Life as a full-time DigiChamp

Author: Alex Hovden 

Over the summer months I have been employed by the Web Science Institute here at the University to support the building of their online presence. From blogging and tweeting, to meeting various individuals from the central Comms and Marketing team, I have been doing it all!

Essentially I have been working as a full-time DigiChamp. But how did all this come about??

In June I attended the launch of the Web Science Institute at the Royal Society in London among the DigiChamps. I had the opportunity to meet a wide range of individuals including Professor Dame Wendy Hall, and Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.


At the time I was looking for a summer job, so after the day I popped an email off to Professor Les Carr and Dame Wendy Hall to see if they had any positions going or if they could suggest anywhere for me to ask.

Turned out that I was in luck! With the 3rd running of the Web Science MOOC starting in October, the launch of a new MOOC in Digital Marketing just a week later, and the need for someone to focus on the publicity of the Institute, there was a job there. Given my experience of Social media and digital technologies, the job had my name on it!

So what have the highlights been since I started at the end of June?

The main one has to be achieving our goal on our Thunderclap. Allow me to explain…

Thunderclap is sort of like a social media flashmob. It is a crowd speaking platform, in which your message gets broadcast via “supporters'” social media, simultaneously. For more info on Thunderclap please see my other blog post on the WSI Blog.

We needed to obtain at least 100 supporters by 8th September in order for the Thunderclap to happen. This happened late on Wednesday night, 12 days ahead of the end date. The result is that on 8th Sept at 3:30 in the afternoon, our message promoting the Web Science and Digital Marketing MOOCs will be posted to over 100 people’s Twitter/Facebook, meaning that up to 450,000 people will find out about the fantastic opportunities that MOOCs provide.

The MOOCs are proving to be hugely popular even without much promotional activity. Who knows how many will add their names to the list once the Thunderclap goes live? But really for me, that’s not the point of it. The point of it is awareness. I want as many people as possible to be aware of the concept of free open online education, and that the university is taking a leading role in providing opportunities to engage in our activities. Out of 450,000 people, surely a few of them are bound to find that inspiring and will consider taking up a course.

A key aspect of Digital Marketing is generating clicks. I am confident that the Thunderclap will do just that. We have even scheduled it to go out at a time of the day where statistically speaking, most people are on social media, or are about to do so.

You can still sign up to support our Thunderclap using Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. To do this please visit the Thunderclap project page.

Another highlight has been the Web Science Summer school that occurred about 5 weeks ago. I took the opportunity to live-blog  the keynote talks from Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Professor Jim Hendler, Cory Doctorow and Dr Chris Welty on a wide range of topics from Open Data through the work of the Web Observatory, and ending on an insight into the mind of IBM’s Watson. There are videos from all of the keynotes on the website (linked above) along with videos of all the tutorials.

Now we are fast approaching the start of the 2014-15 academic year. Term starts on September 30th, with Freshers’ Week the week before. We are very keen to welcome new faces to the DigiChamp team. More information will be available in due course.

This blog has given an overview of some of the awesome events/activities that I have got involved in as a full-time DigiChamp over the summer. The list of possible events that DigiChamps get involved in is actually endless.  There are so many opportunities available and so many new people to meet. These people can then become contacts. If there’s one thing I have learnt in the past few months, it’s not just about what you know, it’s who you know!

It is not just about marketing though. DigiChamps actively encourage the use of the internet to enhance employability through workshops in LinkedIn and other online techniques. We want social media to be used more and more to enhance education and research. Just this last week, Dr Lisa Harris gave a lunchtime session to the staff of the School of Biological Sciences on the use of Twitter in educational and research activities.

Being a DigiChamp gives you excellent digital and social media experience. It helps to build skills that you may have only been vaguely familiar with before, and unlocks new layers and tricks that could well help you in your studies, or in your chosen career pathway.

As a society we are undergoing an online revolution. While there are big question marks over privacy and security, we are moving towards a position where the expected standard will be that most people will have a solid online presence. Being a DigiChamp pretty much sums that up about you on a CV, and makes you stand out. It looks great to employers, whatever job you are going for!

If you are keen on becoming a DigiChamp then I would strongly suggest keeping a close eye out for further information.

Anyway, that’s enough from me!

Bye for now!

Alex Hovden – @WheelsOnFire92

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