This project aimed to set up a social media site and student editorial board where first year Biomedical and Life Sciences (BLS) students could contribute to forum posts, write articles and share experiences. Alongside this, the students have the opportunity to develop their employability skills as well as gain valuable information they would need in the second year of study.
Jed Winstanley, a BLS student, has spent the summer working on this project, he has:
- designed a questionnaire regarding social media usage amongst students
- distributed the questionnaire via Facebook, collated responses and performed data analysis
- Researched information from the literature and other blog sites across a range of disciplines, regarding useful features for social media sites
- Decided on the final format of the blog based on questionnaire responses, literature and other research.
View Jed’s Data Analysis of 63 responses from the questionnaire
The BLS social media blog site format should take certain aspects from the Lancaster LEC blog (see the picture below) as enhancing employability is our main focus.
The Lancaster LEC blog is very professional and easy to look at so any contributions by students can easily be searched and accessed by future employers if a Google name search is performed (I am not sure if that actually takes place but a student could always recommend this at an interview to demonstrate particular skills). It is for this same reason I believe a students’ first name and degree scheme should be displayed at the top of their contributions as opposed to anonymised names (which received the highest number of votes in the survey).
Certain aspects should also be taken from the Leicester student blogs (see picture below) such as the text font and background as it is a bit more informal so would encourage students to use the site. I like the idea of pictures next to contributions but I believe that may put some off contributing.
Emphasising the fact that contributing to the blog can be used to enhance employability from the start will be important – in answer to the question ‘Which of the following would make you most likely to contribute?’ the response ‘Knowledge that blog contributions could help demonstrate skills (such as scientific reading comprehension, critical thinking and writing skills) to employers’ received the most votes. Also the question asking ‘Would you be interested in joining the editorial team?’ received pretty much a 50:50 split between ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
In terms of blog features, each option given in the survey should be included: an advert section (for summer internships/placements, events related to BLS); an article/comment section (examples of topics to write about should be given when inviting contributions – e.g. a topic that excites you, a topic relevant to syllabus, experiences during a placement/internship or field trip, university/social life in general); photograph/video section – for lab/field work; an interview section – academics, alumni, PhD students; and a review section – maybe a suggested book and student commentary.
To allow easy contributions and link in social media sites, an account for the blog site should be created on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram (as these sites were the most popular) and advertised on the blog site. Students can then use their own social media accounts to send contributions via this account and the editorial team (who can all access the accounts) can sort through and upload to the blog site. The social media accounts for the blog should be listed on the site and can be utilised to raise awareness for the blog.
Next Steps for the BLS project
Jed has now produced the blog site in WordPress and has included his first blog in the ‘about us’ section: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/bls-student-blog/
Christine Shirras and Rod Dillon, the academics who worked with Jed, are now looking to put together an editorial team who will be able to look after the blog site from now on. Next year, Christine will provide an update on how the project is going and lessons learned.