The third annual Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference took place this week at Sheffield Hallam University. I have been involved with it throughout and may claim some responsibility for proposing we run it in the first place on the back of interest in #BYOD4L, several Media Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group (MELSIG)events with a focus on #socmedhe and various collaborative activities with Sue Beckingham. This year I had very little to do with the organisation. I have just not been able to prioritise it. So first, thanks to my colleagues who have made sure that it has such a strong identity in the academic calendar and ensuring that again a rich and diverse conference has taken place. And thanks to my boss Graham Holden (@grahamjholden) who has had the vision to recognise the importance of actively exploring innovative learning spaces and it is Graham who has made this happen. Thank you.
Organising the event is quite a commitment. While the ticket price has covered the costs on the day, the staff time in running a proper peer review process is significant and we decided to look for other ways of sustaining the conference.
Some of us met to discuss this in one of the Bring Your Own Conference (#BYOC) unconference sessions in the morning. I wanted to summarise some of the points that were made and which now give ‘us’ the basis for planning next year’s event(s):
- #socmedhe, in its own right, has a strong identity and has created a forum for an energetic community, and this gives it great value;
- A chance to meet face-to-face is what distinguishes it from other fora through which many of the participants are also engaged (we talked a lot about #LTHEchat, #MELSIG, ALT and regional special interest groupings). We didn’t talk enough about #CLmooc or #DS106, but more on that in a minute.
- A core group in the room including John Coupeerthwaite (@johncoup), Sarah Honeychurch (@NomadWarMachine), Simon Horrocks (@horrocks_simon), myself (@andrewmid), and a research student from Huddersfield and another student (I didn’t catch all the names, sorry) agreed that a transitional ‘ad hoc’ steering group should be established. Helen Rodger from SHU who has had the responsibility over three years to make it happen agreed to make the transition happen. We agreed a call would be made to establish this core transition group and would devise a brief to explain what such a commitment would entail.
- We talked about existing groups, what we might learn from them and how we might co-operate with them. Some exploratory conversations will be had with one or two key organisations in January.
- We were looking for a different modus operandi. One of the problems of a one day conference, especially one that happens before the Xmas break, is that it becomes a great landmark activity that struggles to engage its community through the rest of the year. The ideas and issues raised on the conference day are left hanging until next year and therefore there is a tendency to focus on show and tell rather than the trickier issues or the bigger ideas (though that does misrepresent the reality of quality, albeit brief, discussions.
- Sarah Honeychurch attended the meeting and expressed her own commitment to taking the #socmedhe concept forward. On reflection I wish we had made more space to discuss more of her own experience of engaging through #CLmooc (Connected Learning) and similar initiatives like #DS106 which achieve much of what a conference can deliver, and more besides, through an active, creative connective learning ethos.
So, what will #SocMedHE become?
My guess, on the basis of the meeting, is that a core collective group will carry through the transition. We will have a conference (not at Sheffield Hallam) next year. We will also have some other things, possibly,
- An ongoing webinar series
- Social Media for Learning in HE podcast or YouTube channel
- Some making, research and writing activities
- Strong alliance with existing groups and organisations
- An energetic and committed co-operative network able to make things happen by demonstrating the principles of an effective learning network.
Well, that’s what I’d like to see.