HowTo

What are some examples of successful outreach/PR/advocacy strategies?

  • As a new group on my campus, our Innovation Team has taken a multi-stage approach to ensure faculty are aware of our services, and the value we can bring to their pedagogical projects. We drew on marketing expertise in-house as well as collaborating with our college’s marketing and web development teams to implement the plan outlined below:
    • We worked with an outside media group to design a logo designed for visual recognition that captured the spirit of our team. Relative to the visual identity of our university, the logo fits our visual guidelines but is an “outside the box” design, meant to evoke curiosity and challenge. The logo was then deployed in website, print and email described below.
    • We collaborated with the web development team to create a site that describes our services and the opportunities collaboration with our team represents. Our site includes information about our services but also community-oriented piece such as a blog and an “innovation sandbox” that demonstrate and discuss some of the tools and methodologies we are using or experimenting with.
      • We collaborated with our marketing group to develop a print campaign highlighting our team. The following materials were distributed over the course of two months during fall term:
      • Letter from our dean to all deans, directors and chairs, to foster awareness and encourage buy-in
      • General information flyer to all faculty, describing aspects of our offerings in visual chunks, care taken to use friendly, concise text, highly visible information on how to contact us
      • Two postcards to faculty, each highlighting one specific aspect of our offerings
    • We used in-house expertise to design an email campaign aimed at our faculty, following print materials by a couple of weeks. Where print establishes recognition, email campaign provides links and generates traffic at our website. Specifically, we used a series of emails to direct faculty to our award and conference opportunities as well as to our blog and sandbox (instead of sending them to our general website, we sent them to the pages that focused on with deadline-driven opportunities or community engagement.)
    • Our team’s goal is to improve student engagement and interaction, and foster academic community, in online courses. One direction that fits within this goal is to include more digital scholarship projects and digital pedagogy within online courses. If the marketing steps outlined above represent the “how”, we also worked, prior to these marketing efforts, to develop the “what” in terms of incentives and opportunities that would encourage faculty to work with us to improve their online course offerings in a student-centered direction. In-house, we offer a series of Innovation Scholar awards that recognize both large- and small-scale, meaningful innovation in online courses. Faculty submit proposals for these awards, and those selected by committee (a cross-campus commitee including Digital Humanities team, academes and technologists) receive financial support for equipment, hardware, software (etc.) and one-on-one support for design, implementation and assessment by our team. In collaboration with two other major groups on campus (College of Arts and Sciences, and Libraries, who both volunteered additional funding), and with a planning committee representing 12 colleges and departments on our campus, we are hosting a one-day unconference regarding online teaching and learning. In addition to activities around community-building, brainstorming and dealing with relevant questions, we will have Innovation Scholar awardees pitch their ideas to the group (thus connecting the Innovation Scholar program to the unconference, and providing opportunities for the Scholars be leaders and examples to others of innovation in online teaching.)
    • We are mid-process, though already our conversations with Innovation Scholar applicants have been fruitful. With many, we have already begun foundational work on their proposed projects -- intentionally maintaining fluidity of process in the spirit of collaboration. Because the Innovation Scholar programs are awarded yearly, we are holding open the possibility of phasing the projects (spring and fall, for example) in order to manage our workload. As Innovation Scholar projects proceed, we are documenting their steps, conversations, successes, pitfalls, and problem-solving. Some are also being documented in collaboration with our media team in order to create video documentaries of the process. As Innovation Scholar projects come to completion, we will include the written accounts and video documentaries in our blog and in an Innovation Showcase on our website, so that they become examples to other faculty of what is possible, and how we addressed issues that arose along the way. We hope this will shift the conversation around online teaching and foster more digital scholarship and digital pedagogy techniques in our online courses. (Jennifer Roth-Burnette, University of Alabama)
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How do you start a conversation with potential project partners or faculty?

  • Attend faculty oriented events
  • Engage with them around their research, student projects, publishing activities, etc.
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What are some examples of techniques that can be used to build community?

  • Sponsor brown bag sessions on relevant topics
  • Sponsor a speaker series, open house or other events that happen on a regular basis
  • Invite faculty engaged in DS to speak to other faculty
  • Propose a faculty learning community
  • Offer funding and other forms of support to interested parties through a competitive process
  • Launch a listserv, Google group etc.
  • Follow discipline specific and Digital Scholarship hashtags
  • Create a dedicated, welcoming space that can easily be repurposed for different functions (consultations, meetings, seminars, workshops, symposiums) with adjacent open and closed lab spaces.
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How do you let people know your strengths and what you can offer to projects?

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