Looking through articles in the Guardian’s Higher Education Network, I found “Using social media to boost student employability” by Gill Swan, an architect and Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Central Lancashire. It’s always inspiring to read about how technology is being used to enhance learning – sometimes, as in this case, you have a “we’ve done that too!” moment.

I’ve recently blogged about a graduate workshop on using the web which I’ve been putting together in collaboration with our Careers Department. UCLan’s experiences of using Tumblr with students reminded me that I meant to write a post about introducing students to WordPress back in January. So here it is…

'Show Me Cruising' website by Morris BrayOne of the highlights of my year is to contribute to the BSc Cruise Management (Operations Continuity Planning) module through teaching students website design. I’ve done this since 2008, using Dreamweaver and Fireworks to create the sites – software that students have been able to download and use on their own computers. However, myself and LT colleagues very rarely create websites from scratch these days – we tend to use WordPress (used for this site) as you can easily create static pages as well as a blog, with the benefits of being able to easily embed rich content and the opportunities for social networking. Dreamweaver is also becoming more focused on using CSS for layout which is too complicated and unnecessary for what these students are obliged to do. Due to a change in the license, it is also no longer available to students to use at home.

The assessment, ‘Showcasing Cruising’ requires students to design a website that will be effective in showcasing:

  • a UoP student on placement or in employment with a cruise company
  • the BSc (Hons) Cruise Management
  • an individual topic relating to the cruise industry

In light of these issues with Dreamweaver, my colleague, Mark Lyndon, and I decided to introduce Programme Leader, Philip Gibson, and the students to WordPress. Actually, Mark did the hard work, preparing and leading the workshop – I observed him teaching (see his post re. the experience). This has been a great success! Students fed back that they liked the simplicity and functionality WordPress offers.

We would like to explore the dynamic features WordPress provides further next year. For example, Google maps could be embedded to illustrate the journey the cruise ship takes.

The guidance notes ask students to ‘negotiate accessing information from the student on placement together with photographs/ images that enable you to construct a placement diary which recounts student experiences.’ This could be really well documented through the blog, encouraging placement students to reflect on their experiences through conversational questions from the student at home. Some of these reflections could also perhaps be in video format, depending on the technology available to students on placement. Do they have video recording capabilities on their mobile phones/ cameras? Could the University loan out video cameras? Do students have their own YouTube accounts (or could we set one up specifically for the course)? What about using Skype, and could these conversations be recorded?

Using these ‘web 2.0′ technologies would be beneficial for improving students’ digital literacy skills, enabling them to fully engage with the opportunities social networking can provide for enterprise and employability. It would also be good to be able to give the students some guidance as to how they should write for their blog – what tone to use and how to structure content. Does anyone know of any resources that could help in this area?

Blogging Tips:

4 Simple Writing Tips to Help You Squeeze the Most From Your Articles – advice from blogger Daniel Sharkov

Examples of Students’ Work:

Here are the blogs this year’s students created…[satellite auto=on caption=off thumbs=off]

www.pdclifton.wordpress.comSea of Opportunities website