Posts Tagged ‘freshmen

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)

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Today – 110 additional photos added

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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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23
Jun
08

A social network for freshmen at UIS

One of the projects I have been working on in the past three months was aimed at bridging the gap between MySpace and Facebook. It is often considered that MySpace is what high schoolers use and Facebook is what college students use. In every group, there are early adopters and there are late adopters and that leaves a gap between graduation and the start of their freshman year in college.

At UIS, we have summer orientation days, usually about 5 or 6. Unfortunately, because we have so many, the incoming class doesn’t get to meet each other until they arrive. Now I know at larger schools most students don’t meet everyone in their class, but at UIS, we are that right size so that the students do have that opportunity. We are also pretty flexible when it comes to assigning housing. It’s great if you already know who you are rooming with, however many students have fears of getting a roommate that is not compatible. And for these people, there usually isn’t a good way to get to know their classmates.

I really wanted a way for the students to be able to get connected prior to their arrival here in the fall. I wanted them to be able to build friendships with each other so that when they did arrive, they wouldn’t feel as lost perhaps. They can post on the forums and customize their own pages (though not to the extent of MySpace – thank goodness). They can also post photos and videos of themselves or of things they like or find funny. I really turned all the controls off and am letting them do what they want with it. It’s really for them, not for the university, so unless there is something really offensive, I’m not going to intervene. And the benefit to being only 23 is that I can get away with telling them something without it seeming like it’s coming from an authority figure.

blue.i.s. main

So anyway, for some stats. I designed some cards to hand out to them during their orientation day. I hand delivered one to each of the 59 students in attendance at 11 a.m. (right after the traditional circle video). That afternoon, I went back to my office and emailed everyone their personal invite to their new UIS email account. This not only insures that their invite reaches them, but also gets them into the habit of checking their UIS email account early. Just as the card promises, by the time they get home, they will have a personal invite in their email. By 11:15 p.m. on Friday we had 10 students join (10 of 59 = 17%). On Saturday, another 8 joined (18 of 59 = 30.5%). And on Father’s Day we had another 5 join (23 of 59 = 39%). At the writing of this post there are 29 members (49%). Not to shabby numbers if you ask me.

blue.i.s. members

They have also uploaded about 50 photos (2 per person/avg) and have been posting questions. I have uploaded the others from my Flickr account. The site has three moderators including myself. Other than Courtney and myself, any other moderators will be students (the Admissions office Student Ambassadors).

blue.i.s. photos

blue.i.s. forum

These are the things that we, as professionals working for the university, like to see.

blue.i.s.

And then this conversation.

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And things like this. It’s like we paid him!

blue.i.s.

So far, they are using it for what it’s meant for. I hope that the rest of the students from the first session join at some point, and I look forward to continued success in the remaining orientations. Our next orientation day is on Monday the 23rd. So by the end of that week, I’ll be able to present some more data.




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