The Digital Campus

The Digital Campus

Digital Campus Study Tour – Day 2 According to Jeremy

By Jeremy Packham, Communications Officer at the University of Lausanne and EPFL, where he works on continuing education programs (@JeremyPackham).IMG_20130917_112100

The second day of our Study Tour kicked off with an hour’s drive from San Francisco down South to the heart of Silicon Valley. Julia and Florencia swept us up at our hotel at dawn and as we drove down the freeway we went through a few of the many microclimates unique to the Peninsula and South Bay areas. Leaving sunny but cool and windy San Francisco, going through the infamous fog and arriving a few miles further in a warm, bright Palo Alto. Continue Reading →

Digital Campus Study Tour – Day 1

UC Berkeley

By Tanja Von Rotz, Head of Marketing and Communications, ZHAW School of Psychology (@indira2007)

San Francisco welcomes the Study Tour Group with beautiful sunny and warm weather, leaving the fog behind. After exploring the exciting city on Sunday we are given a warm welcome by the swissnex team at the Slanted Door, a popular Asian style restaurant in the Ferry Building. We got to know the group members better while facing the beautiful Bay Bridge, and started to get sense of the California spirit. Continue Reading →

Spring Study Tour: Day 6

A recap of the study tour’s final day comes from Gilda Schertenleib, University of Lugano, and Philippe Fabian, Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

In Search of the Holy Grail
At the end of this incredible week, we probably identify with the gold diggers that came to San Francisco in the 1840’s, a story that our fantastically funny guide illustrated during the Gold Rush City walking tour today.

And here we are, 170 years after the Gold Rush, repeating history with the “Social Media Rush.” A group of avid people, who travelled mountains and oceans in search of the Social Media grail. Like the gold seekers that didn’t actually find nuggets in the city of San Francisco, we didn’t find our grail, either. Simply because it doesn’t exist here, and might not exist anywhere on the planet.

Best of the Week Photos

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But as with those Californian ancestors, no grail doesn’t mean no riches for us. Those early settlers found other things and were successful in many other ways. They turned San Francisco into a prosperous city. Likewise, we found a whole lot of inspiration, gained unique insights into shooting stars and pioneers of the Social Media era, came across great discussions and made valuable connections with many people here in the Bay Area and with our Swiss colleagues. We could literally feel the heartbeat of Social Media.

Encouraged and enriched we will try to make the Silicon Valley spirit grow and prosper in our institutions back home. We will try to stay down-to-earth with the use of Social Media as American universities do. But on the other hand, we have to break new ground and not be afraid of stumbling.

Or, in the words of David Harris from today’s final workshop: “Fail forward or fail fast.” Just like the gold diggers did.

Video Recap of Day 6


Spring Study Tour: Day 3

Day 3 of the Spring Study Tour is summarized here by guest bloggers Marcel Blattner and Cindy Eggs, from the Fernfachhochshule Schweiz, and Ladina Caprez, from the University of Lugano.

Die Luft der Freiheit weht

Today we discovered various ways in which the winds of freedom blow, as mentioned in Stanford’s motto. Whereas Twitter owes its success partly to the fact that it fostered freedom in some countries, at Stanford they think a little differently about it…

First thing in the morning we discovered Twitter’s conception of freedom right away when Elaine, the secretary, had to abandon her work to allow us a group picture in front of the Twitter sign (on the wall right behind her desk). Before starting the actual meeting, Thomas Arend invited us to serve ourselves at the vast breakfast buffet – including eight different kinds of coffee and at least fifteen different types of cereals – quite unusual for Europeans.

During his speech, Thomas elaborated on different dimensions of Twitter’s freedom: Tweets that spread all over the world in a very short time make it possible to overcome distance and therefore allow freedom of thought and speech no matter where your followers are; giving a voice to a mute girl commenting on soccer games, Twitter allows her to overcome many obstacles; by connecting people’s opinions beyond country boundaries, Twitter creates a platform for the oppressed to gain strength in revolution.

Twitter stream seconds after the earthquake in Japan, March 2011.

Twitter stream seconds after the earthquake in Japan, March 2011.

Creating a platform is also Stanford’s goal with their social media activities. Stanford gives visibility to its excellence in the field by collaborating with researchers, who publish their findings on the various social media channels. Even though Stanford’s School of Medicine encourages its scholars to produce content and to use their own voice and tone, they are still held to certain criteria, such as publishing date, journal standing, etc.

Heading to the alumni center, we became aware that the wisdom of freedom has other dimensions on this very nice and cultivated campus. The Stanford Alumni Association motivates current and former students to join their different social platforms in order to connect to the alumni network once they graduate. The data generated from these networks is used to list people with common interests and to link them with each other and with influencers. From the content point of view, the Association’s priority is to spotlight what their alums do instead of just broadcasting their own news.

At Stanford’s School of Engineering they see eye-to-eye with their colleagues: They tell stories on their Facebook page and collaborate with interns to create content that engages their audience. Thanks to reliable and extensive data, the social media team at Stanford knows what their audience is interested in and no longer have to rely on guessing. However, they keep an eye on the content created and sometimes do need to intervene and confine the freedom they conceded their interns.

To sum up, Day 3 of the #springstudytour showed that, at the bottom line, social media equals freedom, but this freedom can be interpreted in various ways – as with social media activities in general, by the way.

PS: Check out our group’s activity on Twitter using the #springstudytour hashtag – increasing steadily as slowly everybody discovers the freedom of speech on SoM 🙂

Video Recap of Day 3


Spring Study Tour: Day 2

For Day 2 of the Spring Study Tour, guest bloggers Annika Glauner, from Euresearch – International Research Programmes at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, David Spring, from the University of Lausanne, and Lara Canonica, from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences reflected on the day’s rich program.

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And here is the team’s reflection on the day:

Trying to explain what Silicon Valley is to someone who has never been to the region is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind. Prof. Chuck Darrah from the San Jose State University tried to provide us with the peripheral definitions of what Silicon Valley is as a whole, in order for us “Swiss cookies” to better interact in this area and connect with its “tribes” over the upcoming five days.

Chuck Darrah is an insider because he lives in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Mountain View (aka Mountain Google), and he is an outsider because he has no cellphone. As an anthropologist his job is to study the “tech tribe” in Silicon Valley. He interviews and observes them.

San Francisco is not in the Silicon Valley of which San Jose is the capital. Officially, Silicon Valley doesn’t even exist.

Over the past forty years the Valley has changed a lot. The industry shifted from hardware to software to Internet. Now, there are 22,000 high-tech companies in the region.  People come here from all over the world because of the highly paid jobs. The mentality is to take risks and celebrate failure. Mobility is important, and people tend to switch jobs every two years otherwise they are considered as losers. Here everything is transformed into technical problems that need to be solved. So in order to blend in, we became mobile too and drove to Cupertino for an appointment at Apple headquarters.

We met Steve Wilson, iTunes U Producer and Deirdre Espinoza, Sr. Marketing Manager Education Content. They presented iBooks and iTunes U. Apple is as brilliant as you would expect it to be: it’s vivid, creative, buzzing. And in this spirit we left for the University of California, Berkeley.

The meeting we had with Christina Sponselli (Social Media Director), Kathryn Bader and Ram Kapoor (Office of Public Affairs) was comforting, down-to-earth and inspiring. At Berkeley they are not implementing a strategy, but rather validating it through a process of experimentation and co-creation. They provided us with tips and tricks and good advice. UC Berkeley has also a Social Media User Group (SMUG), who gathers once a month to share experience and to discuss how to reach more students and alumni. With a small and flexible team and very little resources, they are active on different platforms like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare to name a few.

So what have we learned today? That we too are able to facilitate innovation by applying The Infinite Loop using a human-centered approach, as the people we want to reach are the experts, they know what they need.

Hearing, creating, delivering, evaluating, improving, learning.

Observations lead to stories, lead to networking, lead to opportunities, lead to ideas, lead to solutions, lead to implementation.

This has been a very promising start to an exciting week. To be continued…

For a video recap of the day, see below:


Spring Study Tour: Day 1

On Sunday, March 18, 2012, swissnex San Francisco welcomed 14 representatives from Swiss higher education for a week-long, immersive study tour on the subject of social media for academic institutions. swissnex director Christian Simm welcomed the group and introduced our work with Swiss universities. Gioia Deucher described the organization’s activities with Swiss startups, particularly university spin-offs. With introductions and program overview out of the way, the day wound down with a welcome dinner at Urban Taverna. Here’s a quick recap in video.


Fall 2011 Study Tour: Final Day and Parting Thoughts

A couple of weeks have passed since the fall study tour participants left the swissnex San Francisco building and flew away from the Golden Gate. We’re still talking (and tweeting) about it. #fallstudytour

Fall Study Tour crew (most of them) at the swissnex San Francisco event, Robot Revolution.

The final day of the study tour was full of meetings and new ideas, as was each day before it. But something occurred to me on day five. Our little group had become a community of friends as well as colleagues, making the study tour a wild success in many ways.

Sure, the week was well planned. Of course, the meetings were informative and motivating. We promised they would be. But the participants (you, if you’re reading) played the biggest role in this victory. The group was inquisitive, professional, thoughtful, and really really nice. It’s hard to emphasize that enough. Reeeeealllllly nice.

On day five, it truly felt as though lasting connections had been made not only between the swissnex San Francisco staff and the study tour participants, but among the participants as well. This was evident in the banter and conversations between meetings, in the tweets, goodbye toasts, final presentations (silly and sincere), and certainly at the North Beach beatnik bar Vesuvio.

This kind of camaraderie is all we at swissnex could have hoped for. The spirit of social media is, well, social. Without that element, without sharing, it’s hard to grasp the full potential of the tools let alone successfully practice them to benefit a university. The supportive environment that was fostered here during the study tour will allow the participants to help each other as they lift their individual institutions into a new era of communications. The benefits will likely help promote the excellence of Swiss higher education globally.


Lessons from Day 5
David Harris doesn’t believe in a social media strategy. Period. It sounded shocking at first. “What? But, but,” we were tempted to interject.

“Social media is a tool,” he continued. “You should have a communications strategy, but social media is just one of the tools that you use to achieve those goals.”

Harris also covered how to measure success with social media tools, from general awareness to engagement and investment. He led an exercise in strategic planning (complete with little red workbooks), where participants were encouraged to outline goals, define audiences, and suggest reasonable metrics to measure success.

Gold Rush City
Our walking tour of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast took us back to 1850s San Francisco, when life along then named Yerba Buena Cove was lurid and wild. Strangely enough, the swissnex San Francisco building was a lone bastion of civilized culture back in those days: it housed the Golden Era literary magazine, which Mark Twain and Bret Harte wrote for.

The walking tour ended on Gold Street directly in front of Blackboard Mobile. If anyone doubted the power or influence of mobile technologies, this meeting with the company’s “Mobile Evangelist” David Small probably changed his or her mind.

Blackboard Mobile began as a small start-up of Stanford University students who built an app for the school. They were acquired by the e-learning giant Blackboard and have been steadily growing since. Our final company visit of the study tour, Blackboard Mobile’s presentation drove home how important mobile is for the future of university communications. It’s not enough to think about the website and social media channels. Forward-looking leaders within the institution should be staring at the smartphone.


Goodbye for now, but stay in touch

The study tour ended officially with a goodbye dinner at Fog City Diner. Some returned to swissnex San Francisco for an event on Swiss university spin-off companies working in the robotics field. And some explored the city after that, even using social media to find the group when lost (you know who you are).

All that was learned and thought throughout the week will never really fade thanks to social media. There’s this blog, for one. There’s the, Social Media Study Tour Daily (check the archive editions to see what was captured September 26-30, 2011), and our Storify. Multiple participants made videos, webdocs, and contributed to the Flickr album. And many of the presentations and materials from the week are accessible in the library on this very website.

For the 11 fall study tour participants reading this, we’re quite far from a goodbye—we are actually planning a hello. Our conference call on October 31st will give us the chance to check in with everyone, ask follow-up questions, share ideas and progress, and generally re-energize. Fill in the Google document to help define the agenda and stay tuned for the exact time.

Until then!

Goodbye dinner for Fall Study Tour at Fog City Diner.

Fall 2011 Study Tour: Day 4

Thursday was a city day, complete with the realities of San Francisco in the summer: sunshine one minute, fog the next. Sandrine Wenger, Alumni Network Coordinator for the University of Lausanne, was kind enough to create a delightful little photo montage of day four of the study tour. She documents our workshop at swissnex San Francisco with Michael Stoner, lunch at the ferry building, the subsequent bus (MUNI) ride, followed by an afternoon at UCSF’s Laurel Heights campus, where we met with Lena Shaw, the university’s social media marketing manager, and Sarah Paris, Director of Communications for the UCSF School of Medicine.


Markus Zinsmaier, Web Editor-in-Chief of the University of St. Gallen (HSG), gives us these reflective thoughts on day four as we near the end of the study tour:

It’s time to get real about social media
By Markus Zinsmaier

The communications landscape is changing. Institutions have lost control of the message as electronic channels and social media enable individuals to communicate rapidly with each other. Everything nowadays is connected to each other, says Michael Stoner in a workshop morning session @swissnexSF. It’s Day 4 of the swissnex Study Tour and it slowly feels like home.

Have you ever thought about multi-channel strategies, targeting multiple audiences and measuring success in social media? Sure you did, but Michael Stoner brings it all together and shows possible ways of organizing these strategies.  After days of visiting the big shots in the Silicon Valley, hearing PR driven statements – but also discovering the spirit of the Bay Area, of the universities and companies – it’s refreshing to break social media down to its essential: realism, not hype.

To try it and to start with social media activities is actually a good starting point for any sort of engagement. But sometimes it’s also important to pick up a phone and make a call, says Stoner. Social Media is not a one-way street. Having a Facebook page is not a social media strategy. We know all this. We’ve heard it before. But using these tools, discovering new tools
( for instance), discussing problems on our way, we get closer to our own strategy. There’s no other way than doing it. Right on!

Swiss start-up Webdoc, which we learned about on day three, seems to have struck a chord. Here, study tour participant Guillaume Conne, Responsible for Information at the University of Lausanne, creates an engaging webdoc to summarize Lena Shaw’s presentation at UCSF. Remember to click on the webdoc below for the live version.

swissnex San Francisco’s overview video of Day 4:


Fall 2011 Study Tour: Day 3

On Wednesday morning, Vincent Borel of Webdoc gave us a demo of his company’s innovative technology, which allows for rich conversations that go way beyond links and photos. One of the guest bloggers for the day, Anne-Dominique Salamin, Responsable Centre e-learning // HES-SO Cyberlearn, actually created a webdoc (click on the screenshot below to view the full document) to describe another product and company we visited later in the day, Wildfire. I’m loving her creative approach to blogging. Thanks Anne-Dominique, and Webdoc!

Day three also included a stop at the San Bruno headquarters of Google-owned YouTube. Sara Fedele, Marketing Communications Manager for the Executive MScom Program at the Università della Svizzera italiana, gives us her thoughts:

All you need is… Google!

“People don’t work at Google for the money. They work at Google because they want to change the world!” Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has said. In fact, today when visiting the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, there was the impression that we’d landed on a different planet where employees were sort of super heroes with super hi-tech powers ready to save us from some kind of cybernetic war. But, was it like this or it was just an impression? Or maybe it was just an amusement park?

Certainly Google is not a conventional company, and as they affirm, “we don’t intend to become one.” Everything in Google is about creating an experience and, as a consequence, a strong loyalty to the brand. Employees are not simple employees…they are Googlers , they are cool! Google wants them to be part of the community, more than that to feel part of the community, creating a voluntary commitment to the brand.

“At Google, we know that every employee has something important to say, and that every employee is integral to our success,” according to Schmidt. “…Googlers thrive in small, focused teams and high-energy environments, believe in the ability of technology to change the world, and are as passionate about their lives as they are about their work.”

And this is the point: I am not sure there is someone at the employees’ backs with a shotgun ready to fire them if they leave their desk at 17:30. I’ve heard of people sleeping overnight at Google, and I think they voluntarily did it. Walking into Youtube I was stopped by an employee and when I asked him if he was an engineer he told me “well, I am a Google Engineer.” Not a surprising answer! Google created the sense of community by giving employees the instruments: they are free to use them the best they can if this helps them to be productive. This is the deal. And I think it is a quite clear policy inside the company, indirectly written everywhere.

I am not saying this is the best strategy or that it is correct but, as a matter of fact, Google is successful. Every book of brand management tell us about the commitment to the brand, and I was happy to finally experience the theory.


Our last visit of the day was at LinkedIn. I’ll shut up and let guest blogger Hans-Dieter Zimmermann, of FHS St.Gallen, Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften, inject his impressions. Read more about the study trip on Hans-Dieter’s blog.


Our final visit on the third day of the Social Media Study Tour led us to the LinkedIn HQ in Mountain View.

Here Christina Allen, Director, Product Manager for the University and Student Initiative, presented the latest developments of LinkedIn for universities, colleges, and students. The overall goal of the initiative is to make LinkedIn more relevant for all stakeholders in the education sector – and thus to develop a new market. Some major developments will go online shortly or have already been released.

For students LinkedIn shall serve on the one side as a safety net providing a network. On the other side it shall be something like a lottery ticket as students could be found by interested employers searching for a specific profile. Students will be able to request a profile review in order to present themselves in the best way possible. Through the LinkedIn network, in which students will be able to indicate whom they know within an organization, they shall find their first job after having finished their studies.

Following the student’s lifecycle from getting into college until having their first job LinkedIn shall support them accordingly. For example, the network allows students to gain insight where they might find a future job or what kind of internships might be possible.

For colleges and universities LinkedIn will introduce respective pages in the system. Based on the information already given by users prospective students get an insight into the institution or former classmates could be found. A ranking of institutions based on current career outcomes will be provided as well.

For companies LinkedIn will provide targeted search functions in order to search for student profiles.

As students are used to social networks they shall be motivated easily to register their profile which then can be integrated into the institution’s LinkedIn page.

Covering the whole life-cycle LinkedIn might have the potential to serve as the institution’s Alumni site as well.

And finally we met the three language localization teams which cover the French, German, and Italian language versions of LinkedIn.

In summary, LinkedIn will roll out some very smart solutions to integrate students, universities and professionals. From all the three groups we learned about the localization challenges and could discuss further issues about more localized versions of the service.

Fall 2011 Study Tour: Day 2

Day 2 of the study tour took the group to Stanford University. Guest bloggers Olivier Schwarz, from the University of Neuchatel, and Sylvie Fournier, from the University of Geneva, bring us up to speed on the day’s events and lessons learned. They co-wrote the following post:

We cannot display this galleryDay #2 began with a meeting at the Alumni Building of Stanford University. Ian Hsu, who is Director for Media Outreach at the Office of Public Affairs, welcomes us. Today, the Facebook page and the Twitter account (@Stanford) are the third and fourth most visited sites of all Stanford University pages on the web. How did they manage this, we ask? In 2005, Ian Hsu launched the first Stanford University Facebook page. Since then, the platform has never stopped growing and now has more than 233,000 likes. What are their tips and secrets? We all want to know.

First, they try to understand what kind of information people read. They do a lot of surveys on the web, but also by phone to know who are the people following them, how many times per day do they go one Facebook, and where did they learn about the Facebook page, etc. Understanding who is out there helps Ian’s team to know what to say in posts.

“The most important thing is to make people interact,” says Hsu, “And for that there is nothing better than hiring interns to take care of posts. Our survey shows us clearly that since we’ve had them, the traffic on Facebook and Twitter has increased more than significantly.”


Hsu finds interns through interviews and trains them over a few weeks using staging Facebook and Twitter pages. They then go out on the real pages and are monitored until they are ready to have the key of the house. “It’s quite a long process but it worth it,” explains Hsu. “Last year we had three interns. This year we’ve hired twelve!”

Apparently, the key to success on social media is students speaking to students who then share with their friends.

What do these pages bring to the institution? They sure bring visibility, they support the core messages of the university, like reputation and innovation in research, but according to Hsu they also change the vision people have of Stanford.

After an overview of the “Global Stanford Unit” social media strategy, we walked through the gorgeous campus to the Stanford School of Engineering (NB: Schools are similar to Faculties in Switzerland). Their way of acting on social media is much closer to Swiss universities in term of resources and organization.

Staci Baird, Community Manager for the School, is a very joyful person who did not hesitate to share her secret with us on how to act on social media: “Just be there! Show up!” Unlike others, her communication style is to be very transparent, as we can read on the Facebook page description of the School “(…) I’m Staci Baird, community manager for the Stanford School of Engineering! You can find me on Twitter at”

Very spontaneous, she only manages a schedule for the Twitter account, not for Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr, where she posts directly. She posts at least one news every day on each channel (NB: for Ian Hsu, one post per day is a good balance). About a third of her posts are self-created and two-thirds come from other people that she re-tweets and shares.

Of course, good posts drive traffic, but it is unlikely to increase fans and followers. Well, Baird found a leverage strategy to do so. Each year, every graduate receives a t-shirt that nobody else can gets. The communication team always takes pictures of graduates, and this year decided to upload those photos on Flickr and share them on Facebook. After graduation day, an email was sent to congratulate students and “by the way” recommend they have a look at the photos online. Facebook fans increased significantly that day.

After meeting all those people, we could think Stanford is very well prepared to face crises on social networks. Nevertheless, even if Ian Hsu and Staci Baird have clear strategies, none report to global Stanford directives which describe ethical acts or procedures (as Swiss universities actually). So guys, we do not have to be afraid of anything. “Just show up!”