Friday, 27 November 2009

JISC online conference 2009 - Day 2

On day 2 there were no live sessions I wanted to attend so I could concentrate on other presentations. I was only around in the afternoon so focused on the presentation from the University of Bradford, which I found really easy to follow. I liked the fact they had a PowerPoint with audio that I could listen to at my own pace and go back if I missed stuff, which always happens in a live session. They also provided other useful materials to support their presentation. The presentation was by Becka Currant, Neil Currant and Neil McKeown and they talked about Develop Me! This came out of a review of the student experience, so given what LJMU have been going through it seemed really relevant to me. Develop Me! is an integrated package of transition, induction and study skills support for students to complement what they do face to face. There are 5 areas to this:
  • a social network (they used Ning)
  • online skills development resources
  • SaPRA (the university's in-house Skills and Personal Development Activity
  • mobile guides - - they are currently considering a iphone app
  • research into the student experience

They found that early engagement with academic materials helped develop skills. They created learning objects that can be accessed 24/7. Student and staff feedback has been very positive and this year they had around 2000 members in the social network.

As well as the presentation there was a podcast on why use a social network and why Ning, which was really interesting. The social network is designed to create a supportive community, it helps student to see that everyone else is in the same boat and no-one knows all the answers. They can join the social network before arriving at university so are making friends before they get here, that can only help that transition into university life. Ning was identified as a suitable option because it is more flexible than Facebook, it's easier to install 3rd party widgits too, it's more stable and older students were not as comfortable using Facebook because that's where their kids hang out. They wanted something for work stuff that was different to the place for social stuff. This is now managed by the central university web team in conjunction with the student union. They paid to remove adverts from the site and it is moderated. They wouldn't remove negative posts from students, but rather try to act on the bad feedback. However they have had to remove spammers and would remove offensive material.

It's branded to look like part of the university website, which was important to students and links to the student union Facebook page and twitter feeds. Academic groups have been created and some students have created social groups too.

I think we need to get on board with this kind of technology and are in danger of being left behind, if we haven't been already. I hadn't considered Ning before because lots of universities and university libraries use Facebook. Maybe something other than Facebook would serve our purposes better

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