19 March 2007

Branded environment - campus collaboration

Brian Matthews often writes about ideas that resonate with me. This time he is talking about how his library/institution has failed one of their students who was setting up a book club. He says, "I wish that we or someone else on campus was able to provide an online space for them."

Various groups on campus at MPOW have talked at times about providing blogs and wikis or other collaborative spaces. And in fact some of us are using various blog platforms and wikis outside of the 'branded environment' that Brian refers to. Why? Because we just haven't got anything like this on campus -- yet! (Ever the optimist).

Currently the developments in this area that I know about are:

  • a blog server set up as a pilot for "teaching and learning" use only using WordPress - several student blogs were established and were included as part of the assessment for a course. Previously students were asked to set up a blog on any blog platform/host they liked.
  • trial of 'campus pack' a Blackboard plugin that provides blogs and wikis within the locked-down environment of Blackboard
  • Library using Blogspot for a newsletter type of blog
  • Library using Wordpress.com for a project blog
  • Law faculty considering a blawg using an off-campus blogging platform such as Blogspot
  • a library/business faculty project wanting to experiment with a WordPress blog as a database
  • pbwiki has been used by the Library/Technology Services/Teaching & Learning Services to discuss blog requirements
  • wetpaint used by a Library team to explore/learn about wikis and plan a staff development activity
  • Marketing wanted to use blogs for students to write about their experience as a Bond student - they settled for forums instead
  • CMS for website being developed is likely to offer blog functionality
  • Students and staff writing blogs on various platforms at far flung corners of the web -- just a few I know of

An ICT strategic framework refers to blogs and wikis as desirable collaborative/learning tools. And as it stands there are some great ideas and projects that could benefit the University if these were hosted under a branded environment. But at present they are scattered on the web.

OK, so if we could provide this kind of branded platform what other great ideas would our community come up with?

  • Reflective learning journals
  • Documentation wikis/blogs
  • Book discussion groups
  • Wikis that could be used to share/develop procedural documents
  • Project Planning sites for student projects
  • Project Planning sites for staff
  • Personal blogs for students wanting to write about their learning or student experiences
  • Student association blogs
  • Research centres writing about their research activities, or podcasting
  • Staff writing about their personal research or teaching experiences or their area of expertise
  • Space for collaboration with the university's partners - one group I'm involved in is using a wiki provided by another institution to do action planning and organise a workshop/seminar
  • University Club menu and specials blog (instead of clogging up our email inboxes)
  • Collaboration on conference papers - last year I tried this with a colleague using Writeboard
  • Content development - get some inspiration from wikipedia
  • Write an online book

I could be using this kind of branded environment now. Here are a few more thoughts on the concept.

  • Policies are important to address concerns about what sort of content is made available to the world - but others are doing it, it's not insurmountable, and in fact there's this pbwiki site I know about where some of this has already been pulled together.
  • A mix of open access/closed access is essential to meet needs of various ideas and uses
  • A rollout of RSS feed aggregator and the information literacy skills to the majority of the community would really help - perhaps a feed aggregator within Outlook to harness the huge dependence on email
  • Mashing up some of this content would be really cool. Mix'n'match feeds to get a snapshot of what's happening on campus in a daily fix
  • Syndicating some of this content to show it off on relevant parts of the website means fresh, regularly updated and targeted content
  • It's bigger than just one area of the University can manage

Let's wrap this up with a quote from Brian.

"That’s what I mean about creating a branded environment. I don’t think it’s something that a library can do alone, but requires participation with others on campus. Giving them content is easy, but giving them tools to do stuff, that’s the real challenge." -- The Ubiquitous Librarian

Read: More on the branded environment concept