Ultimate Space

We had an interesting “tech team” meeting yesterday when we tried to synthesize all the incoming data about student use of online profile pages, parent involvement, impressive uses of school collaborative websites, and the general trend data.

First off, the wild, woolly and hard-to-monitor options for online profile pages are not going to go away. So what are we offering as better alternatives?

SharePoint ExampleWe already do a lot of class-based work on public and password-protected SharePoint sites, but they aren’t individualistic like Facebook pages. How could we build an online community for students, faculty and staff that would be the “ultimate space” for interaction, sharing and academic work?

This wouldn’t be just a social network system, but it would have many elements of the Facebook site. The members should be able to run and individual bog, store and share files, create image libraries, have direct access to other community members (including IM and online presence indicators). Like Facebook, they should be able to create their own groups, and have automatic access by their classes to other students’ profile pages in that class.

Unlike Facebook, faculty and staff should have the same access to the student profile pages and groups. Everything and everyone should be on the same authentication system (perhaps Active Directory), and access from outside groups and individuals should be possible but not uncontrolled. Students could grant access to outside friends, but these access lists could be clearly recorded and accessible.

As for “policing,” the same standards as for student email accounts would apply. The community would be managed by the school, and claims of mis-use or harrassment will be immediately investigated. A similar, but separate environment could be created for parents to share more information with each other on an optional basis. A similar but separate system could be created for alumni.

In the first years, use of the community could be low. Over time, the advantages of the system would likely become clear. One important advantage would be the access by faculty, and feedback from them on the pages and information shared by students. It could be an important part of their academic work, and regarded as such. This would never happen on unified basis with students using a plethora of outside profile pages.

So, what’s the tool for this? Blackbaud or Blackboard? SharePoint 3? Some sort of open source software? We don’t know yet, but we’re thinking about the ultimate space.

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