Thursday, 25 February 2010

We may indeed be reaching a wider audience

I blogged a few weeks ago asking the question How do I know if Twitter and Facebook has helped us reach a wider audience? Well, I did a little survey to follow up the original one (in which I neglected to ask questions that would help me understand if we were reaching a wider audience through this channel because I didn't know that was a question I wanted an answer to at that stage!). My suspicion was that we were reaching a wider audience via Twitter and Facebook but I didn't have the data to back that up. My feeling has been that traditionally students have engaged with Student Development when they had a problem, e.g. needed help with an essay or advice on career options, and proactive promotion of our service has been (in my opinion) quite limited.

So here are the three simple questions I asked in the follow-up survey.

Are you a... (university of Leicester student, student from another university, etc.)?

  • a campus based student at the University of Leicester - 27
  • a distance learning student at the University of Leicester - 6
  • a student from another university- 2
  • a member of staff at the University of Leicester - 1
  • a member of staff from another university - 0
  • other - 0
Not a big response - but pretty good I thought from just a couple of tweets over 24 hours requesting people to fill it in.

Were you aware of Student Development services at the University of Leicester before following us on Facebook or Twitter?

38% of respondents or 14 out of 46 (yeah I know, not a big sample group...) only knew a bit or nothing about our services before following us on Facebook or Twitter.

Has your awareness of Student Development services improved since following us on Facebook or Twitter?

I've grouped these results according to how they responded to the previous question regarding whether they were aware of our services before following us on Facebook or Twitter.

So everyone is learning more about our services as a result of following us on Facebook or Twitter - even those who said that they were already aware of our services before following us. And with 38% of respondents only knowing a bit or nothing about our services prior to following us on Facebook or Twitter I think I can tentatively say that we are we are beginning to reach a wider audience.

Finally, here are some of the comments respondents made in the 'Anything else you'd like to tell us' box (all of which were positive):
I think that the facebook page is a great idea and i have since spread the word to mates and got them to join.

More university news should be published this way.

Before I joined the course, was not aware but now when it is finished at last found student development zone was  there what I really need, have done better if had known at the start of the course.

It's very pleasant to see that the University of Leicester does use modern media/ways of communication to interact with its students. This shows that the university is highly professional and experienced when it comes to communicating with people all around the world.
So I'm quite pleased with that :)

(Note to self: next time I think I'll do a survey using Google forms and use one of their clever gadgets to display the results in real time)

[PS. I've had to amend this post because the embedded, published Google spreadsheet charts weren't displaying in either Firefox or Internet Explorer 7 (but were fine in Chrome). Anyone else ever had that problem?]

Friday, 12 February 2010

Chromed Bird

Just had a little twitter conversation with Alan re Chrome Bird. It went like this:

I said: 'Chrome bird is great - discrete and not intrusive but easy to use when you want it'

So here I am... I'm having to work from home today so I get to use the full version of Google Chrome rather than Chrome portable (which is I use at work because I don't have permsission to install the full browser). Chrome portable is great but I can't get it to do extensions (I'm told it does but I haven't had time to figure it yet). To get round this problem I've been using Twhirl but I've been finding its constant presence a bit annoying - especially when working on a small screen.  So as I'm working from home I thought I'd see what Chrome extensions had to offer.

You get a very long list of extensions if you just put 'Twitter' into the search box, but if you Google 'chrome extension twitter' - top of the list is Chromed Bird. And like I said on my tweet I think it's discrete and not intrusive but easy to use when you want it. It has loads in the options too.But then again, Gaz says that Free Bird is better.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Firefox portable, diigo and tagginganna

I'm currently involved in a project called Text Tagging: Searchable Reader-Commentary on e-Texts, and a Pedagogy of Implicit and Explicit Meaning. Otherwise known as tagginganna - which I've blogged about several times before. The tools we are currently experimenting with are and diigo. is proving relatively easy to use, from a student perspective at least, because it doesn't require users to download anything or sign up for anything. Diigo, on the other hand requires users to both create an account and install a toolbar. Creating an account in diigo is easy enough to do but installing a toolbar, when your students are forced to work on Internet Explorer 7 and don't have permissions, is more difficult. Getting the diigo toolbar officially installed across campus will take months and will also require evidence that diigo is useful. So how do we pilot software that we can't install? I think we've got round the problem by using Firefox portable on a USB stick. This is how:

  • I downloaded Firefox portable and saved it to a USB flash drive;
  • I then used these clever instructions to add Flash to Firefox portable (by default it doesn't come with it) just in case we need it at some point;
  • then I opened Firefox potable from the USB stick and added the diigo Firefox addon;
  • then I set the home page of Firefox portable to the site I want the students involved in the project to view first.

I've tried it out on a student account and it worked fine - Firefox opens up, Flash works and users are prompted to sign in to diigo or create an account via the tool bar Diigo - sign in button - which is handy.

I think it should work fine. Have I missed anything?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

How do I know if Twitter and Facebook has helped us reach a wideraudience?

A few weeks ago I blogged about the presentation I was doing with Matt Mobbs and David Morgan at the Learning Futures Festival on Engaging without invading (you can read the paper here if you're really interested). We presented the paper live online and took questions at the end. One of the most useful questions for me was about whether or not we thought we had reached not just a bigger audience (we currently have nearly 900 fans on our Student Development Facebook page and more than 300 on Twitter) but a different audience. That is to say, we were reaching a certain subset of students via more traditional methods to inform them about how Student Development could help them whilst at University but were we now reaching a different subset of students? My suspicion is that we are but the question is how can I get evidence to back this up?

Unfortunately I didn't ask any questions related to this in the first survey so I'm thinking of putting up a second quick survey or poll to get some additional information. I think the question should be something like:
Were you aware of how Student Development could help you during your time at the University of Leicester before following us on Facebook or Twitter?

But I don't want to ask the question wrongly - so what do you think?

While I'm at is I'm also thinking of asking:
Are you a distance learning student?

We suspect, from the Facebook statistics, that many of our followers are distance learning students - because they list their home towns as places other than Leicester (in fact, 44% from of them are outside the UK). But this doesn't necessarily mean they are distance learning students - they could be international students who are studying in Leicester.

So, are these the right questions to ask? Have I phrased them in the right way? Should I ask any other questions whilst I'm at it?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Why I really like Sreenr

This is just a quick post to say how useful I've been finding screenr lately. There are lots of reasons why I like screenr, here a just a few:
  • it doesn't require installation - so no need to bother IT Services;
  • it's really easy to use - no specialist expertise is required (I showed it to a non-tech colleague the other day and he couldn't believe how easy it was);
  • you can create basic screencasts quickly - like this one;
  • you can also create more polished screencast animations when combined with PowerPoint (or similar) - like this one;
  • you get options re how you want to publish it - including embedding (see image);
  • if you upload to YouTube you can even add closed captions - which I blogged about a while ago.
There are of course some downsides, so just to be balanced...
  • you have to have a Twitter account (but there's no reason why you can't set one up under a pseudonym and protect your updates);
  • you can't edit the screencast in screenr (but there is a pause button so you can take a breath - and if you downloaded the mp4 file I think you could edit it then);
  • there is a maximum time limit of 5 minutes (but this is a brilliant idea - any longer than 5 minutes is very dull!)