Thanks for the Memories: What I learnt at CASE

colours case Last week I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Edinburgh for the CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Europe Annual Conference and it was really rather good.

Being still new to the HE sector, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when heading up to the Scottish capital, while I also realised this would be my first proper conference – rather than the many unconferences I’ve become so used to attending.

However, I needn’t have worried; the three days of sessions were great, as were the first night drinks reception in the National Museum of Scotland and the final night gala dinner, with added table tennis.

Anyway, I’ve always found that blogging some post-event takeaways is a useful thing to do, so here’s a selection of stuff I learnt at #ceac14 – hopefully this won’t be the last time I attend.

CASE notes

The excellent Tricia King from Birkbeck, University of London, loves staying up to speed with social media and other technological advances. As she very sensibly put it, ‘if you let technology get away from you, you also let life get away from you’. Tricia used her Mum as an example who, according to Tricia, would love social media but never got to grips with computers came in, and so has been left behind.

Why should academics write a blog? Well, readership for individual blog posts can outstrip that of an academic journal article for a start.

Academics are not particularly visible in the digital sphere – this was a driving factor in LSE establishing their Impact of Social Sciences blog, explained Jane Tinkler.

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre has every colour you can imagine on one wall.

When looking to devise a strategy, start by knowing your strengths instead of dismissing all that has gone before you.

A strategy should be something that is adaptable – it should set a clear direction without being the only perspective.

Branding should be about telling a good story based on truth.

Universities do not have a USP because they are not unique – they should instead look for points of difference. This came from a Vice-Chancellor of a Russell Group University, so it’s definitely legit!

The University of Reading has embarked on a repositioning project, mainly to try and shift the University from its current, somewhat underestimated, status as a safe second choice to a prospective student’s first choice. Interestingly, Reading found it didn’t have a bad reputation…it just didn’t have a reputation at all!

The National Museum of Scotland is a stunning location for a drinks reception.

Alan Rutter does data visualisations for the Guardian – an organisation that has a whole team of people making information look beautiful. Jealous!

Data visualisations should add meaning, not decoration.

When creating a data visualisation, you have to be clear about your audience, the story the action you want people to take.

A great example of knowing your audience is the data journalism startup Ampp3d – they’re the data vis branch of the Mirror group, making their (broadly) tabloid audience a hugely different prospect to those who seek out the Guardian’s pieces of art.

Don’t just rely on your visualisation – make the full set of data you used available so people can go over it themselves.

Don’t just one number when making visualisations – look for differences, similarities, comparisons and other things that tell a story.

Want some resources for your own visualisations? Head over to Flaticon and Canva for plenty of freebies.

The new student accommodation at Edinburgh Napier University has funky colours and a giant Welly – no really!

Despite still not really liking LinkedIn, Charles Hardy’s session on the new University pages was so good I’m at least now keen to get stuck into them.

LinkedIn is growing at a rate of two new members per second – wow!

You can target updates on a University page by the location, company or seniority of your followers and save these targets for future use, which is rather useful.

If you head to the LinkedIn Developer page you can grab an alumni widget for your own website to show off your alumni data and drive traffic to your LinkedIn page.

LinkedIn knows it needs to include analytics and metrics for the University pages (there currently aren’t really any of worth to speak of) and they are working on it.

Edinburgh is really rather photogenic

Oxford Brookes’ Tim Gibson and Richard Sills really know their digital content onions – they’ve managed to make digital at the heart of what they do and bring about an evolution of how content is approached at their institution.

There is a lot of social media activity at Oxford Brookes and there is no desire to control all of this centrally – I like this attitude!

Tim and Richard measure and evaluate everything they do. Not because there’s a great demand for it from colleagues (in fact, they’re not being asked for it) but because they know they will get asked for it at some point. It’s also proved useful to their team and helps them advise other colleagues on what might or might not work.

Oxford Brookes has a social media wall to pull social content from across their campus’ digital landscape. It looks ace and the software behind only costs £4 per month.

The University’s magazine, Observe, has shifted from paper, to e-mag to an app and social space.

As Tim and Richard point out, ‘digital is not a silo or a magic wand’.

Did I mention that Edinburgh is a photographer’s dream city? I did, oh right.

The amount of international students has grown sevenfold since 1975.

At the University of Huddersfield, International Students account for around 15% of the organisation’s income – blimey!

Referrals from other students are now a massive driver when it comes to informing choices about where to go and study; the biggest value from your students is what they tell others about you, rather than the money they pay in fees.

I’m not one to brag, but I absolutely annihilated Amy Howes at table football; two matches, aggregate score 20-5 to me. Where’s my trophy?

Think you’ve got some cool alumni? Harvard has 47 Nobel laureates and 32 heads of state among its former students. Yep, they win.

A story that mentions Harvard in either the headline or intro will get 25% more clicks that stories about other Universities. I’m now trying to resist the urge to change the title of this blog posts in a sad attempt to drive traffic.

In times of crisis, organisations have to part of the online debate – they also have to be quick but should accept that they may not always be first.

While we’re talking crises, Harvard has accepted that they can’t control situations but can establish themselves as the most influential person – that’s a pretty huge mindshift.

Harvard’s content hub – the Harvard Gazette – is ace and has 120,000 subscribers to its daily email.

Everything in these daily emails is traceable and Harvard will use these reader stats to give their subscribers the content they like the most. That’s right folks, you can use metrics to make your content work harder and resonate more with your audience – amazing, isn’t it??

You guessed it, I really liked taking pictures of Edinburgh

Beth Elzer from Imperial College London is a perfect speaker for the final session of a three-day conference – so much energy!

When photographing your campus, be authentic and show it for what it is. Yes, Oxbridge might have all those beautiful old buildings, but your modern architecture is pretty sweet too.

On photo shoots, take portrait and landscape versions of every shot – you never know when you might need them or what space you might have to squeeze them into.

If you’re photographing people, show their faces! Also, be sure to bag shots of them being happy, serious and also some ‘environmental’ portraits.

Event photography and editorial photography are very different beasts and will probably require different photographers.

Inspiration for photography can be found all over the place – use Pinterest, Flickr, Google Image and sites like Coverjunkie to get some ideas.

If you get a great photo, keep using it – you don’t need to stop after the first go!

If you’re shooting a machine that can be turned on…ask for it to be turned on.

You can get great photos yourself, but leave anything involving fire and lasers to a professional.

If you ever play Alex Miles at table tennis, don’t be fooled by his lacklustre performance in the pre-match warm up. IT’S A TRAP! He will destroy you.

I really hate that song by the Proclaimers – if Scotland does go independent they can definitely keep that one, just let us have Biffy Clyro and we’ll call it quits.

There you have it…here’s one more snap of the city for good measure.

*All pics by me

**Blog title song reference: Fall Out Boy – Thnks fr th Mmrs



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