All posts by profkushin

A Guide To Setting Up Classroom Groups for Success: Team Evaluations (Part 2 of 3)

This is the second post in a 3-part series on how to set up teams to be successful.

I started this series with a question:

Should Students Be Able to Fire Teammates in a Class Project?

Again, in my classes, the answer to that question is “yes.”

setting-up-class-teams-for-success-peer-evaluation
Creative Commons Hernan Pinera

The first post looked at group contracts. If you haven’t read it, please go back and read it. If you have read it, let’s jump into the second, vital instrument I use to set groups up for success: Team evaluations (which I refer to in my classes as group report cards, but I will use the term team evaluations here).

A significant chunk of a student’s grade in my class is based on the evaluations made by her peers.

The more group work, the more I make these worth. A quick point about these before explaining how they work:

I do not release this grade to the students.  This is important because if a student thought her peers would know how she evaluated them, the student is less likely to be candid in her evaluation.

Team evaluations are based on research on team-based learning and the work of Larry Michaelson. I saw Michaelson present on this a few years ago during a pedagogy event held at Utah Valley University and have used this system ever since (note: the team-based learning approach I learned from Michaelson has had a big impact on how I approach teaching. For example, his work inspired my 2014 post on enhancing teamwork and in-class discussion). This is how I do it:

I provide students with a simple sheet of paper (an example to a similar scoring sheet can be found on p. 7 of this document) that includes instructions and scoring guidelines. They fill them out confidentially, and return them.

You can do team evaluations after each team assignment, or halfway through the semester and at the end, however you wish. The thing that makes these team evaluations unique and powerful is the unique math approach of the evaluation.

Usually, when you ask students to evaluate one another, there is a tendency to score everyone fairly well.  I’m not sure the reason why. Maybe it is that either they don’t want to be mean to someone else, that they simply don’t think too hard about it, or something else. Whatever the reason, a team evaluation where everyone receives about the same mark isn’t helpful to you, the professor.

In the way I do my evaluations, a student evaluates everyone but himself.  The student takes the total number of people in the group and subtracts himself. If there are 5 people total in the group, the number is 4. There is 10 points per student to distribute. So, in our example, multiply the number of students that one student would evaluate in a group of five, which is 4 (everyone but himself), by 10. There is a total of 40 points.

The student must distribute the 40 points among the 4 other students in his group (i.e., the students he is evaluating). And there’s only 1 rule: at least 1 student must get a 9 or lower, and at least 1 student must get an 11 or higher.

Why? This forces the students to really think about who did the most work, and who did the least. Giving points to one person is to take points away from someone else. This scarcity gets the students to take the evaluations seriously.

But your students probably won’t be happy about this. They’ll say, “Well that’s not fair.” So I explain them how and why, from my perspective, it is. A person who did more work deserves a better grade. And, I’ll explain that when I didn’t use a system like this, the students gave inflated scores to everyone in their team that did not reflect the reality they experienced. Importantly, I make a point to tell them that by giving someone a 9 you are not banishing that person to the Land of Bad Grades (this will make sense when you see the below).

Here’s how it works. In each example below, the team has 4 people in it. So each person is evaluating 3 other people:

If everyone did about the same work, students will score each other very closely.

Example:

John 11, Sally 10, Jim 9 (Jane is doing the evaluation)

But if someone was clearly doing a lot, or a little, it shows up:

John 7, Sally 10, Jim 13 (Jane is doing the evaluation)

Students get to explain their scores if they like.

Once collected, I add up the scores (from each evaluation of a student in a group) and divide by the highest score. Example: The highest score was John, he got a total of 28 points. Jim got a total of 22 points. So, John got a 100% (he did the most work, and went above and beyond others) and Jim gets 22/28=78%. That is, students are compared in relation to the person who does the most work. The person who does a lot of extra work, sets the bar high. Other students suffer if they also do not work hard. This is fairer to the student who does a lot of work.

If the work is distributed fairly evenly, then everyone is probably happy and they scored everyone like this:  John 11, Sally 10, Jim 9 (In fact, some very happy groups will conspire so that in the end everyone has the same score. I don’t stop this).

In this case, let’s say John has 33 (he got all 11s from the 3 people evaluating him). Jim ended up with 27 (3 9s, which is the lowest score possible if no one dipped below 9). He still got a B-, at 81.8%. And it is very unlikely that 1 person gets all the 11s and 1 person gets all the 9s in a group like this. And, if so, it’s because the team is saying Jim did less work.

In summary, this team evaluation approach is the fairest and easiest to conduct team evaluation I have ever done. The math takes care of itself and what emerges is a clear picture of who really did the extra work and who did not.

To me, using team evaluations throughout the semester on multiple projects is one of the most powerful tools i have. It is the ‘great equalizer’ that empowers those who did extra to level the playing field when it comes to grades. And, it is a shot in the arm to the students who did not pull their weight.

To see a sample evaluation form similar to what I use, see page 7 of this document from the team-based learning website.

Depending on how much of the grade you make team evaluations worth, it can sway students grades a one half of a letter grade, a full letter grade, or possibly more.

Now that students have the power to evaluate one another, they are also given the power to fire a teammate who is not doing his fair share of the work. In the next post, I’ll show you how firing a team member works. And, I’ll explain the modification I’ve made to offer students more options than just firing someone.

– Cheers!

m@

References: The above-mentioned pedagogy speaking event at Utah Valley University by Larry Michaelson used information drawn from his (2004) Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching. As stated above, the evaluation method described above is derived from that presentation and this book. I highly recommend checking out the website.

Here are 2 approaches to team evaluations from the team-based learning website.  Also, here are some criticisms of the zero-sum approach to team evaluations, such as that which I use.

 

A Guide To Setting Up Classroom Groups for Success: Group Contracts (Part 1 of 3)

Spoiler alert: The final blog post in this 3-part series about how to set up your class for success when working with groups will be titled:

Should Students Be Able to Fire Teammates in a Class Project?

In my classes, the answer is “yes.”

socialmediaprofs-cc-scaled500

If a student is not doing their share of the work in a group project, their teammates are empowered to fire that person.

I know what you’re thinking. “Are you serious!? What is this, The Apprentice? My students would be firing one another left and right.”

Put simply, my classes live and die by the success of groups. Every class I teach relies heavily on group work. That’s why I put a great deal of effort into team building and establishing avenues, assignments, and protocols to hold groups accountable.

The good news is that I have only had a group fire a team member a very few times in the 5.5ish years I’ve been using this (2 at UVU, 3.5ish here at Shepherd). And I do a lot of group projects.

To me, there are two reasons why I haven’t seen a lot of instances of a student being fired from a group. They are:

1) The way I set up groups in my classes

2) The fact that I teach in a small program where students will see each other in many classes and thus may not want to risk social ties in an intimate learning environment.

In the below post and in two follow up posts, I will explore both of these concepts. First, let’s look at how I set up groups for success:

Setting Up Groups For Success

At the beginning of the semester, when we form our groups, I start with an ice breaker. I use something fun. But the key is that everyone in the group has to arrive at one answer for the group. For example, I’ve had students write a group haiku on how they spent their summer. Or, I’ve had them come up with their collective answer for the greatest movie, TV show, and album of all time.  I’ve had them come up with the one meal they would all eat if they were stuck on a deserted island and the survival tools they’d agree to bring. With this in place, some of the walls have been broken down and the group environment is relaxed and welcoming.

Next, I have students write group contracts. It’s group building 101. These set group norms and empower the group to set expectations and a culture of inclusiveness.

What goes into group contracts:

  1. Names and contact info
  2. The dates they are available to meet outside of class – to eliminate excuses.
  3. Group rules

In terms of group rules, I tell the students that the rules they set in these are the basis of what they have to fire someone else. For example, if they say “don’t miss meetings without letting others know,” and someone repeatedly misses meetings, he/she could be fired for that offense. If someone is doing something in the group and it wasn’t in the contract, then did they really break a rule (save, not doing their work, of course)? In a lot of ways, this essential step mitigates the likelihood that we will have any group problems in the future.

Therefore, in making their group contracts, students are keenly aware that the contract is directly tied to their ‘survival’ in the group.

Students spend a good 10 minutes or so talking these things through. The really powerful thing is that students will express what frustrates them about group work BEFORE it becomes an issue. I hear things like, “I really hate it when people ignore your texts and a project is due the next day. Even if your reply is simply to let everyone know you are sick and can’t do the work or be at the meeting, just reply. Be honest. And tell everyone. That way, we can make a plan.”

The students are, in short, putting their cards on the table in an open, collaborative environment where they aren’t being judged because no one has broken a rule. This open communication lets everyone know the things they could do that would bother or harm a fellow teammate. Armed with this information, they have greater respect for group members and an opportunity to reflect on how their behavior could impact others. This simple 10 minute exercise can reduce the likelihood that such behaviors happen. That saves your students time, produces better work, and saves you time and headaches.

I collect all of the group contracts and make a photocopy so everyone has one. I keep the original, signed contract for each group.

The group contract  sheet is below! I’ll be discussing items #2 and #3 in upcoming blog posts. Item #1 is a department-wide policy. Note that the term “group report card” in the sheet below is synonymous with team evaluations.

The second instrument I use is team evaluations. A significant chunk of a student’s grade in my class is based on the evaluations made by their peers.  In the next post, I’ll talk about group evaluations and the unique way that I use them.

Then, in the third post, I’ll get into the drama – how I empower my students to fire one-another from their teams and what happens when they do.

In the meantime, remember: “Empowered students do powerful things.”

— Cheers

m@

 

Must Read Book: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (Book Review)

There are books you want your students (and everyone else who works in communication!) to read, and there are books they must read.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath falls into the must read category. Here’s why:

made-to-stick-heath-heath

Made to Stick addresses the challenge of getting ideas across in the age of content barrage. In the hyper-connected social world, we need to take to heart the communication skills the authors address in this book.

The book advocates that communicators focus on SUCCES – or building ideas that are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Stories.

Of course, some of these ideas you’ve heard elsewhere, like the power of storytelling. You’ve probably heard about consumer identity before, such as this Seth Godin quote PRNews posted to Instagram recently.

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But, there are important reminders, great examples, tips, and even exercises for helping you not just talk the talk about creating stories with your students, but jump in with them as they create memorable messages.

Here’s a quick rundown of the SUCCES model.

Simple = core idea+ compact (few words).  Think of proverbs like “waste not, want not” – rules of thumb that help guide individual decisions. Simple ideas aren’t dumbed down. They are made accessible.

Unexpected – Common sense is a waste of breath.Yet, we see it all the time, especially in employee communication. Think training manuals: “Try to defuse conflict…”  The idea has to be novel and break conventional wisdom. One of my favorite phrases from the book is: “Imagination is flight simulation for the mind.” Think about how true that is and how it brings existing schema together. But saying, imagination is practice is simple but it is not unexpected and not concrete.

Concrete – Make abstract ideas (e.g., statistics) concrete. Don’t simply tell, show by putting the person into the experience.

Credible – Your wisdom of communicator credibility gives you a start. But the book offers more than what typically comes to mind, such as spokespersons and influencers.

everything-is-awesome

Emotional – Emotions make people care.  As Josef Stalin once said, “One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic.” Focus on individuals, they are easier to relate to. Interestingly, our overuse of certain terms deludes their emotional impact. The authors call this ‘semantic stretch.’ If everything is awesome, nothing is awesome (Sorry Emmet from the Lego movie). New phrases are sometimes needed to reboot  emotional connections.

Stories – Creating stories can be challenging. But, there are many inspiring stories all around us. Professional communicators often fail to see them. The book cites the Jared weight-loss story and the  “Subway diet” ad that made Jared a household name years ago. At the time, Subway had a competing ad campaign about the number of subs that were low in fat (stats). No one remembers that.  But the story of the “Subway diet” and Jared almost never saw the light of day were it not for a few persistent people. The book talks about effective plots and finding the story.

This book goes hand in hand with what we are working to help our students do. or, as the authors put it, get people to: Pay Attention, Understand and Remember, Believe and Agree, Care, and Act.

Using This Book In Your Teaching:

Students are more distracted than ever. You better bring the superglue to your classes.

Educators themselves, Heath and Heath provide several examples of how these ideas can apply to the classroom.  In fact, there is a section in the back specifically for teachers. Read this book to help you make your classes a bit stickier. It sure helped me.

Using This Book In Class:

There are many ways you could incorporate this text. It could be used in an intro course, a persuasion course, or any number of other courses where students will get to apply what they are learning in the book into class exercises or projects. I’m thinking about making it a required text in my Strategic Campaigns class next year. Ideally, I’d like to get these ideas into their hands earlier in their schooling.But, for me, the book just seems to fit best in that class. It’s going to be a fun addition and I think the students will really benefit.

While reading the book last semester, I would come into class and start talking about topics from the book like “Creating mystery.” I’d stand before my students as they worked on their campaign proposal pitches and talk about how they can build stronger hooks for their pitch. In creating campaign themes and slogans, we talked about SUCCES.  These were off-the-cuff. Next year, I plan to integrate specific ideas into the class and plan activities for students to apply concepts to deconstruct real world examples as well as build their own messaging.

I’ve also used reinforcement from this book in my professional work outside the classroom.

Whether you use this book in your classes directly, use it to reinforce what you already know or learn new ideas, apply it to your own professional communication, or use it ramp up the superglue in your classroom, I think you’ll find it a worthwhile read.

This is the best book I read last year. It’s a must read for communication professionals, professors, and students.

-Cheers!

Matt

Lego characters property of the Lego Group. Book logo property of Random House.

 

Study Explores Hootsuite University in the College Classroom

Frequent readers of this blog know that I’ve been using Hootsuite University in my social media class for some time now.  But, how does using Hootsuite University impact social media learning?

hootsuitehigheredprogram

That’s the broad question I set out to explore in a research study co-authored with professors Emily S. Kinsky, Karen Freberg, Carolyn Kim, and William Ward.

Our study was recently published in the Journal of Public Relations Education, after being presented as the top teaching research paper in the Public Relations Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication last August.

Hootsuite summarized the article and its findings in a blog post titled “Social Media Education Empowers the Next Generation of Marketing Mavens.”

I’m honored and pleased with reactions to the study thus far.  To date, the Slideshare version of the article (embedded below) has received over 3,700 views since its publication about a week ago.

You can also read the study online or download the PDF via its page on Journal of Public Relations Education’s website.

What’s Changing? My Writing Across Platforms students will write for BuzzFeed and More in Spring 2016. Oh, And here’s the syllabus!

Each semester, I like to highlight something that I’m doing different in one of my classes (for example, see last Fall’s What’s Changing post).

This semester, I’d like to highlight my Writing Across Platforms class (the syllabus is at the bottom of this post). I’ve been teaching this class every spring for the last few years. So, what’s changing?

Neon_sign,_-CHANGE-

There are two super awesome things I’m very excited about. Both of them are part of an effort to strengthen the emphasis on writing for hypertargeted, niche audiences online as well as an effort to provide more experiences for students that break down the walls of the classroom. I want to help my students get their work in front of more eyes and have better things to add to their portfolio.

The first new project is that my class will be teaming up with an up and coming niche publication that describes itself as ‘a social news and entertainment platform.’ The owner and editor of the publication will be visiting our class to discuss the publication and the sort of content he is looking for.  Using these guidelines, students will be tasked with creating content that the owner will have the option to publish. Therefore, students will be incentivized to give their best as the opportunity to earn a byline on this site would be a great line on their resume! It will be a challenge for students to essentially work for an editor and face the editor’s decisions, in addition to getting a grade from their professor.

But before students have this opportunity, they will go through another exciting challenge that will help them prepare. Students will be creating BuzzFeed articles via the BuzzFeed community. I am super stoked about this assignment! Students are going to not only have a chance to create a piece of content that – well, honestly – might actually be read by a sizable audience as opposed to just me, but they’ll also be working to promote and track the post’s metrics.

I first heard about the assignment a few years ago from Tweeting with Scott Cowley. Scott is a marketing Ph.D. student at ASU, a super nice guy, and a rising star. He published his BuzzFeed Valentine’s assignment. And I’ve been wanting to try it ever since. On his website, Scott lets you download the assignment itself and see his slides on how he set it up. Scott also wrote a great article detailing the assignment on Mark W. Schaefer’s blog (I’ve reviewed a few of Mark’s books on this blog. And Mark has been a guest lecture in my social media class).

I’m going to vary the assignment slightly from what Scott did. While Scott’s assignment focuses on Valentine’s Day, my students will be creating content around spring break. This is a bit of a risk and simply a matter of timing for my syllabus. I will be sure to write a post later in the semester about how the experiment goes.

What Did I Shift Around to Add These Assignments?

You’re probably wondering what I had to drop from prior semesters to fit these new assignments in. This class is, after all, packed with things to cover.

In the past, such as in my Spring 2015 syllabus, I have had a blogging assignment where students picked an organization of their choice. They created a content calendar of blog posts and social media posts. And then they wrote the 5 blog posts as though they represented that organization. In short, this was the assignment I did to focus on content marketing.

This semester, I am dropping the blogging part of this. I’ve also pulled back on the desktop layout requirements of my white paper assignment. I used to require students to learn basic desktop layout in Apple Pages during the last few days of classes while working on their white paper. I was never very pleased with this aspect of the assignment. It isn’t about writing, for one. Though, I wanted students to at least have some exposure to basic layout. That portion will be covered elsewhere in our department (I think we all face these sorts of issues. There is so much we want to cover and so little time. We sometimes try to force something in. We try to be superhero professors. 🙂 And, we are better off offering depth at the expense of breadth sometimes). With those days freed up, there will be more time to focus on these new assignments.

Here is the Spring 2016 Syllabus for my Writing Across Platforms course.

-Cheers!

m@

 

Where is the missing Google Cardboard Photo Sharing App?

Everyone seems to be talking about VR these days.

For Christmas, my brother gave me a Google Cardboard. It took no time for me to see why VR is all the rage and is set to take off in 2016.

Simply put: Google Cardboard = Amazing.

one-cardboard

While the Cardboard isn’t perfect – I can’t wear it too long without getting a bit of a headache and the picture is blurry – the experience is amazing. I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t found anywhere to share Google Cardboard photos. The camera itself doesn’t offer a photo sharing social network. And I haven’t found any despite a few hours of searching. The best possibility seems to be Google Street View. But that experience is a bit impersonal, aimed at locations rather than the intersection of people and locations.

As a hiker, I love the idea of being able to bring the experience of Maryland Heights to others. I’m expecting that a social network for exploring the world in VR is right around the corner. And I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to offer a more intimate photo sharing experience than what’s available via Instagram and other 2D apps. The ability to feel that you are a part of the world someone else has captured is to step into their experiences, their memories, their world.

Right now, there seems to be a few panorama photo sharing networks, like SphereShare.net but it lacks VR.  And YouTube has some amazing VR videos. Seene lets you use Cardboard to see 3D images, but they are the result of an effect and not a fully immersive, 360 experience. Flickr has a VR app coming for Oculus (If a social VR photo app does exist and I’m just not finding it, let me know!) And vTime is supposedly going to be the first VR social network, where people can build virtual realities and travel those created by others.

In the meantime, for fun, I thought I’d share a VR photo I took using Google Cardboard Camera during a hike to Maryland Heights, the famous overlook at the Harpers Ferry National Park near where I teach.

Download the photo here.

If you want to view the photo in VR, you’ll need the Google Cardboard app on IOS or Android. Follow the simple instructions here to download it for viewing in your Google Cardboard Camera app.

About the photo:

The photo was taken atop Maryland Heights in January, 2016. Across from you is historic Harpers Ferry, WV. Maryland heights is a famous hike in Maryland that is part of the Harpers Ferry National Park. The river between you and Harpers Ferry below is the Potomac River. The river to the south (to the left of Harpers Ferry) is the Shenandoah River. Virginia is on the other side of the Shenandoah River. So, in this photo you can see three states. This is the confluence of the two rivers and the river continues as the Potomac, the same river that Washington, D.C. is on many miles downstream.  Enjoy!

What are your thoughts and predictions for VR in 2016 and the years ahead? How will VR marry with social networking?

Clearly, we are on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to VR.

-Cheers

Matt

 

 

What Happens When You Put Your Students In Charge of Your Department’s Social Media? (My Fall 2015 Social Media Class Project In Review)

The new semester has started here at Shepherd University. There is a lot I have planned and am looking forward to. But first, I want to look back at my Comm 322 Social Media class from last fall, Fall 2015.

As you know, I’ve been teaching a social media class for many years. I was constantly tweaking the assignments. In Fall 2014, I took a new approach. The class was going to be put in charge of strategizing and creating content for our department’s social media (Twitter, Instagram, Blog). The way it works is, there are a series of assignments throughout the semester that all build towards  (You can learn more about the project and my rationale for it here. And you can learn about the first strategy assignment that goes along with that, here).

The project was a huge success and hit with the students. Students resoundingly responded that they learned a lot, loved the hands-on opportunities, and encouraged me to continue on with it in the future. Here’s a look at how the first year went! I decided to stick with the project this past fall, when I taught the course again.

Several professors have since contacted me asking about the project. So, I thought I’d review how things went in Fall 2015:

 

Original Content – This past semester, I really put an emphasis on creating original content. The year before, the Twitter team in particular, relied on curating content, such as memes and news article. While curating is a powerful and important skill, I wanted more. This year, students delivered 10 fold. You’ll see that in all of the below, but let’s focus on the Twitter team first.

The social media class assignment follows a theme. The theme for 2015 was that the Communication Department is “Shepherd University’s Best Kept Secret.” The reason is that our department is located in a part of the building that students don’t normally pass through. When students wander into our department they see our new TV studio and Mac labs, and say “Wow, I didn’t even know this was here!”

To address this, the Twitter team presented an idea to the class to produce a series of narrative episodes telling the story of a student who is being introduced to the communication department for the first time. They wanted it to be fun, silly, and a story – something students might actually relate to and watch (as an aside, I’ve got a blog post coming out soon about the importance of story in making ideas stick. Stay tuned!). They felt too many people try to show something with boring photos or videos. Ex: “This is our TV studio. It has x number of cameras, etc.” While universities feel good that they make these types of videos, students find them boring and tune out. On social media, people want to be entertained while they learn. So the students came up with the #CommCrusaders,  a series of 30-second Twitter videos (30 seconds is the max length) that were published throughout the semester about this student learning about our department. The videos were supported by teaser photos. Here’s the first episode:

In each video, the #CommCrusaders (a group of 3 students) introduce the new student to the computer lab, our TV studio, our classes, our classrooms, etc. For example, during the Halloween season a series of videos introduces the new student to each of our curriculum concentrations via a fairy visiting the new student in her dreams. In short, through the course of the semester the #CommCrusaders acculturate the student to our department, its culture, and what it has to offer.

For example, here’s a video they produced helping the new student prepare for finals week:

At the end of the semester, the student changes her major to Communication. The videos were a bit goofy at times. But, the class and I believed in the idea that the students presented and I wanted to encourage students to take risks and go for it – that’s what a university classroom is, a laboratory for experimentation. Plus, social media must “be a little weird” and take calculated risk to stand out. The videos certainly brought personality to the Twitter account, which had been lacking in the past.  I’m extremely proud of the planning, production, hard work, and execution of the students in the #CommCrusaders Twitter team. They were absolutely dedicated to the project and showed true imagination in problem solving.

Aligning Content With Strategy – The Instagram team wanted to change the look and feel of our Instagram account. In building their strategy and conducting a social media audit of other communication departments at similar universities, the students saw a gap. Our department is small and our space is small. But, communication students’ lives at Shepherd extends beyond the classroom. The Instagram team wanted to show the life of a Shepherd Comm student and the opportunities and experiences. The students brought more color and more life to the posts. Not only that, they developed a plan for a virtual tour around campus, called “A Day in the Life” to take fans to many places on and off campus that relate to the life of a Comm students. This tour ran throughout the semester. It consisted of a map teasing fans about what was to come, then a video post walking to that location, and then an interview with a key figure at that location.

Shepherd_University_Comm_Dept___sucomm__•_Instagram_photos_and_videos

Oh, and they had a fun video too.

 

Metrics – Metrics were up for our blog, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Students were required to report their stats throughout the semester. They used Twitter analytics, Sumall.com (which changed to a paid model halfway through the semester) and WordPress blog stats.

SUComm-Halloween-contest

A major boost in followers and likes came for the Instagram team during their Halloween pumpkin carving contest. The students approached me and said they wanted to run a contest to promote the account. Persons were invited to carve a pumpkin and tag SUComm to enter. To promote the week-long contest, word was put out to via residents halls, comm classes, and the students were able to secure a promotional post on the university-wide Instagram account. The account picked up about a dozen followers from this fun activity, all of which were in our target audience: Shepherd students both inside and outside the department. Finalists were chosen, then a winner, and the winner received a goodie bag. She had her photo taken with our class. All of this was, of course, posted to our Instagram account.

Content Quality – The quality of the content has also continued to go up. In 2014, the Instagram team had some limiting audio issues with their interview videos. The production value was higher in 2015. All content, including the #CommCrusader videos were shot on smart phones and edited on a laptop.

Providing Value to the Audience Rather Than Simply Promoting – The blog team had a tough assignment. Students aren’t big readers of blog posts. It is fun to create multimedia. But, text?! The blog team, I think, was a bit envious of the other teams  (more on that below). Yet, they did a great job. One thing I really liked was their idea for #TechThursday, to provide tips for using software that is used in classes in our department. The blog team started off a bit too salesy and seemed to struggle a little with the idea of content marketing. But, their #TechThursday posts helped the team see how they can add value to the audience as opposed to hitting them over the head with the hard sell.

Areas For Improvement – One area of weakness, was that the teams did not collaborate as well as they did in 2014. For example, in 2014, the teams worked well with each other to create content that was cross-platform such that if an Instagram video was being created about a professor, there was a corresponding blog post, and Tweets that added additional information not available on the other platforms. This year, there was only 1 instance of different platforms working together. 2015 students got stuck in platform silos.

Another area that I need to think about is the blog. Twitter and Instagram are fun social media that the students engage with often. Driving people, particularly students, to a blog post is more difficult. So, I felt that the blog team got the short end of the stick in a way. I’ve stuck with the blog because blog writing is an important skill. And, also because I don’t want to start creating social media accounts on every possible social platform and then be stuck trying to run them or let them turn into ghost properties. It is simply a lot to manage. But, I need to think next year about whether to stick with the blog or try SnapChat, Vine, or a different social platform.

The 2015 students attacked this project. Each team took on extra work beyond what was required of them and produced extra work. The Instagram team planned and executed the Halloween contest and created extra content during the holidays not because it was required by me; they came to me with these ideas. The Twitter team created several more videos than what was required in the total amount of content they needed to produce. I believe this is a sign of a successful assignment. The students took their jobs as representatives of our department seriously. They integrated what they were learning in class into practice, and were held accountable to their metrics goals.

I’m so proud of all of the students in my Fall 2015 social media class. I’m excited to see what they will come up in other classes of mine in the future and the amazing things they will accomplish in their careers! I expect big things out of them!

I am also looking forward to continuing to build on this project and improve it.

If you have any questions about the project and how it all works, check out the blog posts linked above, or you can browse my 2014 syllabi that contains this project and all past posts about my social media class. You can always Tweet me if you have questions.

Hope your Spring 2016 is off to a great start!

-Cheers

Matt