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Tracing Digital Impact

Explore how social scientists from around the world try to understand the links between digital traces and people’s behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Get an insider’s view through case studies across sectors from politics to media industries, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of using social media for research.

About this course

In this course, you will discover how social scientists from industry and academics around the world are analysing the digital traces embedded in social media posts.

Beginning with a survey of the digital traces used to understand audiences, citizens and consumers on social media, you will then examine the use of common metrics and automated tools for analysing social media conversations. Next, you will work through the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative approaches using current examples from industry and academic research, before having the opportunity to explore a range of innovative mixed method approaches designed to overcome some of the inherent weaknesses of purely quantitative methods.

You will gain an understanding of the meaning, benefits and limits of common metrics for evaluating digital media messages and a toolbox of innovative social science methods for avoiding risks and embracing the challenges of social media data for research.

Course structure

The course comprises three modules and is delivered over four weeks, part facilitated and part self-paced:

Module 1.  Understanding digital traces

  • Describe what is meant by a data trace in the context of social media platforms
  • Understand the roots of social media research
  • Recognise how social media research differs from other social research venues and methods.

Module 2.  Social media metrics

  • Evaluate methods and meanings underlying social media metrics applications
  • Identify gaps in the knowledge/results produced by social media metrics applications.

Module 3.  Digital methods

  • Define digital methods and explain their key features
  • Understand and apply the concept of “born digital” methods
  • Apply digital methods used by social science researchers to study a particular group, issue, story or event.

Over the short course, you will be immersed in UTS’ innovative learning experience with:

  • A live, online one-hour orientation session to get to know your facilitator and your peers through course-specific social activities.
  • A live, online two-hour interactive workshop where you will develop practical skills to assess key social media metrics.
  • Ongoing expert academic support with collaborative online activities throughout the course.
  • A live, online two-hour intensive workshop at the end of the course to discuss how innovative digital methods can be used in your social media analysis projects.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Understand how social media traces are being used to comprehend audiences, consumers and citizens
  • Recognise the weaknesses of social media metrics by applying common social media metrics to research problems
  • Apply digital methods in order to avoid the risks and embrace the opportunities associated with social media research.



  • To complete this online course you will need access to a computer or device with a reliable internet connection and Zoom for online classes.


Full price: $910 (GST free)*

Special price: $819 (GST free)*

This special price is available until 10 May 2021.

*Price subject to change. Please check the price at the time of purchase. 

Discounts are available for this course. For further details and to verify if you qualify, please check the Discounts section under Additional course information


Discounts are available for this course as follows:

  • 10% discount for UTS alumni and UTS staff and students
  • 10% discount for group enrolment of 5 or more from the same organisation
  • 5% discount for group enrolment of 3 or more from the same organisation.

Discounts cannot be combined and only one discount can be applied per person per course session. Discounts can only be applied to the full price. Discounts cannot be applied to any offered special price. 

How to obtain your discount voucher code 

  • Email with your name and student number, staff details or organisation name and group enrolment size (3+ or 5+). Note that group enrolments will not be validated until the minimum number of criteria enrolments have been received.

Who is this course for?

This course would suit a broad range of professionals who wish to engage in effective social media research. It is suitable for:

  • Public opinion researchers
  • Market researchers
  • Data analysts
  • Business analysts
  • Marketers
  • Communication practitioners
  • Public relations professionals across industries, including the not-for-profit sector.


07 June




4 wks

Meet the Expert

Associate Professor Heather Ford

Associate Professor Heather Ford
Head of Discipline, IKM and Digital Studies Program, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Associate Professor Heather Ford is Head of Discipline for Digital and Social Media in the School of Communications at UTS. She has a background working for global technology corporations and non-profits in the USA, UK, South Africa and Kenya. Her research focuses on the social implications of media technologies and the ways in which they might be better designed to prevent misinformation, social exclusion, and algorithmic bias. 

Heather completed her PhD at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University. She has a Masters in Information Management and Systems (MIMS) from the University of California, Berkeley iSchool and has worked as a fellow at Leeds University, Stanford University, as a Google Policy Fellow and as a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand LINK Center. Before her postdoctoral studies, she worked for a number of non-profit technology organisations including the Association for Progressive Communications, Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy International and Ushahidi.

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Book a session

Mon 07 Jun 2021 -
Fri 02 Jul 2021
Expert: Associate Professor Heather Ford
  • This course will be delivered online through Canvas and Zoom sessions.
  • Online
  • 3 sessions, 5 hours total

In addition to the live sessions, participants will need to undertake approximately 22 hours of self-directed online learning during the 4 week course.

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