Monday, 26 November 2007

Exploiting the Potential for Blogs and Social Networks

I'll blog during the day, and tidy up later, so apologies for spelling etc.

Introduction from Brian Kelly from UKOLN.

All talks being video streamed, onto a web site and into Second Life. 8 people already in Second Life attending the virtual workshop. Remote participants can log into chat and ask questions. There is a workshop wiki that everyone can contribute to.
Future is Web 2.0. User generated content - big change from standard content management systems at present. Will be challenges for IT departments and universities. Hope to discuss them during day.
Brian gives definition of a blog and uses mine as an example! Thanks Brian.
Then a definition of a Social Network - and uses my Facebook profile as an example. Draws attention to fact that we know what we're posting about ourselves - but do we know what other people are posting about us - embarrassing incidents, photos etc.
What if we build services and no-one uses them - do students want social webs built in institutions? - Recent report from OCLC says that students don't trust institutions with their data, but do trust social networking sites etc.

Case Study 1: Blogging In A Managed Environment
Stephen Clarke, University of Birmingham

Birmingham Uni makes extensive use of blogs - set up in VLE (WebCT Vista), Set up by academic staff as part of course. Not moderated or checked centrally. Academic member of staff responsible for content.

Educational blogs - are there risks?
Innovations are nearly always risky, and risk aversion slows innovation. Risk management needs to be proportionate.
Blogs can be part of VLE. Focussed on learning, assessed, retained by institution.
Can be about work life - more a diary. Help to build cohesion. Can be transient. Independent of learning activities. Is it right for institution to be spending money on this sort of service when resources are available elsewhere?
Blogs can be in social networking software - eg Facebook. Created by students. Can be rude, disrespectful, spread a poor image of University. University cannot easily intervene.
Further risks of using social networking software:
Universal loss of service. Facebook nearly had to go off line a few weeks ago. What if it contained content essential for course?
Individual loss of service - eg individual removed from Facebook, blogger etc. No University control.
Need to agree acceptable level of risk and then manage it.

Good blogs in an educational context:
Secure, safe, reliable
Inappropriate use can be stopped
The institution controls access and sets acceptable use policy
Support institutional goals

Bad blogs:
Are a fact of life
Institutions need to maintain a distance from them
Should not be imposed on learners

Working in a managed environment:
Supports good blogs
Protects users
Protects content
Carries responsibility

Case Study 2: Leedsfeeds: a Blogging Service based on the Open Source Elgg Application
Melissa Highton, University of Leeds

Leeds host blogs for staff on campus. Many staff stay at Leeds for many years - potentially important resource - research, reflective writing etc. Keeps them safe - Facebook can be for private life only. Protects staff from bullying and harrassment.
Leeds University values:
Community, inclusiveness, integrity, professionalism, academic excellence. All words used when describing Web 2.0!
Leeds did a study on information flows for staff - lot about networking. Networking was very physical - coffee room etc. But in a large organisation, how do you know who knows what, ie who to ask?
Leeds started using an externally hosted product for blogs, but webmaster not happy, so decided to host on campus. Decided on Elgg - free, open source, also allows you to have community blogging, ie not just individual blogs. Also felt that Leeds content should stay on Leeds servers - safe, archiving, being proud of it.
Why should institutions have an interest in blogs and social networks?
Enhance learning. Blogs promoted to staff, can use any way they want to. Can invite students to contribute to community blogs. Haven't had much "trouble", but have had trouble in Facebook. Student know the difference between writing in Leeds Uni domain and on Facebook.
Lot of blogs are public - has led to interest in research, collaboration etc. Students learning to write better because other people reading them.
Community benefits - staff enjoy reading each other's blogs. Groups forming - number of networks being set up as community blogs. Share ideas, put comments and links on each other's blogs. Peer support, reflective learning.

Do users trust it? Seem to.
No moderation, but is a "report as offensive" button. Not used much. Governed by acceptable use policy.
Run training and support for staff. Seen as extension of personal web space.
Not just academic staff - open to all staff. Some librarians and technologists blogging. Is a purchasing community, research office blog, projects news.
Can search by name, tags, see all posts. But fairly chaotic. Some posts private, some public.


Anonymous said...

This is all too late for my talk today!

Chris Sexton said...