Almost 100 examples of online media in higher education

This list should be a source of inspiration and creativity. It consists of many examples of the usage of online media in higher education. Sometimes to tell a story, sometimes to share knowledge, sometimes for recruitment and sometimes just to entertain. Many of them are marketing/ communications examples, but education and research are also present. Though a lot of social media tools and technologies are mentioned, it’s the strategy behind it and reached goals that stick out. The list is never complete, so if you would like to add something, please let me know.

Disclaimer: since I work at Radboud University Nijmegen, there are some examples from this university but most of the examples I collected are from elsewhere. Of course you are more than welcome to add your own examples and share your experiences! In case you noticed, I haven’t reached 100 examples yet, so help me out here!


Corporate story

Use Prezi to tell your corporate story/ campus tour
Instead of telling their complete history, research areas and prizes received in a long text, the University of Bradford created a Prezi to visualize it.

Use an infographic to show your key figures
The university of Huddersfield spiced up their numbers with an infographic.

Use (Google) Maps to show (new) students what’s where
The University of Kent created a student’s guide on Google Maps to show where the most important stores, bus stations, theatres and pubs are.

Show your pride
By creating a hall of fame that’s updated throughout the year, you can share the best stories and promote company pride.

Create a corporate design for all online media
Just like for brochures and websites, social media need a corporate design too.


Getting the word out

Create a social media hub
When you create a page where all your social networks are listed, this is a great way of showing which departments can be reached where. There are a lot of examples, so just to name a few:

Create Twitter lists
At Radboud University, Twitter lists are created for official accounts, researchers, students and employees. It is not only a good way to see who’s on Twitter, but also to read what they’re talking about. In addition to the Twitter lists, we created a top 100 based on Klout score (Dutch article). The Klout score is very controversial, which makes it a great topic to start discussions.

Create a Facebook-app to show other pages
University of Essex created an app on Facebook to show what other pages they have. At Twente University, they did the same but as a landing page for international prospective students.

Use your standard contact info
Just like your phone number and postal address, social media addresses are just as important. Often they’re forgotten, so please add them to your website, e-mail signature, business cards and mobile apps.

Use screens on campus
Hogeschool Utrecht created a social wall. It is shown on screens in the buildings and shows photos and messages from different social networks. The screen is different for every building, so users who post messages feel more attached to their surroundings.

Paint your hashtag on the football field
At Mississippi State, they painted their hashtag #Hailstate on the football field. There is no better way of letting your audience inside the stadium and on tv know.


Stimulating interaction

Ask for opinions and dare to be personal
The Texas A&M University has over 400.000 fans on Facebook. Their posts tell you why. They’re personal, open minded and you feel welcome by just reading the comments.

Create an alumni world map
TU Delft created a world map of alumni. You can not only see in which country alumni continued their career, but you can filter them by study. You can also zoom on individuals and get their contact info.

Use Google+ to combine news and sites
Harvard University does very well on Google+ with 170.000 people joining them. Interesting news, great research photos and a lot of real people that make you smile.

Let students, researchers and employees collaborate in a wiki
Our IT department couldn’t handle all the questions on different operating systems, browsers, mobile platforms and apps. They didn’t want to keep saying: “This is not the platform the university officially uses, so we can’t help you with that.” That’s why they want to create a wiki where all users can help each other on questions such as: How can I connect to wifi or e-mail on this kind of cellphone? Does Blackboard work on this tablet? How can I add this RSS-feed to reader?

Chat on Facebook page
Posting something on a Facebook page or even sending a private message to a page can be a threshold. So what if you could chat live and get the answer straight away? Education Ireland did it.

Create a forum
Lancaster University created a forum called The Student Room where students can discuss all kinds of topics.

Let students answer questions
Cardiff University has a group of students that present themselves online, sometimes blog and you can contact them via different social networks.


Sharing knowledge

Create FAQ’s with video
Radboud University created video’s for prospective students about the most frequently questions asked (Dutch).

Provide experts for the latest news
Scientists don’t only have to be in the spotlight when they discover something. They can be great experts on the latest news. So why not let your media centre show this?

Let your scientists do the talking for you
When scientists start using social media themselves, they can be your spokesmen. Educate them on how to use them and support them so they keep their enthusiasm.

Use a social intranet
By using a social intranet such as Yammer, you provide the tools for students, researchers and employees to interact with each other. This is convenient, because it provides an internal place to discuss topics, instead of the discussion being held elsewhere on a public network. Read this article on how universities can use social media for internal communications.

Be a scientist in your own time
At Innocentive, problems are described by companies and anyone who can give the answer receives an award. The solvers can be scientists, teachers or anyone else who think he or she can make a difference. For example, at the moment 71 people are trying to find “Rapid, High Accuracy Weighing of milligram-Scale Powders” with an award of $30,000

Crisis communication

Change a negative hashtag into a positive one
Students from a school in Belgium started tweeting their problems about the school with the hashtag #kdgproblems (where ‘kdg’ stands for the name of the school). The school took the problems seriously (Dutch article), and responded with solutions #kdgfixed or wishes #kdgvoornemens



Let students do the work for you
Though these are examples the universities were not proud of at all in the beginning, they turned out to be excellent promoters:

Use your dean
Dean Elmore is very friendly, open minded and is the face of Boston University. He does Google Hangouts, takes a plunge, and takes a flu shot.

Use students as study counsellors
Hogeschool Saxion created a platform where prospective students can interact with current students on their choice of study. They can ask questions on any study and an automatic e-mail system makes sure students of the study discussed will answer the questions.

Use Layar to spice up your prospectus
Kendall College used Layar to show video interviews in addition to the paper prospectus.

Make YouTube your portal
Vanderbilt University has a great video collection and over 3 million views to prove it works.

Use Pinterest to show what you do
Universities can visualize what they do, by creating boards on Pinterest. Read this article for some examples.

Or use Instagram
Instagram also has a lot of great features, especially now that they added video. Check out universities that do well on Instagram.

Use a mascotte
Radboud University has a robot called Radbot, that interviews researchers about their work. Dutch videos with English subtitles here.

Focus on the parents
This article from the Times Higher Education describes how The Student Room (mentioned at Stimulating interaction) partnered up with Mumsnet, an online forum for parents. Why? Because parents are very influential on the choice of study of their children.

Let students be your billboard
Not just testimonials, but detailed information and ways to contact the student
Sheffield Hallam University

Let your president do all the work
In this video, the president of Macalester College shows in a humorous way what a day on campus looks like. Though the video is a bit long, the comments and thumbs up show that his effort is appreciated.

Create a landing page for specific groups
Maastricht University created a landing page for Chinese students, including videos from a Chinese student in Maastricht and the possibility to contact her using the Chinese social network QQ Messenger. This shows they care about this group and it shows they take effort in supporting them. Same goes for the German website of Radboud University.

Be visible in secundary schools
The University of Nottingham created a Periodic Table of Videos. The website shows videos of the 118 elements including stories,  samples and experiments. Schools can use these in their classroom and at the end of each video you get to see the university logo. What better way to educate and be visible at the same time?


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