Education Business Goals enhanced by promoting Social Media Engagement

jdesormej    May 15, 2017

Sheridan College is in the education business, an Ontario College that educates some 22,000 full time students each year, across five faculties and 4 research institutes, located on 4 campuses, situated just west of the greater Toronto area. Sheridan employs in excess of 3,400 employees.  One of these faculties, and the subject of this study, FAAD (Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design) is most notable for its academy award winners and Tony award nominees (“Come from Away” 2017) offers 32 programs in communications-media-journalism, animation, design music theater and fine arts craft programs. With such a diverse offering of artistic educational programs, the College generally and FAAD specifically, employs numerous social media platforms to speak internally to its faculty, staff and students, to keep them apprised of operations, and externally to the world at large, telling of its goals, educational offerings, innovation opportunities and continuing successes.

Sheridan is presently in the process of redesigning its mandate. An Academic action plan setting out 5 year goals is presently being discussed and considered by the various community members. The short story here is as follows. Building on its core business of attracting students to its myriad of academic offerings, Sheridan will re-brand itself into a polytechnic mode, establishing broad philosophical standards while committing to supporting increased scholarship, research and creative activities among the academic group at the institution. Social media should play a large role in establishing and communicating this important on-going process at Sheridan.

 

I had the pleasure of discussing this Academic social media world with FAAD communications and social media coordinator Shellie Zhang, who is one of the core group tasked with integrating the very complex world of this institution and cross pollinating the brand message internally and to the world. She found the world she works in exciting, yet possibly misunderstood or unappreciated. So many new initiatives were driving this world. She agreed that it was important to integrate studies with this communication method. It was essential we incorporate education with social media. She agreed to support my research into this possibility.

Yet it is already happening to some extent.

Commonly, colleges and universities, like Sheridan, will employ social media to drive their primary product goals, meaning soliciting student enrolement, and supporting the functioning of the institution.

Examining the Sheridan Social Media Directory itself is evidence as to how social media has become a dominant tool in the business and evolution of the academic world. http:///sheridancollege.ca/social-media-directory.aspx    A specialized community of social media experts representing a range of the divisions in the institutions engage and cross communicate their messages each and every day employing the spectrum of media platforms to reach a desired consumer. Here are some examples of that process.

Sheridan International Center, recruiting students from around the world, is employing Facebook and dedicated informational Blogs to reach potential applicants worldwide. But there is much, much more.

The college itself, under the supervision of a dedicated communications department, employs direct mail, Website, Facebook as well as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest platforms sending out waves of school, institute and alumni information.

In addition to the Institutional message, many departments or divisions employ social media usage. Alumni has its own social media as do the 4 individual institutes. The Human Resources department has its own Twitter site. Indigenous Sheridan employs dedicated Facebook and Twitter platforms, Accessible Learning services uses Facebook. Sheridan IT prefers Twitter and the Student Union employs 6 platforms as does the sports team, the Sheridan Bruins.

Students are likewise engaged as we see here with this social media approach on student leadership.

Faculties are also engaged. The Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design for instance employs Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and dedicated blogs (Curiosities Blog) and Theater Sheridan, which is one celebrated program in the above FAAD group, uses 3 separate platforms to reach a very supportive community who buy the tickets for student musical theater work performed at the College.

How this supports or enhances Employee Engagement at Sheridan is the subject of this study. Let’s get specific then.

 

Employee Engagement here speaks to how an employee feels toward his or her employment organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort in work related activities. Theoretically, the more engagement an employee has with his or her company, the more effort they will put forth.

Engagement also touches upon these issues. does the employee feels mentally stimulated; is there trust and communication between employees and management; can an employee see how their own work contributes to the overall company performance; is there opportunity for personal growth within the organization; there is general agreement that with good Employee Engagement good things emerge. Is this occurring at Sheridan and is social media aiding in the Employee Engagement process? With a community of such diverse interests and disciplines Social Media would seem to be the perfect tool to create coordinated virtual community activity that drives the above definition of engagement and motivate employee engagement on many levels.

Let’s see where faculty and staff are implicated in this process?

A great many of the program blogs and social media platforms are created and manned by faculty.

Moreover, as numerous faculty are involved in personal or academic creative enterprise, and are personally employing an array of platform technology, there is ample social media activity promoting employee and project recognition across the social media directory. Here are a few examples.

The Organization promotes “Come from Away”   New plays

https://www.facebook.com/TheatreSheridan

Toni Award Play developed at the School

“We’re so thrilled that @wecomefromaway won 5 Outer Critics Circle Awards, including outstanding new Broadway musical” http://bit.ly/2pYJvse

Individual Employees promote Sheridan successes

https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/2016/11/14/how-come-from-away-made-it-to-broadway.html

Michael Rubinoff

https://twitter.com/mrubinoff?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

https://www.instagram.com/mrubinoff/?hl=en

Much of this social media activity is individual and highly specialized, focussed specifically on the discipline in which the individual social media participant is involved. The effect for the organizational brand is not as effective as it might be.

There are of course many faculty and staff Twitter blasts speaking to a success, a noted event, a retirement of a dear colleague, many issues that touch individuals and the community they are involved with.

Individual Profiling https://ca.linkedin.com/in/nicoleblanchettneheli

Successes https://twitter.com/nicoleblanchett

Retirement   https://twitter.com/sherrylawr

Issues-Causes – Mark Melymick  When the son of a colleague was injured in a grievous fall, crippling the boy for life, social media rallied colleagues and institution to assist the recovery.

lobalnews.ca/news/2896441/ryerson-student-determined-to-live-life-to-the-fullest-after-devastating-fall/

https://www.facebook.com/dressyormessy/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf

These are valuable in that they speak to a collegiality within the institution and add to the weigh and value of the institution they serve. These are individual voices, shots across the bow here and there, perhaps lacking a power reach of other noted institutions selling the message that they support credible scholarly, research or creative work. One big happy family.

Organizational Improvement

How can we bring together the power of admin and the individual voices, which although notable, do not represent the majority of faculty and staff in the institution. Would there be a benefit to increased employee engagement in the Sheridan brand process?  Both sides would have to overcome some real fears, management’s natural tendency to need to absolutely control the message, their fear that independent question will dilute the perfect Academic Plan, invite institutional liability from the words of rogue thinkers, on the other side there are the faculty’s fear of loss of academic freedom, regimentation,  changing individual standards, challenges to beliefs that conflict with the message, the ultimate jeopardy of now not living under the radar and invoking administrative wrath for some position or criticism of the institution by the individual social media communicator.

Control and employee distraction versus creative and academic voice. This is the common conflict.

Areas of Employee Opportunity

There is no doubt that this hidden virtual community would benefit greatly from linkage with the official media and creativity and scholarly efforts would only enhance the brand of uniqueness sought by the school. The greater the reach, the more opportunity for faculty to raise resources for research or creative projects, attract support and recognition of colleagues and the academic world. Social media is another and perhaps the future dominant form of publishing to come, a venue for point of view scholarship, which is critical to serious academics. It invites great potential.

No one enroles in an institution because of the school brand, they enrol because of the uniqueness of the program, the success of its alums and the reputation of the people teaching the material. Merging both in a social media strategy is the correct approach.

The question becomes how to harness all of this activity. Training and trust.

 

Lessons for Others

Here is where trust and communication come into play.

A reasonable mediated, negotiated approach, as practiced by large universities to the south like Stanford, might be the solution. Support for Social media education amongst faculty and an appreciation of its inherent value to all, would also assist in this process.

There is significant benefit as this cross collaboration would help enormously to increase traffic to both individual professors and the school as a whole.

Organization: Sheridan College
Industry: Education
Name of Organization Contact: Shellie Zhang, Comm & Social Media Coord FAAD, Shamelle Sutton, Digital and Marketing Specialist

Authored by: Jean Desormeaux

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


References

Sheridan College Social Media Directory   http:///sheridancollege.ca/social-media-directory.aspx

Come from Away – Sheridan – https://www.facebook.com/TheatreSheridan

Independent Play Promotion    http://bit.ly/2pYJvse

Toronto Star Linkage https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/2016/11/14/how-come-from-away-made-it-to-broadway.html

Faculty Linkage  https://twitter.com/mrubinoff?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/mrubinoff/?hl=en

Employee Usage Sheridan College

Individual Profiling    https://ca.linkedin.com/in/nicoleblanchettneheli

Successes https://twitter.com/nicoleblanchett

Retirement https://twitter.com/sherrylawr

Issues – Causes      https://www.facebook.com/dressyormessy/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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