About This Guest Post
In today’s guest post Tom Wright, Director of Digital Student Life at the University of Lincoln, summarises the challenges of institutional use of student-created content – a topic Tom will be revisiting in a workshop session at the IWMW 2017 event.
Developing Institutional Use of Student-created Content
My role at the University of Lincoln involves developing the use of student-produced content on web, social media and video platforms to encourage engagement and to give an authentic, realistic window on university life to prospective students and offer-holders. At the same time, this also gives students valuable experience outside of their courses and helps them build a stronger online profile to support their CVs.
However, working with students to produce content is far from straightforward and I’ve had to work hard to overcome a number of barriers.
Governance and Editorial Oversight
One key challenge is getting the balance right between enabling the student voice and guiding them as to what they should and shouldn’t be saying. Do you really want your student bloggers to talk about how bad the food is in their hall of residence or how they don’t like a particular tutor? Universities also have a legal responsibility to ensure that information that they publish about courses, such as contact time and graduate outcomes, is accurate and not misleading. There is also a risk of them using copyrighted material. It can be a tricky balance, but as long as clear guidance and some training is given, and staff resource is allocated to oversee and approve student content before it’s published, then reputational risks can be mitigated.
Publishing rough-and-ready content produced using mobile devices on institutional websites requires a shift in what is acceptable, but a level of quality still needs to be maintained. Content still needs to be audible and subtitled, and also convey the right messages.
Students are only on campus for around 30 weeks in the year and, for a good chunk of that time, they’re focused on exams or coursework. Many will have time to take on content production, but they will have to fit this around their timetable which can make scheduling work for them difficult. The best approach to counteract this is to look at bite-size projects that they can take on at any time in their schedule – producing a blog or a vlog only takes an hour or two and a student can do this at whatever time is convenient to them. Just make sure that you quality check it if they produce it at 2 in the morning!
Student content producers will require co-ordination and the content that they produce will need checking and editing. One solution is to make use of recent graduates although these themselves do also need managing and steering so there is no escape from the fact that staff resource is essential for this to function effectively.
Reward Your Students
Students should be rewarded in some way – as well as being a sound principle, this also ensures that they do the work and are more likely to follow guidelines. The reward could take the form of payment or, if budget is tight, then you could use an employability award scheme or, depending on the nature of the courses at your university, you could look at using the best student-produced coursework – as long as you have their consent to do so. Competitions can also be a useful way of generating content.
It’s also worth remembering that not all students make good bloggers or video producers. Make sure that you get students to write a sample blog or film a brief clip before letting them loose on producing content on your behalf. You’re looking for a natural, relaxed writing or filming style that balances humour with creativity.
Conciseness and simplicity are also key as students often over-elaborate and write in an academic style and tone that they feel the University expects of them. They need to feel confident enough to be themselves and not pretend to be something that they’re not and not every student has the maturity to do that. When you find students that do, nurture and treasure them, as the content they produce will prove invaluable!
Tom Wright is an experienced marketing and communications professional with expertise in digital strategy and campaign planning in the Higher Education sector with a particular interest in student collaboration and user-generated content.
Tom is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a regular speaker at national and international conferences, both within and outside the HE sector. Tom’s role at the University of Lincoln involves developing student collaboration strategically to enhance teaching and learning and the student experience via digital tools and channels.
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