Technology and innovation are central to my philosophy as a student affairs professional, as I believe that both make learning “personally meaningful, collaborative, and socially relevant” (Connolly, 2011, pp. 126). ACPA & NASPA’s identification of technology as a core competency in 2015 encouraged me to embrace this approach in my practice. Specifically, I have addressed the following outcomes: “appropriately utilize social media and other digital communication and collaboration tools to market and promote advising, programming, and other learning-focused interventions and to engage students in these activities, design, implement, and assess technologically-rich learning experiences for students and other stakeholders that model effective use of visual and interactive media, ensure that one’s educational work with and service to students is inclusive of students participating in online and hybrid format courses and programs, troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems and refer more complex problems to an appropriate information technology administrator” (ACPA & NASPA, 2015).
Social Media & Networking
Daily, student affairs professionals encounter “student cultures and behaviors that arise from the merging of their real and digital environments” (Martínez Alemán & Lynk Wartman, 2011, pp. 515). To navigate these uncharted environments effectively, I have intentionally increased my engagement with students, employers, and colleagues on social media. For example, I have tweeted on the Career Services Twitter handle to remind students about our walk-in hours. However, social media is well-suited for use in career development on a much broader scale as well, since it operates by using personal and professional networks. LinkedIn makes specific use of these networks to help individuals develop an online presence that incorporates networking and a “digital resume.” That said, social media is an important component of my work with students. Even when I am not personally posting on social media, I often present workshops about developing a LinkedIn profile and making use of available tools on the website to classes and student groups, such as the LinkedIn ALPFA event that I presented at. Engaging on LinkedIn serves as a bridge for many students between where they are and the world of “adulting” outside of the institution.
In my resource called “Social Media in the Job Search” I provide the same kind of bridge to educate students about ways they can utilize their network to locate positions, engage with potential employers, market their “brand,” and research company culture. Student affairs professionals have an opportunity to use this bridge to engage with students continuously on social media. Social media posts are “like the informal ‘hallway conversations’ that are a regular occurrence on a campus. It’s not the single engagement event that leads to success, it’s the whole of everything that comes together to lead a student from admission to graduation” (Stoller, 2017). The goal of social media engagement, rather than replacing in-person interactions with student affairs professionals, is for the professional to become a part of students’ everyday hybrid worlds. In order to do this well, it becomes necessary to create a plan for social media engagement. Luckily, alternative technologies are available to facilitate that process as well. I used Microsoft Excel to create a social media plan for the Career Fair (to ensure that content was varied, engaging, and well-organized. By tracking analytics, we also have the ability to understand the specific populations who are accessing our resources to allow for future targeted personalization. In this way, social media becomes a constant stream of information that can inform decisions about student outreach.
Personalization can also be handy for digital marketing. In my work, I have particularly focused on targeting weekly email campaigns to specific “Career Communities” by individualizing each email with information relevant specifically to that community. One such example is the email seen in the screenshot below about a resume workshop designed specifically for the junior class. I have done the same for blog posts by planning out content that engages that specific audience. For example, email newsletters I created to send to faculty makes use of a form to get in touch with us about their classroom visit requests. On the other hand, a post about “hot internships” makes use of emojis, memes, or even hashtags to catch student attention. By providing more individualized attention to specific groups and using technology to facilitate distribution, students are much more engaged. One method of developing more effective online interaction with students is the use of visual media and memes. These tend not to be taken seriously as a tool for student connection. However, they are an important way for professionals to interact with students because they are collaborative by nature, and allow students to feel accepted as part of something exclusive. According to Goldberg, memes are akin to road maps for younger individuals, and “reveal key aspects of contemporary society and digital culture” (2017). I have used memes in blog posts, on presentations, and on the Career Fair + app to seek volunteers. I have found that students are drawn to these visual representations of culture. The resulting attention from the student is a good opportunity for professionals to engage in intentional conversation about resources or events.
Mobile Technology & Accessibility
At the Career Fair, I used a mobile technology called Poll Everywhere to assess student and employer impressions of the Career Fair, as evidenced by the screenshot below. It provided an opportunity to challenge the methods that have been used in the past to improve assessment practice. The interest from both employers and students suggests that the use of mobile apps is an area for continued innovation, as it offers countless options for collaborative mobile learning. Mobile learning enhances the student experience and connects individuals with each other. According to Kim, this makes mobile learning “the future of adult learning” (Kim, 2016). This kind of use also requires careful strategy. To manage that, I
This form of delivery also works well without the app, but the “Open Career Development” course on the Canvas app, which can be used to learn about career development topics on a computer or on the go. I specifically use apps such as LinkedIn Student, Canvas, WhatsApp, VoiceThread, Wix, iBooks, Google Docs, Salem State Events, Microsoft Word, Meme Generator, iCloud Drive, and even a free version of PhotoShop to work on the go. In a pinch, these apps can make a difference for convenience, but they also make learning more accessible for many different student groups. These kinds of innovation are especially helpful in reducing educational barriers. Students with disabilities particularly benefit from universally designed apps and settings that allow mobile devices to be more accessible.
According to Bolles, jobs are “being reimagined as a partnership between man and machine” (2017, pp.7). After graduation, students will need to be aware of and competent at using technology across platforms and devices to fit neatly into this narrative. “Effective use of mobile technology is less about tools and more about students’ digital literacy skills” (Woodfield, 2016). This could refer to something as simple as using email, eliminating tricky formatting on Microsoft Word or saving documents in alternate file formats, but students will undoubtedly be expected to handle technology in their careers. In order to maintain our effectiveness as student affairs professionals, we will need to stay abreast of trends to support students in their development.
ACPA & NASPA. (2015). Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators. Washington, D.C.: Authors.
Bolles, R.N. (2017). What color is your parachute?: A practical manual for job-hunters and career changers. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.
Connolly, M.R. (2011). Social networking and student learning: Friends without benefits. In P.M. Magolda & M.B. Baxter Magolda (Eds.), Contested Issues in Student Affairs: Diverse Perspectives and Respectful Dialogue. (pp. 122-140). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Goldberg, C. (2017, January). From MIT Press: 10 topics every 21st century citizen should know about. CommonHealth. Retrieved from: http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2017/01/13/essential-knowledge-mit-press
J. Kim. (2016, September 28). Why the future of adult learning is mobile learning. [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/technology-and-learning/why-future-adult-learning-mobile-learning
Martínez Alemán, A.M. & Lynk Wartman, K. (2011). Student technology use and student affairs practice. In J.H. Schuh, S.R. Jones, S.R. Harper & Associates (Eds.) Student Services: A Handbook for the Profession. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Stoller, E. (2017, March 2). Student success, retention, and employability- getting digital in a high tech, high touch environment. [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/@EricStoller/student-success-retention-and-employability-getting-digital-in-a-high-tech-high-touch-b34c092be5ec#.ap9rxhy1e
Woodfield, M. (2016, May). Higher ed offers new opportunities for digital learners. D¡gitalist Magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.digitalistmag.com/improving-lives/2016/05/26/higher-ed-offers-new-opportunities-for-digital-learners-04224183