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5 Questions with Tori Klassen, BCcampus Communications Director

On Communicating Open Educational Resources, EdTech, and Social Media…


Tori Klassen headshot
Tori Klassen

1. Tell us a bit about your presentation at the upcoming Social Media Camp. Why are conferences such as these important to people in the post-secondary sector?

My presentation at Social Media Camp is essentially a case-study. It’s called: Assembling your posse: turning small budgets and scarce resources into Big Picture strategies. I share my experience of what it takes to make the most of a modest communications budget in small non-profit organization. I try to attend Social Media Camp each year, because I get practical tips and tactics that I can take back to work and use. My presentation, on May 7, will talk about what I’ve learned (in my role as Communications Director at BCcampus) about designing, delivering and implementing a web project that takes on a life of its own. My “show and tell” approach will help other professionals working in the post-secondary sector tame the digital beast, AKA the corporate website, and help them move from a traditional top-down communications and marketing approach, to a more fluid and collaborative one. My case study will talk about how we’re bringing EdTech to life, one blog post at a time.

2. What are some of the tools you use to manage your editorial calendar, keep track of assignments and your posse of freelance writers?

I can’t say enough about the new version of Basecamp. It’s what I use for our editorial calendar. I love the mobile version and that you’re able reply to threads directly from your email account, so it includes people who may not want to log into an app from their browser to keep up with what’s going on. Its user interface provides lots of visual cues to let me see if we’re on track. This collaboration and project management app includes the freelance writer, my own home team and other BCcampus subject matter experts who help shape and provide feedback on our articles and story ideas.

Evernote/Skitch is always open on my desktop; it’s indispensible for note taking, clipping articles from the web, taking and annotating screen shots, and keeping track of ideas. I email a lot of things into my Evernote account. I also use Skype and Google Hangout as needed.

3. How do you develop topics, themes and ideas for your BCcampus blog? And, do you have templates?

Snowball! I’ve asked the writers, when they interview people working in universities and colleges, to ask their sources for leads on other cool stuff that’s happening in the education technology space in the province. Much to everyone’s delight, it’s like a huge snowball rolling downhill, gathering momentum.

I hired professional, seasoned writers who are not only able to digest and translate large amounts of background research and information, follow directions and deliver on time, but also add their own ideas and flavour. The result has been fantastic!

The writing and nature of our posts has evolved – for instance this “5 questions with…” format is now a standard. Most blog posts have a notable quotes and further reading section. And, our latest addition is something we’ve named Friday Diversions. I adapted some great ideas from other sources (which I’ll share during my talk) on style, tone and presentation.

Our tone for the BCcampus Blog is business casual. It’s conversational and approachable. That means wading through a lot of academic writing to make it more “human.”

4. What are the top three things you learned about content management and managing your BCcampus blog over the past year?

At the top of the list is organizational support. I presented my plan (based on data – surveys and analytics) to senior management team, their managers and my colleagues and received agreement on the communications goals and my approach.

Second: hire the right people (you’ll learn more about how to assemble the right posse in my presentation.) I’m extremely lucky to have two stellar staff people (a graphic and web designer, and a smart-as-a-whip co-op student) along with the most amazing writers.

Third, and probably the most important, is learning to “let go” and be flexible. As the Communications Director, I have to keep my eye on the horizon, on my goals. I trust my posse to implement the plan. But, as we all know, plans on paper, or even deadlines mapped out on Basecamp, sometimes tend to go askew. A hot story lead goes dead. Or, the editorial deadlines don’t align with my colleagues’ or stakeholders’ availability. So, on more than one occasion, we’ve had to shift our focus. That’s where the letting go comes in. I call it content management for the real world!

5. What’s the big picture for the BCcampus blog and website?

We want to be the go-to organization for system-wide collaboration and innovation in educational technology and open educational resources for British Columbia. However, in this digital age talking only about your organization, all the time, doesn’t engender any love. We’ve all been on the receiving end of self-congratulatory tweets, Facebook and blog posts. Our goal is to create compelling, interesting content that invites people to learn more about educational technology and open educational resources.

What we do for the post-secondary system in B.C. is in the background. BCcampus is the plumbing. Our stakeholders (colleges, universities and institutes – 25 public ones in our province) are the shiny fixtures. They’re what everyone sees and uses, we just provide the supports: the IT infrastructure and the training and co-ordination to make it all work better.

Educational Technology should not be noticed. It should just work – to enhance learning, to ease the registration process, to free up resources our stakeholders can use elsewhere in their IT departments, registrar’s offices, and their teaching and learning centres.

On our website, on our blog, we want to reflect our stakeholders in our work. We want to hold a mirror up, so they can see themselves in what we do.

If you want to be interesting, be interested in others.

And, from what I’ve seen so far in 2013 – we’re definitely on the right track!

Notable quotes:

I trust my posse to implement the plan. But, as we all know, plans on paper, or even deadlines mapped out on Basecamp, sometimes tend to go askew. A hot story lead goes dead. Or, the editorial deadlines don’t align with my colleagues’ or stakeholders’ availability. So, on more than one occasion, we’ve had to shift our focus. That’s where the letting go comes in. -Tori Klassen

What we do for the post-secondary system in B.C. is in the background. BCcampus is the plumbing. Our stakeholders (colleges, universities and institutes – 25 public ones in our province) are the shiny fixtures. -tori Klassen

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Posted by BCcampus Editorial Staff

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