Photo Credit: Career and Student Employment Services
There is often a discussion as to why students should be engaged on social media. We all know the stats. Almost everyone has a Facebook account. Platforms seem to explode in popularity like Pinterest and Instagram. For the most part, students view this as not only a social atmosphere (as the title social media would suggest), but a very private activity. This comes with a strong sense of irony as it is occurring on the internet.
So knowing that the internet is public, how can we as professionals engage our students in learning how to use social media for a much greater purpose? How can we show that by re-purposing at least one tool, they will be working towards their professional development?
This past March marked the 2nd annual, "Michigan Industry Road Trip." This 5-day program during the student's spring break connects students to companies in the engineering industry. The first time we went on the trip, my colleague and I through the idea of using Twitter out there to those that could. We didn't require anything and didn't do much other than teach the platform to those that wanted to join, but didn't know how. We had some interaction, but nothing measurable.
This year marked a more proactive approach and much more planning went into consideration. My plan was to give the students a sense of purpose. WHY would I want to use Twitter? The short answer was to be able to provide an opportunity to reflect on their experience to help them with the post-trip assessment, the longer answer was much more.
Students in their reflection interacted with the twitter accounts of the companies that we visited. Some of the accounts were given to them, but a great majority were found and shared by the students. These company accounts replied, retweeted, and followed many of the students. The students were now not only connecting with companies in the flesh, but online as well. You can still catch many of the interactions with #MIRoadTrip13
This is just the start of a much larger conversation. We returned from the trip and recently met to reflect. I flat out asked, "What is the benefit of using Twitter?" Many of them recited my original reason, but many defined Twitter for themselves. "It is an opportunity to connect and gather more resources that we couldn't have before." I also followed up with, "So should we stop pursuing this as part of the trip." To which they all said, "NO! But I need to make sure we have wifi constantly available for those without smartphones." To be fair, the biggest limitation to this experience was that our bus did not have wifi.
This post is meant to be a recap on an amazing experience. The students exceed involvement from last year and the quality of post was increased as well. Students reflected, shared photos, and engaged with the companies, all to help develop their professional identity. We concluded the recap session with a lesson on LinkedIn, an addition avenue for developing their professional online identity, and we talked about cleaning up what they thought was their private accounts.
This post is also meant to be a conversation starter on how to have these conversation with students. How else can we engage our students? What programs are you doing to develop student's understanding of their professional online identity? Comment below and thank you for reading!