W53 – Developing a social media project to support pre-arrival and first year transition

Dance room – TUESDAY 13:00-14:00

Workshop – 60 minutes

Ona Sumner, Janet Ellis

School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester

Ona Sumner is the Programme Support Manager and Janet Ellis, the Student Support Officer working with student nurses and midwives at the University of Manchester. They have a shared interest in enhancing the student experience using social media to maximise student inclusion and engagement.


The workshop will consider a pilot project to engage applicants with their programmes using social media. Participants will exchange information on their own approaches and work together to address challenges including how social media can be inclusive, how social media spaces can be student-led and how engagement can inform transition practices.


For students commencing their programmes in 2014 we piloted a project using social media to initiate a dialogue with them prior to their arrival at university. The initial objective was to increase the number of applicants converting into registered students at the start of term. However, the initiative has had interesting benefits for students’ induction and their first year journey which we have monitored and are looking to develop further to enhance the student experience.

Once students had received an offer of a place they were invited to join a closed facebook group. The group was facilitated by 9 second year student ambassadors who were recruited from the target programmes of nursing and midwifery. Ambassadors were then trained and supported by the project lead. Administrative staff had access to and analysed content but did not respond unless a query was flagged by the ambassadors.

Viewing the content of discussions provided the School with an invaluable real time insight into students’ concerns; where they felt there was an information deficit and what was working well at various points in the transition process. This provided insight into how effective interventions were, providing useful feedback in addition to more formal evaluations.

The group was an effective way for students to establish peer networks prior to beginning their programmes, aiding their social transition. The participants built communication pathways with the student ambassadors and each other, frequently responding to posts based on their own knowledge and experiences. As a consequence university staff reported that in Welcome Week there was a reduced number of queries which were related to a lack of awareness of programme and funding issues.

Once students had begun their programmes of study in September they took ownership of the group and it has continued to function as a social network. Some ambassadors continue to post and programme specific societies have also joined the group.

At the workshop we will have data from facebook page illustrating the volume of usage and the nature and frequency of topics discussed.

Discussion points for the workshop:

 Working with other institutions to analyse their approaches to social media;

 Inclusivity of social media and student participation;

 Recruitment and training of student ambassadors;

 Mapping usage and the student journey;

 Explore ways for each of us to develop new or existing projects.

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