Archive for July, 2008

23
Jul
08

What I have learned from the eduWeb 2008 Conference

I know what you’re thinking: “You weren’t at the eduWeb conference!?!” True, however, due to the excellent coverage by many many people namely Nick Catto, Brad Ward, Matt Herzberger, Michael Fienen, and many more that can be seen on Matt’s blog! The blog coverage was great, the Twitter coverage was amazing, and uStream worked like a charm! I was able to follow many of the conference topics thanks to all the hard work by the attendees and some non-attendees.

However, as great as all this connectedness is, I know that I missed out on a lot by not being there. For example, there was a BlogHighEd social one night that I missed out on. I missed out on all the after hours conversations and debates about whether email is or is not dead for example, and other things I’m sure. What I am trying to say is that being virtually connected just does not equal being able to meet/talk/interact with people in person.

While that is something you all knew already, sometimes we tend to loose sight of that when talking about our students. We assume that all students are so connected that we forget about some of the “older” or more “traditional” methods of communication. I know that our students are connected, but they are not all as connected as we hope they might be. The reason I bring this up is that during the same time as the eduWeb conference, my university, the University of Illinois at Springfield, hosted the SLOAN Consortium conference for Online Learning. One of the sessions that I attended yesterday dealt with Student Life. I heard technology professionals talking about implementing Second Life in their courses. Requiring students, especially online students to interact with each other in that virtual setting. One of the presenters said proudly that 6 of their 15 students could access Second Life on their computers. If you ask me, that’s not really a good percentage of students, especially if you are REQUIRING them to use it! Someone else said that 25% of their class of 25 had used Second Life before. Again, not impressed… I was pleased to hear that other schools recognize this and are offering two tracks for students in those courses to be able to work: Blackboard and/or Second Life.

Going along with this, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about customer relations and how that affects retention. Students don’t appreciate always getting referred back to the website for answers. They probably checked their first and are calling you BECAUSE they couldn’t find the answers on the website. Giving students that personal attention they desire (and have pretty much come to expect) will certainly reflect positively on your university.

Earlier this summer, we were curious about how we could change the mailing of our publications. We talked to groups of students to see how they heard about us and got information to us and we found that the majority of the students said that it was our print publications where they got their initial information. I think we got a little ahead of ourselves by thinking that people were going online to find us. Our study groups prove that our student demographic is not quite ready for that shift yet.

There’s been a lot of talk on Twitter about screen resolution and web design. I know it’s not really possible to take care of everyone, but one of the factors that my institution has to consider is that we do have a LOT of students still running on dial-up. As great as it would be to have everyone with high speed internet, it’s not plausible right now for many people.

The last thing I have learned from the eduWeb 2008 conference is that conferences really pump you up. Actually, I already knew this from the other conferences I have attended, but even just being able to catch the coverage has really made me excited to do things. I know I’ve checked out Brad Ward’s reading list and I am going to pick up some of those books (hopefully I’ll read them all in a timely manner). It really helped to refocus me on my work.

I want to say thank you to everyone who provided coverage from the conference! I hope that I can return the favor at some other conferences that I will be attending this year! I hope the budget comes through for them… Andrew Careaga said to have a great week! So here’s to hoping everyone remains high after the conference!

01
Jul
08

Updated – UIS Freshmen Social Network

Time for an update! I wanted to update last Friday, but didn’t have the chance. Things have been really busy this summer, something that I didn’t expect. But it’s been good, so please don’t take that as a complaint.

Overall, the project is going very well! The students are logging in all the time to check statuses and post on people’s walls, etc. We fell just short of my hope for 60 members before the third orientation – we only had 56 – but that’s still not too bad. One interesting trend I saw was within the first 12 hours of emailing out the invites, 10 people joined after the first and second orientations. I had some issues yesterday and was unable to pull up a lot of the students email addresses in order to send them their invite so I couldn’t do that until this morning. I decided to email them at 11:15 the day after, so we will see how that works out. Maybe it will be better to wait a day before emailing them. I’m sure a lot of students go home and rest up after their long day on campus and checking their email is probably the last thing on their mind. So I’m turning a problem into something good and testing the adoption.

blue.i.s.

I also posed the question “Who has Facebook and/or MySpace?” to the students in a large group to see what type of response I got. I was surprised that a little less than half of them raised their hands. We only had 52 students in attendance, and I would say maybe 25 raised their hands. So that will be interesting to see how many students join from this last group that came in. If you remember, the first group had 29 out of 59 (49%) members join and the second group fell off tad, only logging 27 out of 64 members (42%). At the posting of this blog, a mere two and a half hours after the email went out, five members have joined. Some people must not have summer jobs, haha.

blue.i.s.

UIS is somewhat unique because of our honors program. Not because we have one, but because sometimes there is a separation between the students. It’s an honors vs. traditional feud sometimes. Perhaps it is the treatment that each class gets (the honors being more babied perhaps?), or the fact that they are separated in the residence halls. Ever since freshmen started coming to UIS there has been this issue. It’s certainly been worse in years past, so we’re making steps in the right direction. Anyway, the students in the honors program get to come down the night before orientation and stay in Lincoln Residence Hall. Due to the honors courses they have to take, they meet with advisor’s that evening so that when they register on orientation day, they pretty much know what they will be taking (they still have to choose electives, etc). Afterwards, many of the students play sand volleyball, watch movies, or what else. But they are able to form a relationship with each other which gives them an advantage on orientation day. A lot of the students already know one another before the traditional students even arrive. The same can been seen on blue.i.s. The honors students are typically friending each other and commenting more on one another’s walls. It would really be nice if we could offer something for the other students so they don’t feel so left out. So that is in the works.

blue.i.s.

I posted a question asking what features they would like to see either added or removed. One person said that it is a little slow and that I need page optimization. Unfortunately, the calendar and the blog aggregate run slower due to the fact that they are pulling in a bunch of RSS feeds. So every time the page loads, it has to repopulate. Other than that, the students are happy with it. Personally, I wish there was a wall-to-wall feature like there is in Facebook. I think that would be really cool. I also wish the Flickr photo gadget worked better. As it is right now, if I want to update the photos, I would have to reload all my photos into ning which takes quite a while. That’s alright though because I am going to delete most of them anyway now that people are posting photos. Since the first posting, the students have added over 100 photos.

First posting – 50 photos (the rest are mine)

blue.i.s.

Today – 110 additional photos added

blue.i.s.

My final complaint is about video uploading. I know it takes storage space, but I would like it if you could upload videos more than 100 mb. I know that’s still an alright video, it’d always be nice to have the option to post more. To remedy this, you can upload to YouTube and then pull the video in via embed code. Other than that, Ning rocks, and I am very happy with their services. I’ll blog more specifically about them later, but this is a pretty good testimonial to what you can do with them.

So far, I am very pleased with how people are using it. I do wish people had more questions, but you know what, if they don’t, then they don’t. Maybe we’ve been doing a good job delivering info to them. I’ll post another update in a couple of weeks.




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