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Learning to 'LinkIn' - teaching undergraduate students how to professionally network using social media

Andrea Cameron and James Cobley


: [email protected]


The modern university has a responsibility to produce employable graduates

(Knight & Yorke, 2003; Schomburg

& Teichler, 2006)

Activities to enhance employment skills should be integral programme activities

(Knight & Yorke, 2003)

E-portfolios allow students to document skills, knowledge and experiences

Assessing e-portfolio work can heighten reflection, organisational and planning skills, increase confidence with technology, and allow for creativity

(Strivens, Baume, Grant, Owen, Ward & Nicol, 2009).

Increasingly, professional social networks are being used to source ‘experts’ and for recruitment purposes

(Backstrom, Huttenlocher, Kleinberg & Lan, 2006; Cohen & Clemens,

2005; Skeels & Grudin, 2009).

92% of employers use social media to recruit; 1 in 6 employees state their current post is as a consequence of social media

(Jobvite, 2012).

In a highly competitive job market self-promotion and self-assertion are key

(Mayrhofer, Steyrer, Meyer, Strunk,

Schiffinger & Iellatchitch, 2005; Knight and Yorke, 2003)


For second year sport students to submit in Pebblepad a Webfolio asset that is maximally 1000 words long but acts as a ‘Linked-in’-style professional connections platform that showcases skills, strengths and experiences to prospective future employers


One hundred and forty-three students registered to take the module in 2012/13, compared to one hundred and twenty-nine students in 2011/12.


Figure 1

Spread of grades for the webfolio in 2012/13 compared to objective setting assessment in 2011/12

The modal grade for the assessment remained a C, significantly more students were awarded a B grade or better for the webfolio


=11.97, p<0.01).

Grade point average for the PDP in 2011-12 was 11.0

(D band) compared to 12.25 (C band) for the new webfolio element.

Grades and individual feedback for the webfolio were available within 13 working days compared to 18 working days the previous session, despite an 11% increase in student numbers.

Students appreciated presenting to a prospective employer in this format.

They also appreciated feedback regarding appropriate information to include, as well as how best to present it in this medium.

Comments included:-

‘it hadn’t occurred to me that what I perceived as an innocent photo of me having fun might be interpreted differently by an employer’

‘I found this a really interesting exercise to do, as I hadn’t ever thought about the need to promote myself to future employers via the web’

‘I liked being able to choose how I organised the information but it was difficult to know if I was including the right type of information for an employer’.


Generic feedback:-

‘A grades

- well-written, well-presented, fluent and concise pieces which excluded personal information but made it clear what the student was studying, stage of study, achievements and accolades as well as qualifications. There were some nice reflections on learning/development and limited listing of information, allowing the reader to appraise the students skills in terms of constructing a short piece of prose. A positive attitude emerged from the work.’

Fail grades

- too brief, too personal in style and information, and made insufficient reference to experiences from the domain of sport and exercise eg. had omitted to mention placement, or to consider skill/strengths’.

Debate exists about the value of social networking tools for learning purposes

(Madge et al, 2009) as well as the worth of teaching employability skills in a classroom context

(Cranmer, 2006; Mason et al, 2009)

There is scope to consider the impact of this type of guided simulation using web-based technology to advance self-presentation

Graduate employment statistics, as derived from

Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey data, now form part of Unistats’ Key

Information Sets (KIS).

Students report this as being a valuable tool in aiding them to make an informed decision about their chosen programme of study and their preferred location

(HEFCE, 2013



Appraising the attributes of communication skill, particularly in respect of self-promotion in a professional context, has proved to be a valued tool for this student population


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Knowledge discovery and data mining

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ACM, New York, NY, USA, 44-54

Cohen, T & Clemens, B (2005). Social networks for creative collaboration.

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(C\&C '05).

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Education, 31 (2), 169-84

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Schomburg, H & Teichler, U (2006).

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