University 2.0 ideas

In the last few weeks, I’ve come across quite a few presentations regarding University 2.0 (links: 1 2). They seek to make use of several Web 2.0 technologies, that have become popular in the last 2-3 years, for educational institutions. This idea seems quite interesting to me, especially because I was trying to get some of those technologies like wikis and blogs implemented for our b-school. I have another year and a half of my course remaining, and I hope to implement as many of them as I can with help of my classmates and others from the school.

So, here’s a a basic outline of the ideas:

LinkedIn profiles

LinkedIn has become a standard in professional social networks, and it is quite important for professionals to have an up to date LinkedIn profile. My idea is to get everyone to set up their profiles and put the links on our school student profile pages.

Student & Faculty introduction videos

This will make the profiles richer, and should definitely look better than having just static photographs. There are several online video sharing sites, and any of them could be used for this purpose. It could be done initially for the students who are part of different committees, and later expanded for the others depending on the response.

Social network groups

There are several social networks out there like orkut, facebook etc, and our school has a group on each of them. They need to be streamlined a bit and kept up to date. The links to the groups could also be placed on the official school site to gain better visibility.

Online magazine

We have a school magazine L!VE that is published both physically and electronically. However, the electronic version is in a pdf form with only a few of the articles being published in html form. My intention is to make use of  a blogging platform to publish our magazine online. This will not only increase the visibility of the magazine, but also facilitate interaction on the articles and get the content indexed on search engines. WordPress seems to be an ideal platform for this purpose, and there are quite a lot of magazine themes for this purpose.

School blog

Currently we do not have a blog for our school. However, we do make use of blogs during our annual b-school fest like we did for AVENUES 08 this time. The idea here is to make blogging a continuous phenomenon. This should again facilitate interaction, increase visibility, and keeps notifications up to date.

Wiki

I had already started a wiki some time back, and did manage to put up some content on it. Over time, it can become a very important knowledge repository with different kinds of information on our school.

Once set up, these avenues should definitely help the school from different aspects. Moreover, most of these services can be setup or for free. There are of course several other services that can be used in addition to the ones mentioned here like photo sharing, social bookmarking etc. So, the main investment required will be time, which is quite an important commodity in management courses :-).

However, there are several challenges and constraints to be overcome before these become a reality, the biggest of which is going to be getting participation and garnering critical mass from the various stakeholders so that this initiative can be sustained in the long run.

Advertisements

Do education institutes need wikis?

Now that many companies have adopted wikis internally and are beginning to understand their power, why should education institutes be left behind. After all, the knowledge density in education institutes is bound to be as high as, if not higher, than in most companies. Moreover, content creation is part of any education process, and a wiki is an ideal medium for refining the content and making it available to a wide audience. So, what are the stumbling blocks in the widespread adoption of wiki or any knowledge/content management system for that matter?

Challenges

IBM has WikiCentral, an internal deployment of the Confluence wiki, and I was one of its 125,000+ users. We had wikis for our project, our team and various initiatives. In fact most of the documentation, FAQs etc of our project were on the wiki. So, we could easily refer to them and keep them up to date at the same time.

However, I have found a couple of limitations in wikis during my stint with IBM. Firstly, a wiki (barring wikipedia) is not the reference source (no prizes for guess the first) which means that even if we manage to aggregate a wealth of information, not too many people are going to actually refer to it. This can be tackled in some ways through publicity, which is precisely what was done in IBM. The second and biggest problem is the content creation part which is due to the lack sufficient contributors. Even wikipedia faces this problem (different scales though). I have ended up being one of the handful of contributors to quite a few wikis.

Wiki for SJMSOM

Finding the critical mass of contributors to sustain a wiki is the toughest challenge, and it gets even tougher with a tiny user base. However, I have not yet given up on wikis :-), and now that I am back to being a student, I find that a wiki is an ideal fit for this environment. There is a lot of information that is exchanged among students, and most of this would be of value in the future too. However, this information in the form of emails and verbal communication which makes the persistence quite low. So, a wiki with its persistence and ease of editing is an ideal medium to store all this information.

I did some exploration of different wiki options on the internet, and found two that were well suited: Wikia and Zoho. In fact, Wikia already has a section for students. However, Zoho has better access control (supports domain level access control), and I chose it as the platform for my b-school wiki. Of course an internal wiki deployment would have been ideal, but I’m just doing this as an experiment to see if it works out.

I have been doing some work on it, and the support for HTML embeds is quite handy for adding different widgets on pages. I have currently kept the wiki visible to the public with the ability to add comments. However, editing is restricted to students from SJMSOM (my b-school). It is currently a work in progress, and I am still trying to find the tipping point of contributors 🙂 . So, if you have any comments or suggestions, do share them with me.

P.S. My father has blogged on a similar topic “How Important Is Technology For Knowledge Management?”, and it doesn’t seem to be very encouraging for my experiment 🙂

Productivity 2.0 (non-serious)

I came across a humorous post from thedailywtf.com on an “innovative” way to measure productivity through SVN check-ins, which of course met with expected results, with some employees increasing their productivity by over 600%. It also led to the development of a nice little reusable asset that could be used to increase productivity:

Still, it irked Milo that he wasn’t reaching his full productivity potential. He was wasting a lot of time writing code; time that should be spent checking code in….

…..

With his script, dubbed “PHLEGM” (Programmer’s Helper for Literally Engaging in General Machination, named by one of his colleagues), he could stretch what would usually be one checkin to 20-30 commits. It’s evolved like an open source project with his fellow team members adding new features.

The post also led me to an old Joel post on productivity related to Amazon’s attempt to measure customer service productivity based on number of calls logged:

“Thank you for calling Amazon.com, may I help you?” Then — Click! You’re cut off. That’s annoying. You just waited 10 minutes to get through to a human and you mysteriously got disconnected right away.

Or is it mysterious? According to Mike Daisey, Amazon rated their customer service representatives based on the number of calls taken per hour. The best way to get your performance rating up was to hang up on customers, thus increasing the number of calls you can take every hour.

Joel’s also been quite critical of productivity measurement and incentive based systems at work before. However, I can’t think of a better alternative to the usual rating systems used in companies, especially large ones with tens of thousands of employees. Can you?