Further on the current run of posts about Facebook, social networking and privacy, are some issues raised at the UKOLN workshop entitled Exploiting the potential of Blogs and Social Networks , which I attended earlier this week (the workshop wiki is worth a look, especially if you’re interested in the current variety of institutional approaches and attitudes towards these technologies). Whereas there appeared to be general all-round enthusiasm about the benefits of Blogging in learning and teaching - as well as its undoubted usefulness in facilitating staff communications and encouraging prospective research networks - the outward-facing, external use of social networking seemed to pose more questions for discussion, particularly from an institutional perspective. For instance: should we have a set of guidelines for social networking or a university approach..and if so, what should it entail? What is the best way to manage the institutional reputation?
Commercial networking sites seem to be trusted by students (apparently more hands-off than educational sites) but can be challenging to align with typical IT and technology strategies. Even so, it was impressive to hear the ways that colleagues in different universities are embracing their potential in initiatives to widen the variety and reach of their communications. We heard of examples of Facebook and other social networking sites being used to disseminate information and to keep in touch with potential students and alumni.
Different arrangements fit with different lifestyles. If prospective and current students are checking Facebook 3 times a day, it seems sensible to use these channels – at least to consider providing the option. Despite the often real hazards of commercial social networking sites (issues of privacy/ institutional reputation management etc), they clearly have some value, particularly for those who do not have access to our internal networks. One thing that occurred to me was the way in which effective collaborative arrangements are developed across departments working together; for example, promotions, recruitment, Web developers and a central role for student unions. One thing I’m still pondering is whether there are particular departments or roles, student union apart, that may be best suited for facilitating communication along the often blurred boundaries between the social and educational aspects of the typical student’s life – any views?
Brian Kelly (UK Web focus) haswritten a summary of the workshop.