September really is conference season, and the postgraduate studies team here have been making the most of it…. Last week, as well as helping to run the OCTIS online translation conference here at Salford (see previous blog post), Cristina went up to Nottingham to attend the Association for Learning Technology Conference . Here she was awarded ‘Learning Technologist of the Year’ for the work that she has done supporting researchers at Salford, fostering the innovative uses of social media for research collaborations and dissemination. This is an amazing achievement and we are all really pleased that all Cristina’s hard work and passionate dedication has been recognised in this way – well done!! You can read more about it here and read Cristina’s account on her personal blog here.
Meanwhile, I was attending the Vitae Researcher Development Conference at Manchester’s rather grand Midland Hotel, along with colleagues from Careers and Employability, Fiona Christie and Tahira Majothi. There were hundreds of representatives from Universities across the UK, Europe, and internationally, all sharing ideas about the varying ways in which they are working to support postgraduates and research staff.
Fiona, Tahira and I led a workshop all about online technologies and our team’s efforts to use them to reach a relatively small and dispersed postgraduate research community. The slides are available here.
There seemed to be quite a lot of interest in this, particularly from other Universities with a similar postgraduate demographic, who were also looking to technologies as a way of complementing face-to-face support. We went through some of the various tools, website, and social media that we have used at Salford to try raise awareness of events, to make resources available, to facilitate training and to improve the visibility of researchers and their work. It was also important to talk about some of the things that we had experimented with but that had failed to take off (for example, online discussion groups; a conference networking site) and we had some useful discussions with other delegates about their experiences of setting up online communities, some of which were more successful than others, and the various reasons for this.
From the perspective of our institution, we felt that when online technologies worked well with the postgraduate community, it was because the researchers themselves were taking an active role in shaping them. We also felt that a collaborative approach, and importantly, having the support of our resident Research Technologist, Cristina, was vital in establishing and experimenting with different technologies. Having someone available who can mediate between the techy and the more technophobic worlds, and understands them both is absolutely crucial! Leading by example and having high profile members of staff who are active bloggers (for example the VC’s blog or Professor James Newell‘s) is also great way of showing how research and social media can work successfully together.
I’ll leave the final words with a current PhD student in the Business School, whose brief video account reflects on some of the ways in which online technologies have made a difference to him: as a lecturer, as a researcher, and as part of a postgraduate community. Thanks David, this is a great reminder of why we should continue to enhance the online technologies available to researchers at Salford!