A guest blog post from Sheffield Hallam University Business and Technology students working within the SMASH team. A student partnership group researching Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam.
As we enter into the second semester of university (or the last semester for final year students), with the cold weather upon us and deadlines looming – it is often difficult for students participating in group work to all be in the same place at the same time for meetings.
The SMASH team (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam) last year wrote a blog post following their struggles of meeting up as a group after the #BeastFromTheEast disrupted travel across the UK. This year, the team have decided to build upon this post, and create more ideas and suggestions into tools for remote collaboration. Not only does this list build upon some of the tools mentioned in the previous post, and demonstrating how these have been implemented within the students’ own courses; but also introduces new tools, which have been researched and used first-hand to ensure they are useful and sufficient for use by both staff and students.
8 Apps for Remote Collaboration
How it can be used
Trello can be used to create Kanban style boards for group work. Users are able to create bespoke categories and add and move notes added to these. ‘Power-ups’ can also be downloaded, adding additional features to the Trello boards, including Google Calendars (mentioned below), and imagery such as ‘gifs’ and popular survey sites such as ‘SurveyMonkey’.
How to get started
Create a Trello account & add users to the board, setting privacy settings where necessary. Start building categories and notes within these, adding additional features where you see fit. Adjust the Trello board as you continue through a project.
Google applications contain a wide variety of collaboration tools, spanning from Google Drive, where shared folders, documents and presentation slides can be added; to Google Calendar where group meetings and Google Hangouts can be organised, for when students are not able to meet up at the same time or for staff to plan Academic Adviser meetings.
How to get started
More examples of Google Apps can be found below, including Google Trips maybe for a student organised trip and Google Duo which could be used for one-to-one meetings between students and staff.
Google Hangout is a free Google application, which can be used for messaging and video-chatting amongst staff and students. As an alternative to Whatsapp (which requires a mobile number to add contacts and create groups), this application only requires an email address to begin contact. You can also add Google Hangout as a Google Chrome extension, and allow notifications for constant communication between groups and individuals.
How to get started
You can either download the Google Hangout app on your phone or alternatively download the extension quickly from the Google Play store. Alternatively for Sheffield Hallam users you can search for the tool on Blackboard, and login automatically with your SHU credentials (and access the SHU student and staff directory).
Facebook Messenger is a free messaging app which is used for instant messaging, setting plans, sharing photos and videos and many other additions Messenger provides for group communication. Messenger also has a video and call option which allows for group calls and meetings in real time. This tool is used widely by students as it’s part of Facebook so your contacts are instantly linked with the account or you can choose to message new contacts.
How to get started
To get started simply download the Messenger app from the website and it will redirect you to the right system you need to download for your device.
Github is a tool for developers which allows you to work on code, to host and review projects you are working on and build software alongside other developers who are working on parts of the code and creating a final software solution that works. GitHub brings teams together to work through problems, move ideas forward, and learn from each other along the way. The GitHub tool allows you to write better code, manage your chaos & finds the right tools to help you.
GitHub can be joined for free, all you need to do is sign up with the link above, which gives you unlimited public repositories, unlimited private repositories, 3 collaborators for private repositories, issues and bug tracking as well as project management which is more than enough for a beginning non-business team.
Further support and info about more features within GitHub and what you can do with it
How it can be used
Zoom is an audio and video collaboration tool, wherein students & staff can organise virtual meetings – if they’re based at home or in another location, rather than having to meet face-to-face at the same time. Online video meetings, video webinars (for student or tutor presentations or marketing events for open days) & zoom rooms (collaboration-enabled conference rooms) can all be used within this tool.
How to get started
For meetings which have already been set up, use this link to join: https://zoom.us/join (entering a meeting ID)
Or to host a meeting, sign up to Zoom https://zoom.us/signup, and follow the ‘Host a Meeting’ link to choose which service you would like to use. There are unlimited free 1 to 1 meetings and up to 40 free mins for group meetings.
The primary use for this tool is to maintain remote relationships where physical participation is not possible. Used by lecturers, remote sessions can be set up that enable screen recordings to be shared alongside voice calls to give the look and feel of an ordinary lecture/seminar. This is also more than a live tool, as it allows sessions to be saved as recordings, allowing students to revisit the content.
An example of its use is during our Business and Technology Professional Practice module where students who are on placement can receive content delivery and ask questions whilst away from university about their final year assessments.
How to get started
When accessing your module sites on MyHallam (the name of our Blackboard VLE), at the bottom of the subheadings on the left you will see a “Blackboard Collaborate” option. Clicking this link will take you to the Blackboard collaborate main page, where live and scheduled sessions can be found. Clicking these sessions will allow you to view the content. During these sessions, a live chat will be present where questions can be asked from anyone present.
To access previous Blackboard Collaborate sessions, expanding the hamburger menu on the top left, going to recordings and changing the date range from the drop-down menu on the right, allows you to view all previous recordings in the date range. Selecting a recording allows you to watch back the recording.
At a high level, Padlet is an online tool based around ‘Bulletin Boards’, where creators can invite others to modify or view their boards. Among some of the uses for this tool are; Idea Creation, To-Do Lists, Blogging, Mood Boards and storing ideas in a central location through adding photos, videos, links and attachments. The social feel of this tool is supported by functionality that enables you to create networks with other members, liking people’s posts and create folders.
An example of where this has been used is during our module Developing Strategies for Change where every student contributed to compiling examples of mergers and acquisitions.
How to get started
Signing up to create a Padlet is easy via Google, Facebook and Microsoft accounts (as well as traditional means) and once you’re in, you can begin making boards via the “+ Make a Padlet” button. A wide variety of boards are shown, from templates to blank ones, depending on what the intended use is. The background styles are completely customisable and once this is selected, double click anywhere on the board and begin adding to the board. There is also an option to allow users to rate or comment on posts.
Sharing Padlets can be done from inside the board via the share button, and to see shared padlets return to the home screen and go to the shared sidebar option.
Google announced that it will be closing down Google+. For many this social media platform was a bit like marmite. You either liked it or hated it. Those who didn’t engage with Google+ can stop reading now. Those who did and in particular I’m thinking of educators who have developed vibrant Google communities, then you may want to consider downloading your data.
This useful guide from Google explains how you can download your Google+ data. You can export and download your Google+ data, including your Google+ circles, communities, streams and +1s.
When you turn on your computer or laptop, chances are that you will want to access a website you regularly use, your chosen search engine (typically Google for myself) or perhaps a collection of social networking sites. If you use Chrome as your web browser (instead of Internet Explorer) within settings you can easily save your regular ‘go to places’ and these will open automaticaly when you click on the Chrome icon.
To set your start up pages go to chrome://settings/ and scroll down to ‘On startup’. Here you can check ‘open a specific page or set of pages’. You will need to ‘add a new page’ and then paste in the URL. Alternatively if you have your chosen pages already open you can click ‘use current pages’.
The other option is to check ‘continue where you left off’ and those pages will automaticaly re-open. Quite useful if you are working on a project and have multiple pages open!
You may also wish to choose your preferred search engine. Simply choose from Google, Yahoo, Bing or Ask Jeeves. These settings can then be saved and re-visited at any time.
Further tips from Google Chrome Help
1. Sign in to Google Chrome
When you sign in to the Chrome browser, you can save and sync things like your bookmarks, history, passwords and other settings to your Google account. Then, you can get to them on any device.
If you don’t want Google Chrome to save a record of what you visit and download, you can browse the web privately in incognito mode. You can also delete your history, cookies and other information: remove all of it or just some from a specific period of time.
The language used when talking about social media in business can often seem unrelated to the way we relate to using it in a social context, however there are some useful pointers to gain from. Lilach Bullock is an online business expert and created the infographic below to highlight the steps business owners can take to gain social influence and become a go-to source in their particular niche. There are a number of points that can be applied as educators using social media to develop personal learning networks; to signpost useful information created by ourselves and also by other educators; and to signal that we are open to providing help to others. Portrayed as wanted to grow influence may make you feel uncomfortable, however if you are using social media, for example a blog to share information as an educator and wish to engage in meaningful dialogues, then there is little point being a ‘shrinking violet’. It is important therefore to find and develop your voice on social media.
If you want to develop a personal learning network, using social media is an excellent way to connect to educators beyond your immediate network. Utilising other social media like Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ can help to amplify your blog posts so that others do actually have the opportunity to read them. As an introvert I have found that a key advantage of using social media to connect with others is that you have space to think. Whether composing a tweet, blog post or a comment, you choose when to do this. You don’t need to feel you have to respond immediately. For me that option of thinking time has helped me to become more confident.
So taking Lilach’s checklist, let me share how I think these apply to educators using social media for learning.
Choose a niche – If you are considering writing a blog that you want others to read, don’t worry about being an expert, but do choose a topic you will enjoy writing about and others will enjoy reading.
Online presence – Make sure you populate your personal bio as this information will help others with mutual interests connect with you. Add links to connect your social media spaces, for example your Twitter name on your blog and vice-versa.
Social media – Develop useful connections with others and engage in conversations, add comments and like posts that are of interest to you. Over time you will develop followers and build a valued network.
Become a go-to source – Take the opportunity to help others by answering questions and when writing a blog post consider adding a question to encourage comments from readers.
Share content – This can be information you have created but equally important is sharing what others have posted. For example interesting blog posts, articles, videos or podcasts. Always acknowledge the work of others and where possible tag them using their username to let them know you appreciate their content.
Blogging – Add visual interest to your posts by adding images or a video. Consider pulling together useful ‘how to guides’ or a bulleted checklist. Blog posts can be short and punchy, and still be of value.
Be up to date – Share the tips you learn with others in your network. Chances are they will appreciate this, just as you do learning from others.
Networking – Reach out to individuals from time to time and take an interest in what they are doing. This can be done publicly or through the use of private messages.
Above all remember that finding your voice on social media is more than just broadcasting. Your experience will be far more fulfilling if you socialise with others by engaging in dialogues with others in your chosen networks.
When you start to blog your focus is understandably on the post you are writing. However if you don’t then think about about how you will share this post to an audience that will appreciate it and potentially share with others, then you run the risk of ‘talking’ to the ether…
Connect your blog to your social media accounts
You can save valuable time by automating a tweet or post to LinkedIn which shares the title of your blog post and a link. Within WordPress you need to click on My Sites (top left) and then scroll down to Sharing. Here click on Connections and choose which of your social sites you wish to connect your blog to. Once connected, each time you publish a post, this will automatically be shared in these spaces.
Add social media sharing buttons
As above go to Sharing and then Sharing Buttons. You can then select the social media sites readers of your blog can click to share a post to. This makes it easy for readers to share your post with their own communities. It will automatically take the title of your post and the link. This can then be edited by the individual if they choose to add a further comment.
Add a subscribe by email box
Readers can choose to subscribe to your blog and receive email notifications when a new post has been published. You can do this by adding a ‘Follow Blog Widget‘ to the side bar.
Promote your blog
Add a link to your blog in your social media bios. That way if someone visits your Twitter account for example they can find the link easily. Other examples include adding a link to your email signature along with the name of the blog and adding the blog URL to your business cards.
Re-post in Medium
Medium is an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams (co-founder of Twitter). First of all you will need to create an account. Once this is done you can then choose to import your blog post by simply posting the URL. It’s quick and easy to do and your post is then shared to a wider audience.
From time to time it can be useful to keep an ongoing Twitter conversation together. This can be done by replying to a tweet. Whilst you can also interact through a tweet by mentioning individuals or by adding a comment as a nested retweet, these do not allow you to develop a threaded conversation where the tweets of all those involved in the conversation are kept together.
In the example below you can see 39 people have liked the tweet and 22 have engaged with it (19 retweets and 3 comments).
Five great tips (+ free guide) from @ProfSallyBrown and @RacePhil for anyone giving their first ever lecture (or conference presentation)
1. be prepared
2. be heard
3. be comfortable
4. be confident
5. be interactive
plus a useful reminder ‘be yourself’ https://t.co/SyWyxoqhUm
If you then click on the tweet it will then provide a view of the tweet which includes the comments. You can reply to any of the tweets here and they will be added to this thread of tweets. (As I am viewing from my tweet I can also ‘add another tweet’ to the thread of comments.)
How to reply to a tweet
There are a number of ways to do this.
Direct reply to one person
This is a direct response to a tweet another user has made.
Find the Tweet you want to reply to.
Hover over the bottom left hand corner of the tweet
Click or tap the reply icon
A compose box will pop up, type in your message and click or tap Reply to post it.
Direct reply to a tweet with multiple usernames
As above. If the original tweet was sent to more than one person, their usernames will also be included in the reply. To remove any mentioned in the original tweet, click on reply and then click on the names and then these will be displayed as a list. You can then uncheck the names you wish to remove.
This is where you retweet with a nested comment. This will appear above the original tweet.
Hover over the bottom of the tweet and click or tap on retweet.
Add a comment and then click or tap on retweet again.
A nested reply will look like this. However it will not be linked to other replies.
This will depend on whether the person follows you.
Not following you: The tweet will show in their notifications (unless they have chosen to mute these)
Following you: The tweet will appear in their timeline and notifications
What you will see when someone replies to you
Not following you If someone sends you a reply and you are not following them, the reply will not appear in your Home timeline. Instead, the reply will appear in your Notifications tab.
Following you When someone replies to one of your Tweets you will see Replying to you before the Tweet and you will receive a notification in your Notifications tab.
If you click or tap on a reply in your timeline, it will expand to display the Tweet that was replied to.
To view conversations on other’s profiles go to their home page and rather than view just Tweets, click on Tweets and Replies.
Replies from people with protected Tweets will only be visible to their accepted followers.
Muting notifications for a conversation
If you would like to stop receiving notifications for a particular conversation, you can choose to mute it. When you mute a conversation, you won’t get any new notifications about that conversation. You will, however, still see Tweets from the conversation in your timeline and when you click into the original Tweet.
To mute a conversation via twitter.com, or from your Twitter for iOS or Android app:
Go to the Tweet detail of any Tweet or a reply in the conversation you wish to mute.
Click or tap the icon.
Tap Mute this conversation.
Maximising visibility of your tweets
If your Tweets are not protected, then all replies are public, but only relevant people, such as those who follow you and someone who is part of the conversation, will see your reply in their Home timeline, even if you begin your reply with “.@”.
There are times when you would like all of your followers to be able to see your interaction with a tweet. You can do this by Retweeting or Retweeting with a nested comment.
How to add media to a tweet
Type your Tweet into the compose box at the top of your Home timeline, or click the Tweet button in the top navigation bar.
You can include up to 4 photos, a GIF, or a video in your Tweet.
You can include a URL link in your tweet by typing or pasting this into the message
Click the Tweet button to post the Tweet to your profile.
How to mention someone in a Tweet
Type your message in the Tweet compose box.
Type the “@” symbol before the username(s) when addressing a particular account(s). Example: “I’m Tweeting on @Twitter!”
Click or tap Tweet to post.
Deleting a Tweet
Now and again you may spot a typo and want to delete a tweet. To do this:
When was the last time you googled yourself? If not recently (or indeed if you never have) then now’s the time to do this. Dismiss the idea that this is some sort of ‘ego surfing’ exercise. This is an opportunity to check what your online presence looks like to others.
You may not be aware of the many times you are searched for as an individual. This could be in the quest to find your contact details, information about your research/projects/teaching, or as a prospective employer to get an overview of your online profile. As social media use ranks highly anyone can quickly find your most recent activity. It is therefore important to understand what information you are sharing is private and what is public; and also how this could impact on your career prospects and overall safety. Giving away too much personal information could result in a stolen identity.
Questions to ask yourself?
What do people want to know about you?
Where will they use this information?
Why is your profile important?
When and how often do you update it?
How will you use your profile to your advantage?
For many of us it is likely you will have a collection of online profiles which might include your staff profile on your employer’s website, clubs or societies, and social networking sites. It is the later that potentially needs the most attention. Some will be used purely for social and informal interactions and others for professional reasons. It is important that these are reviewed regularly to ensure your online presence there is seen in the best light irrespective of whether the profile is private to a circle of friends or public. Remember it is your reputation that is at stake. Let your profile work for you not against you!
Take the time to ‘google’ yourself. The same process can be repeated with any other search engine of your choice.
Type your name in the search bar within quote marks as this will bring more accurate results
If you have a popular name, expand your search by adding further keywords e.g. your employer, town you live in
Taking control of your online presence
Be aware that once you share information online, be this personal information or through posting comments/photos/videos, you have little control over who can see it and what individuals might do with it. It is quick and easy to screenshot (take a digital photograph) anything seen online and this becomes a permanent record despite the fact that you might choose to delete the information.
That said it is still worth investing time to ‘tidy up’ your online presence and remove posts or photos you are no longer happy with. You can also untag yourself from posts and set up measures to stop others tagging you if you wish to.
The infographic below highlights the key points to consider
Resource building – tutors AND students can use a course hashtag to share links to relevant resources. These could include websites, news articles, videos, podcasts, images, SlideShare presentations as well as books and journal papers.
Interactive lectures – ask students to answer questions during a lecture. Or, get people talking before the lecture or the seminar by raising questions.
Quick-fire recap of a lecture – ask students to summarise key points
Instant feedback – areas they would like to go over again
Reminders of deadlines and events
Set up a Twitter chat with an industry expert, client group or professional community
Research ideas and opinions using the advanced search
Reviews – write a concise micro review of a book, an article, a film or event
Survey – set up a poll or an online questionnaire and tweet the link
Direct messaging – use DM for private tutorial questions
The Notifications tab is your hub for notifications about you, your content, and your connections. You’ll receive notifications for updates about people in your network, the activity of your shares or posts, as well as career opportunities.
Notifications prompt you to congratulate connections for starting a new position or for work anniversaries, and to wish them a happy birthday. You are also notified about the number of the searches you appeared in and views of your profile, as well as likes of your posts.
I’ve noticed that for some this is information overload and found to be annoying! If this is the case then read on and find out how you can stop the notifications you would rather not see cluttering up your feed.
You can manage these updates directly from the Notifications tab to determine which types of notifications you’d like to receive. You’ll have the option to:
Delete a notification – Removes the notification from your Notifications tab.
Mute a notification – Stop receiving updates on a particular post on your feed. You can also disable future updates for that thread.
Unfollow a notification – Stop receiving updates from that particular connection, such as job changes, likes, or work anniversaries.
Turn off a notification – Stop receiving a certain type of notification, such as likes or job changes, from the people you’re following.
To turn off a type of notification, for example birthdays, then you need to select a notification from one connection who’s birthday notification shows in your feed and click on the three dots. This will then display a drop down menu. From here click on ‘Turn off’ and you will stop receiving all birthday notifications like this. Apply the same method for work anniversaries (or any other type of notification) by again choosing one connection with this type of notification.
Once you’ve turned off a notification update, all existing notifications for this type will be removed from the Notifications tab and you’ll no longer receive these alerts. You can find a list notification updates you’ve turned off, on the Notifications tab.
If you’d like to see notifications appear again, once you’ve turned back on a notification update, you’ll start receiving these alerts again. All previous notifications of this type will also be surfaced on the Notifications tab.