Content on the Facebook page therefore focuses on community and relationship building and referral to existing sources of information whilst adding a 'layer' to existing programs and web services.
A content matrix was developed in order to create an overall strategy for content generation. This allowed different types of content to be trialed so that the ease of creation, workload required, the effort needed to maintain or follow-up the content and the level of fan response could be evaluated at the end of the pilot-period. The UWA Facebook content matrix (Table 1) is adapted from the work of Lavrusik (2009) whose blog examines aspects of digital and social media.
|Gathering and sharing information||What's happening on campus, news items, key activities and deadlines (applications, enrolments, orientation, transition and beyond).||The countdown is on to Orientation Week at UWA (starting Mon 15 Feb 2010). To find out what activities are happening and what you need to do to get started at UWA visit [insert link].|
|'water cooler' commentary about campus life||Status updates and comments about life on campus including weather, food, parking etc to provide an insight into everyday life at UWA.||Another beautiful summer day at the UWA campus! Did anyone watch the cricket match on the James Oval today? The Premier's XI played a visiting team from Pakistan. Photos coming soon...|
|Connecting fans with UWA people and groups||Profiling key staff, services, Guild clubs etc and promoting ways students can get involved and interact with each other.||The UniSkills program kicks off next week with a 'Flying Start'. You can find out about the program here [insert link] as well as the huge range of programs run by Student Services here [insert link].|
|Broadcasting events||Promoting events before they occur and posting photos, podcasts, experiences, video and news items afterwards.||UWA joins Second Life! The UWA island will be launched next week by the School of Physics and you are invited to join the event in real-life or in the virtual world! Rsvp to [insert generic email address] Photos, animations and podcasts of the speeches will be available here [insert weblink].|
|Hosting stories and experiences||Embedding student blogs and making use of the Facebook 'office hours' feature where a staff member or notable student posts a video, fans post comments and the staff/student reply via video||Christopher Steytler talks about his new appointment as Winthrop Professor of Law at UWA in this video [post clip]. Chris is inviting questions and comments from Facebook fans. Chris will reply in a video that will be posted next week. Chris is the first guest staff member to be featured in 'UWA Facebook office hours'.|
|Showcasing student and staff work||Prize winners, Honours projects, visiting academics, etc||Congratulations to our students who did so well in the National Indigenous Tertiary Education Games that were held in Canberra last week. Watch an interview with our champion rowing team who blitzed ANU to take the title for the second year running [insert video].|
|Linking to other social media||Providing links to content produced by other areas of the University including UWA newsroom on Twitter, other Facebook pages and groups (PIAF, UWA Extension, Guild clubs), YouTube content etc.||The Perth International Arts Festival is fast approaching with a huge range of exciting acts coming to our city. PIAF have their own Facebook fan page at [insert link] so sign up for news updates, information about the performers and ticket prices.|
|Holding competitions||Generating interest around a particular topic by running polls, quizzes and contests.||The Facebook fan page is hosting a Link Week quiz! There will be a new question uploaded to this page every day during Link Week and the first Facebook fan to post 5 correct answers to the page will win a $100 Co-op book voucher. Full guidelines available here [insert link].|
|Friendly notification about 'must-know' information||Reminding and informing fans about (e.g.) travel alerts, swine flu, safety information etc.||Make sure you're safe on campus at night. With many students working late on projects and assignments it's good to remember that Campus Security officers are available to escort you to your car at night or can help your order a taxi to get home safely. Go to [for more information and contact details].|
To ensure broad consultation within the University, the SSETAG (Student Service Emerging Technologies Advisory Group) was established to act as a working party to brainstorm any issues relating to the use of Web 2.0 tools by the Student Services Division. The SSETAG brings together staff with an interest in the representation of the University online and includes staff from the Web Office, Information Technology Services, Legal Services, Public Affairs, UniAccess; the University's Disability Office (staff with a background in internet accessibility) and Student Support.
Dealing with fans who post content that may place the University in an unappealing light (for example, a personal opinion that is not libellous or offensive) requires greater intervention by page managers. The strategy used with the UWA Students page is to meet any such content head-on and to acknowledge that any online community will include a range of opinions and to remove this type of content would diminish the genuine nature of the page. All content posted to the UWA Students page has so far been positive, although not always worded in language that staff might prefer.
Evaluation data reveals that whilst the majority of UWA Students' fans live in Australia (76%) they are not all in the University's city of Perth with fans spread across the country in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne (Facebook asks users to nominate their closest major city). Internationally, almost 8% of fans are from Singapore where UWA delivers the majority of its offshore programs. Fans have also joined the page from Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia which represents the list of home countries of UWA's international, Study Abroad and Student Exchange students. The overall gender statistics show a 50:50 split between male and female fan numbers with 65% of fans falling into the 18-24 years age bracket which corresponds with the demographics of the UWA cohort (81% of UWA first year students are school-leavers). Whilst there are limited studies of the Facebook pages for individual institutions, Blue Fuego conducts a range of benchmarking studies (e.g. Ward, 2009) and evaluation of the UWA Facebook fan page is being guided by the principles outlined by Joly (2009) of outlining key performance indicators, measuring site traffic regularly and sharing result data. These findings will be released following the 2009 pilot phase of the project.
Cluett, L.J. (2009). Training professional staff in Web 2.0 - a program developed by UWA Student Services via the 'Online Student Journey' project. Paper presented at the Australian Tertiary Education Management - Student Services Centre Conference, held in Fremantle, WA, 23-24 April 2009.
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Skene, J. & Cluett, L. (2008). 'If you build it, they will come': The challenges of developing a social networking site in a university context. Paper presented at the First Year in Higher Education Conference, Hobart, Australia, 30th June - 2nd July 2008. Available from: http://www.studentservices.uwa.edu.au/page/85133 or at http://www.fyhe.qut.edu.au/past_papers/papers08/FYHE2008/content/pdfs/1c.pdf
Skene, J., Cluett, L. & Hogan, J. (2007). Engaging Gen Y students at university: What web tools do they have, how do they use them and what do they want? Refereed paper presented at the First Year in Higher Education conference, Brisbane, Australia, 3-6 July 2007. http://www.studentservices.uwa.edu.au/page/85133 or at http://www.fyhe.qut.edu.au/past_papers/papers07/final_papers/pdfs/2b.pdf
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|Author: Dr Lisa Cluett, Learning, Language and Research Skills, The University of Western Australia. Email: email@example.com
Please cite as: Cluett, L. (2010). Online social networking for outreach, engagement and community: The UWA Students' Facebook page. In Educating for sustainability. Proceedings of the 19th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 28-29 January 2010. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://otl.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2010/refereed/cluett.html
Copyright 2010 Lisa Cluett. The author assigns to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format, provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.