On 18 August 2014, four recent LJMU English graduates and I are starting work on a project which has been a long time coming, and this seems like the right moment to share with you all what we’re hoping to do, as well as giving you an idea of how and why we want to achieve it. A few months ago, I was awarded LJMU Curriculum Enhancement funding, which generously enabled me to recruit four paid student interns to work with me on a project that would enhance both their work experience and the student experience at LJMU more widely. The project I proposed – “Social Media Skills for Students” – was motivated by the fact that social media skills have become an integral aspect of the competencies expected of graduates in the job market in the digital age. Academic staff are increasingly encouraged to use forms of assessment to develop these competencies, including the use of blogs, Wikis, and other modes of social media. Yet, I found that fairly little space within the undergraduate curriculum is currently being dedicated to ensure that students are fully trained in these areas, to the point that they are able both to feel confident with these alternative forms of assessment and can demonstrate their digital literacy and creativity when entering the job market.
As part of LJMU’s dedication to embedding work-related learning in the curriculum, I’ve been running a module “Express Yourself: Presentation & Social Media Skills” every since I started at LJMU two years ago. Next to equipping students with professional presentation skills for interviews and other areas of public speaking, it teaches students to establish, maintain, and manage a professional online presence via a WordPress blog, and profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social and professional networking sites, allowing them to showcase their abilities and experience to potential employers and collaborators. Students are taught how to create and design their own free blog as well as how to write posts for various audiences, and gain a readership for their selected content via social networking and microblogging, taking into account key criteria such as the purpose of their online presence and their intended audience.
Social Media Skills for Students is a bigger project which builds on this successful module by creating a resource that extends beyond the English undergraduate programme at LJMU and that is accessible and useful to all students within and outside the university. Through a central dedicated website, students will be able to draw on guides and exercises devised to maximize their digital literacy and provide them with a professional online presence that can function as a significant aid in their career development and prospects. Though in the first instance the project will focus upon the particular needs, skills and interests of Arts and Humanities students, it is hoped that it will serve as a model for the development of this kind of resource in other fields. By funding this new resource LJMU continues its dedication to graduate employability and work-related learning, providing its own undergraduate students with invaluable skills and advice for their professional development, and leading the way in addressing the emerging training needs of Arts and Humanities graduates in the digital world, and in a tough economic climate in which a professional online presence can be crucial in forging employment opportunities.
Of course what we don’t want to do is reinvent the wheel. I’m perfectly aware that there are existing resources out there, both for students and lecturers, which explain the benefits and workings of various social media platforms. What Social Media Skills for Students hopes to do is to pool these resources by providing a comprehensive website which hosts existing as well as new how-to guides for the most popular forms of social media, which provides first-hand experiences, opinions, and advice by students and staff who use social media in teaching, learning, research, and other professional capacities, as well as showcasing inspiring content created by students and lecturers.
If you think your blog, guide, or social media account should be included on Social Media Skills for Students, then please, please get in touch and help us create what we hope will really make a difference to the ways in which students learn how to use social media to their advantage and as a professional tool. Equally, if you would like to contribute a post to our site about your experience of teaching social media skills, using social media skills in the classroom (as a student or as a lecturer), or boosting your graduate profile through social media, please let us know by emailing us with your ideas. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as by tweeting us via @Soc_Med_Skills. We can’t wait to get started, and we hope to launch Social Media Skills for Students at the start of the new semester at LJMU.
Helping me with this rather ambitious project are my four graduate interns, who, unbeknownst to them, shall soon become known as the fantastic four. All of them have recently finished their English degrees at LJMU, and submitted impressive applications and delivered excellent interviews for the internship positions. They are:
Marnie Buckley (@MarnieBuckley), BA (Hons) in English, Media, & Cultural Studies
Cleo Chalk (@LitLethargy), BA (Hons) in English with Creative Writing (LJMU)
John England, BA (Hons) in English (LJMU)
Sarah Louise Hanson, BA (Hons) in English, Media, & Cultural Studies (LJMU)
So, while we roll up our sleeves, please help us by following, sharing, and getting involved – we can’t wait to hear from you, and we can’t wait to get started!