Social media presence. The UCNISS wants to be leading sport studies institution through the use of open and networked research, teaching and learning. An invitation has been given to UCNISS staff then to develop online presence and adopt open and networked practices. To this end I am brought in to advise and develop the capability of staff who are interested in such an approach, and work closely with them to develop critical appreciation and skills in the use of the Internet and social media to achieve this goal.
The website. While 80% of my time is allocated to working with the UCNISS staff, 20% is to address the short comings of the Faculty of Health's web pages. The expectation is that the web pages will be updated and made more usable as soon as possible, and in time for our peak student enrolment season.
What I have done so far
Investigating existing services. For the first few weeks, I investigated the functionality of the services provided by the University of Canberra, and considered how they could be incorporated into the effort to establish online presence for the UCNISS staff. I looked at the following services:
- The UC Website
- The NISS.org Wordpress install
- UC's Wifi provision
- I am waiting to see the outcome of a lecture recording facility being considered
- Wikipedia, books and versity
The UC Moodle set up is one of the better setups I have seen. Users have the option to make their courses open access, including deep linking into the course itself from outside the network. Also, I was able to embed several forms of RSS fed media into a Moodle course, delivering a relatively seamless relationship to outside media platforms. Here is an example course I set up to automatically update based on my activities in the social media platforms outside moodle. Recently, I am told, Moodle now has the ability to capture a blog post on Blogger and update the blog instance for that user inside Moodle. Unfortunately the RSS feed coming out of Moodle is difficult to use, the URLs for the courses are not easily memorised, and Google search does not effectively locate pages inside the Moodle course.
UCSpace is run on Confluence, a widely recognised content management system based around the wiki and social networking software. It was set up to offer both an open and closed social networking space for UC staff (and students?) It appears to have received very little support or uptake. I found it too difficult to use and graphically unappealing. I tried to set it so that this blog would automatically update my blog in UCSpace, but I couldn't work it out. I tried to manage the RSS feeds coming out of UCspace, but it proved difficult to find the right feed, and the one I thought was right, appears to not be updating properly. I posted an initial plan for updating the Health website (and copy pasted it to my blog) but recieved little constructive feedback compared to the network I have established outside UCspaces. From what I can tell, UCsMoodle has a better chance of becoming the internal space that UCspace was intended for. To my thinking, both are unnecessarily limiting in that they encourage introverted thinking on the part of UC staff, and so probably facilitates poor understanding of the popular social media platforms.
Yammer is an excellent micro blogging platform, and if I could, I would try and convert all the Twitter users to it. But again my established network is on Twitter and to a smaller degree a UC network is in Yammer. It is possible to feed Tweets into Yammer via the #yam tag, but it is not possible to reply to these tweets from inside Yammer. Observing the UC Yammer network for a month now, I believe that opportunities are missed by not using Twitter, and that Yammer facilitates an introversion again. It is important to strengthen networks inside one's organisation, but I hope to play a role in drawing more of my colleagues out onto Twitter, and so help establish #UC etc as relating to the University of Canberra, and establishing wider networks relating to our UC issues and discussions.
The UC Website
I have been totally bewildered at the difficulty in using the UC Website content management system. Apparently popular in the Australian public service sector, MySourceMatrix, or at least the UC instance of it, is incredibly inefficient to use, often crashing my browser, and requiring several tens of clicks and processes just to complete a simple task like creating or updating a new page. The UC web team have been very helpful however, generously providing their time in getting me confident in the use of the system. It is possible to capture an RSS feed into the site, and I have set up staff profile pages that capture information from their respective blog feeds. It is more difficult than it should be by contemporary CMS standard, but at least their is no official UC policy or procedure preventing such a feature on the website. Given the extreme difficulty in using this system, it is unrealistic to expect academic staff to be able to manage and update pages themselves, rendering the website almost useless for achieving the goal of establishing web presence for UCNISS. Instead, it would be wiser to set up the website to capture activity outside, and to represent a central point for over viewing UCNISS in relation to the Faculty of Health. As for the Faculty pages as a whole, again given the usability issues, there is a risk that I will become the only go-to person for updating the website, but for now it is manageable and complimentary to my learning how to use MySourceMatrix.
The NISS.org Wordpress install
The NISS.org.au domain name was intended for use for UCNISS, but as a colleague recently pointed out, NISS.org is currently operating and risks confusing the web presence, as do a number of other NISS type organisations. Discussion is being had with the likely result being to adopt UCNISS as the name, and change the domain to UCNISS.org. Currently there is a Wordpress install on the domain, administered by an employee at UC. It seems that person is very busy and might not be able to assist too much with the development of the site. My first recommendation would be to install Wordpress Multi User, and set the site to capture RSS feeds from the blogs and channels of the staff that make up UCNISS (rather than have them set up accounts on a central site like UCNISS). This approach will lesson the reliance on a UCNISS site administrator, and encourage UCNISS related content to dispurse over the Internet, helping with search engine optimisation, and developing staff skills in the use of a wider array of tools.
UC's Wifi is universally disappointing, and has not been properly resourced or developed to keep up with contemporary expectations. I attended an IT forum in which the IT support staff challenged the perceived expectation of Wifi, citing low usage statistics as a justification for not providing an enhanced Wifi service on campus. From this I surmise that it will be a very long road to getting free and open Wifi on campus, and so my colleagues and I are investigating alternatives, including roaming keys and portable wireless hubs to make our wired network open Wifi in lectures, meetings with guests and conferences. The Teaching and Learning Centre at UC in the meantime, continues to lobby IT for better Wifi support.
The TLC is reviewing a system called echo360 for use as a lecture recorder. My previews of the system gives me cause for concern. The frame rate and image quality appears poor, the recordings centre around a screen recording positioning the actual lecturer and lecture room as a peripheral aspect to the lecture, the multi media recording (the one that includes an image of the lecturer and the room) does not output in a portable format outside Flash. I could be wrong on these points, but regardless - it seems to me to be another instance of using an expensive system when we have free and ready access to popular systems that will do much the same, and position our lecturers in the market so to speak. Some UCNISS staff for example are quite keen to use Youtube, Slideshare and Ustream to record and broadcast their lectures. I have argued that the money allocated to a lecture recording system would be better spent upgrading the Wifi and providing lecturers with smart phones to carry with them and broadcast lectures, interviews and other situational events through the Wifi to services like Ustream.
I have also spent the month using an HTC smart phone with the Android operating system, as well as a Nokia N97 smart phone. The affordability or these phones, along with their functionality could yield interesting uses for staff in UCNISS - such as broadcasting lectures and live events, are integrating their social media webpresence with a mobile device. This might be some way off yet.
This is a diagram for a plan I have been discussing with colleagues for achieving the goal of establishing UCNISS and staff presence on the Internet.
So far I am very encouraged by the enthusiasm and intuitive understanding my colleagues have shown towards this idea. Our conversation is well beyond the basics already and right into the exciting possibilities. 2 staff have lead a charge, having set up blogs and Slideshare accounts each, with one going on to explore Ustream, Youtube, and Twitter. Time does appear to remain an issue for both however, and so far the exploration remains superficial.
My intention is to work closely with these early adopters, and offer as much help for them as they need. I am trusting that that won't turn into me doing the work for them, and that their interest and enthusiasm for how these tools are useful will remain strong and inspired.
My next post will more fully articulate the thinking behind the flows of data, the how's and why's of using a plan like this, and how I am thinking to make this project with UCNISS the topic of a PhD.