After 7 years and 10 months it's finally time to move on to the next adventure as I now begin my last week at the University of Bedfordshire before leaving to lead the digital team at Kier Construction at their head office in Tempsford.

This is a big change of sector for me, but I have clearly done enough to convince them that I have the transferable skills to make the step up, and am very excited about the new opportunities to mentor the staff, continue to learn and to update my LinkedIn profile! Kier are a company who are local to me and seem to be thriving - hence the creation of this role where my responsibilities will continue to include oversight of the digital strategy and websites. Although I've had some great times at Bedfordshire (more on that in a bit) it feels like the right time to move on before I either get stale or begin to get bitter and twisted - I like to think of myself as a 'glass half full' person...

Farewell fun at the Science Museum
For the last month or so I've been saying goodbye to a company which has been a big part of a seminal time in my life in getting married, on the property ladder and becoming a Dad to our three children. I definitely owe Bedfordshire a lot as it has given me the opportunity grow to a position of influence as Digital Marketing Manager and then beyond by encouraging me to undertake my Postgraduate Diploma. I've also earned nine separate industry awards in the last two years with the support of my team. In fact we started my goodbye festivities early by spending the first of my many leaving dos at the Science Museum's late night opening earlier in the month (HIGHLY recommended!)

I won't pretend that it hasn't been a struggle at times and whilst people (both students and staff) are the main reason for enjoying work they can also be the most challenging! I've also had to constantly work to improve myself (work/life balance and learning when NOT to say something being the main two) and I feel that I have developed as a person and manager to a point where I can now work smarter. Digital marketing is an industry where it can sometimes be hard to keep up and I've realised that just because I enjoy my work it doesn’t mean it is good for me to overdo it - I love crisps but I shouldn’t eat them all the time either!

One important lesson is to take time out of the hectic daily schedule to generate and experiment with new ideas. Thankfully I've been blessed with a great team of equally enthusiastic staff allowing us to bounce ideas off of each other and senior staff have supported us in trying new things. With this in mind, the team have recently been engaged in my 'farewell project' of delivering a new film to highlight our research. 

We felt that this was something we could achieve in-house by working together and the combination of my script (edited by every member of the team) an online voiceover audition (courtesy of the excellent online service Voice Realm) and some imaginative use of both Shutterstock's/our imagery we delivered the following in a matter of weeks:

This was all done for a fraction of the cost and is a nice swansong to a company (and team) whom I will really miss. Of course, my new start also means this blog is likely to change slightly too as I will now be citing examples from the construction industry. I do hope that I can continue to offer the same fresh insight whilst also highlighting the fun side of digital marketing.

Bye bye Bedfordshire and thanks for all of the memories...
A long time ago, when I first started out in design, it was all the rage to develop online virtual tours. This basically consisted of us purchasing a fancy camera plate for our tripod, snapping photos of our fancy facilities in 360 degree intervals (ensuring that we duck out of the way of the shot) and then crudely stitching it together in a bespoke piece of software. The next step would then be to upload it to a static HTML page whilst ensuring the file size was capable of loading on a 56k modem (anything above 2MB was not recommended!)

Artist's impression of an old virtual tour!
For a while these were pretty popular with clients and senior management but didn't see much of a return on the investment of time required to make them. Things then stood still for a while and the popularity of new tablets and smartphones meant the old Shockwave Flash or Quicktime VR technology either looked very dated or didn't work at all. This left room for video to take the lead again - with the advantage of working on any device and the human element of a smiling tour guide.

Then, in 2012, the government introduced rise in HE tuition fees to £9,000. This had a lot of very interesting side effects (some of which were hard to predict). One of the big winners of this initiative was to be the construction industry, with 96% of universities beginning to drastically improve their buildings. In order to attract fee-paying students these shiny new buildings became essential and the skylines or university towns are now littered with every type of modern monolith.

At Bedfordshire we're no exception with new Campus and Postgraduate Centres opening over the last two years. We're also in the process of building a new library in Luton and this week has seen a brand new £25m redevelopment (called 'The Gateway') open at our Bedford campus. Can you see where this is going? All this investment now needs to be showcased online!

Portsmouth's impressive virtual tour
Therefore, a recent task of our has been to work with lots of different departments to collate content for our new 'Campus Works' microsite. Now this is completed we've moved on to look at some Virtual Tour solutions. I've been extremely impressed with how the technology has evolved with the best examples combining interactive maps with galleries of images, videos, student testimonials and social media integration.

We're now doing a bit of competitor analysis to choose the avenue which we'd like to go. We've already found some lovely examples from the likes of Robert Gordon University, Birmingham and Portsmouth so the next stage will be choosing a platform and then mapping out the content.

The new Bedford 'Gateway' building
I was fortunate enough to attend Friday's opening of the Gateway and the building (built on time and to budget by Bedfordshire based Kier Construction) is extremely impressive. Hopefully it will enhance the learning experience of our current students and attract new ones who are eager to have access to the latest technological environments. I took the opportunity to film and edit a video of the day whilst I was there:

Finally, before the opening I was given the opportunity to bang my drum and wheel out my old Social Media presentation for the Senior Leadership Team. I've updated the slides a bit and, as I only had 20mins, the focus was the importance of engaging with current student issues. I then finished off with a 'What would you say?' task. The presentation is below and I was really pleased with how it went down. Hopefully it went some way to ensuring that the student/customer voice is at the forefront of all of our future business development strategies:

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