- the integration of our community radio station, 107 Spark FM, into our production modules
- the development of iPhone/Android applications for learning
- the use of social media, like Facebook study groups, Delicious social bookmarking, Twitter hashtags, etc
We've already had a central launch point for staff and students to locate the types of content they may find useful (ie the original My Sunderland), such as access to the VLE, module catalogues, telephone directories, docushare, etc, but, as has been evidenced from the many staff blogs and study groups across various social media sites the existing provision for actually engaging in a dialogue with students has been pretty clunky or restrictive. In particular, I'm thinking of the "Discussion" tools in WebCT here - the user interface leave a lot to be desired and is hardly intuitive (for staff or students). Student feedback on this issue regularly points out that learners prefer to discuss their module content in more familiar surrounds that are easily navigated, hence the plethora of Facebook groups for many of our modules.
Enter "My Sunderland 2.0"
In January this year, a new beta version of My Sunderland was launched which seeks to offer staff and students a bespoke communication space with all the features and facilities of the earlier space, but now dressed in the guise of a funky Web 2.0 social networking site - think of this as "My Sunderland 2.0". This site offers a lot of interesting feature that were missing from our earlier offerings - we can create blogs/pages/communities around all manner of content, from community events or things happening on campus, to self online modules capable of hosting audio and video content. Best of all, everything that can be created can be given its own privacy setting from the following options, meaning that only the people you want to see the material can see it:
- Private (only the creator)
- My Friends (only people who have accepted friend requests on the service)
- Logged in users (all users of the My Sunderland service)
- Public (the entire web)
- Community xyz (only group members of specific user created communities)
There are several other features that are available, and I'll list a few with a brief description below:
- The Wire - this is a status update service akin to Facebook or more appropriately Twitter (140 character limit)
- Pages - a homepage which can be used host information and subpages
- Communities - create and manage your own communities based around modules, classes, interests, etc.
- Blogs - maintain your own personal or committee-specific blog
I'm going to create a few simple screencasts walking people through the basic features and I'll embed the video in an update to this page in a few hours...
Any staff member or student can login into the new My Sunderland space, so go ahead, try it out now.
Video walkthroughs of the basic tools and features can be found below. Click through for HD versions with better resolution.
The profile tool
The wire tool
The dashboard tool
The blog tool
The activity tool
The communities tool
Overall, there is a lot of potential here. WebCT is fine for uploading .doc or .ppt files, but for anything else third party solutions have tended to be the order of the day (embedding Slideshare presentations or YouTube videos live in the page). If you wanted to get creative, you really had to know a little bit of HTML or create distinctive spaces within a module space. For instance, the headers and the footers of a folder were editable with HTML with the centre of the page being given over to hosting files, but the pages seemed clunky to use and ugly to look at. Also, a module space could be hard to navigate. By adapting the look and feel of common social media tools My Sunderland 2.0 seems to offer a more customisable and friendly interface to staff with more rudimentary tech skills.
Remember, it's still in the beta phase o there may be bugs that need ironing out still. Let me know what you think