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Your online persona as a faculty member

August 27, 2012

Comedy & Tragedy Online personas are the social identities that people create for themselves in online communities and on websites. They are the images we present on web pages and in blog posts, tweets, comments, discussion forums, emails, etc.

If you don’t think you have an online identity, try Googling yourself. What picture emerges and what messages does it convey about you? If you’re not happy with what you find, you may want to begin deliberately shaping your virtual footprint.

Digital Voice

A large part an online persona falls under the heading of digital voice – the ways in which a person’s online writing conveys attitude, personality, and character. This emerges from factors like the kinds of words you choose and the level of detail (verbosity?) in your writing. The tone one takes is also part of the picture; a faculty member’s voice can be respectful, humorous, distant, serious, angry, even eccentric.

How do you mold an online personality? Start by considering the following questions:

  1. What do you want your writing to say about you? What adjectives would you prefer students and colleagues to use when describing you?
  2. What are the goals of your online presence? You may have one or more of the following in mind:
    • Teaching
    • Networking with colleagues
    • Disseminating research
    • Calling to action
    • Searching for a job
  3. For whom are you writing? Are your audience students, colleagues, or the general public? What are their likely age, occupation, and background?

Web Presence

Another aspect of a digital persona is your web presence – the technologies that carry your digital voice out onto the Internet. Do you blog or tweet? Do you have a website? Do you use Facebook? Maybe you have your fingers in all of the above, but it would take a great deal of time to be active in more than two or three. Some of the possible elements of your web presence include:

  1. Personal website – traditional, blog, etc. (see Three easy ways to make academic websites)
  2. Course website – via course management system (Blackboard, Sakai, etc.) or other means
  3. Social network – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
  4. Professional network – LinkedIn,,  Researchgate, etc.
  5. Media sharing – YouTube, Flickr, etc.
  6. Interest sharing – Pinterest, Goodreads, etc.

Taking control

The way you write and what you choose to say will determine much of your digital voice. People who have blogs and traditional websites can assume visual control over the look and feel of their web presence. Color scheme, layout, fonts, and images can all become aspects of your online persona.

Looking at the big picture, though, it’s critical to manage the content of  your web presence

  • Get the good stuff out there – other people may be doing some of this for you, but you can also tactfully let the world know what’s happening with your research and teaching.
  • Minimize the bad stuff – part of your persona is your reputation. See the articles listed under “Sources” below for strategies to reduce any damage that may already have been done.
  • Keep the private stuff private – don’t say more than you need to about yourself or your family. On social networks, take advantage of profile settings to restrict access to personal information.
  • Finally, consider owning your own domain – your address could be! Okay, maybe you could think of a better one…

Sources and Follow-up

[Image: “Tragedy & Comedy” by Bart on Flickr]

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Phillips permalink
    September 6, 2012 11:40 am

    Chris – No, to answer your question. I will let you know if I run into any.

    Great points Julie – We are beginning to explore these topics as we move from Blackboard Vista to Instructure Canvas. In fact, today’s UCF student newspaper headlined the transition and talked about merging social media into online learning:

    We have always let faculty decide just how much of their personal side they expose. The technology is driving the trend or is the trend driving the technology?

  2. September 6, 2012 10:25 am

    Reblogged this on teachingandlearningatmsu and commented:
    There seems to be a lingering question of how and if we present ourselves to students via social media. This post offers some good guidelines for managing your online presence, with a very useful collection of further resources at the bottom of the post. As always, please share your thoughts about interacting online with students and establishing an online persona as an educator.

  3. Chris Clark permalink*
    August 27, 2012 11:02 am

    Thanks, Bill. It looks like you concentrate on personas in online teaching – a crucial topic. Do you know of academics who are exploring the role of online identities for faculty who primarily teach face-to-face>


  1. Your Internet Costume | TCU eLearning
  2. Your online persona as a faculty member | KOILS |

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