SHEEN Sharing

A Project of the Scottish Employability Co-ordinators' Network

SHEEN Sharing Launch: Employability Resources for Higher Education in Scotland

We did it. We launched the Web resource created by the Employability Coordinators’ Network over the last hectic, busy, exciting, challenging, fun year of SHEEN Sharing. The Web resource called Employability Resources for Higher Education in Scotland.

We returned to The Teacher Building, venue of our successful SHEEN Sharing dissemination event in September last year. That is a great venue for stuff like this: they have good tech, and on-the-spot support, and great staff, and delicious catering, and a nice building (it’s all about whisky, not education 😉 ).

The day started with a keynote address from Prof. Brent MacGregor, Chair of the SHEEN Steering Group. Cherie Woolmer, SHEEN Sharing’s redoubtable project manager, gave some background from the ECN’s point of view. Then it was over to me for the entire rest of the morning session.

You’ll see my slides at the bottom of this post (which includes links to the relevant resources, including the videos I’ve created to help you use our Netvibes-based site). Gavin McCabe of Edinburgh University got to see himself on the screen as I used the evaluation interview I did with him and Jessica Henderson from Heriot-Watt again. He did get to give his story in full after lunch this time though! I also used audio clips of Fiona Boyle of Queen Margaret University and Gopalakrishnan Premalatha (Prema) from the University of Abertay to present even more voices from the ECN. This was their project, their vision and it is important to hear their voices.

Having shown people the new site, we made some laptops available at lunchtime for people to have a play around with it themselves. The feedback we got was great: people said it looked clean and interesting and was easy to navigate (once they’d seen the short introductory videos). And people reported already finding new resources and ideas, just in that short time.

After lunch, we had a panel presentation from five people from the ECN: Cherie Woolmer (Strathclyde University); Gavin McCabe & Ruth Donnelly (University of Edinburgh); David McCall (UHI Millennium Institute); Jonathan Culley (Stirling University). Each of them presented for about 10 minutes on their learning journey through SHEEN Sharing, and the impact the project has made on their work and their professional development. We finished with questions and discussion about the future: people were keen to disseminate the resource and the learnings from SHEEN Sharing into as many communities as possible.

There was a general vibe that, not only had we created a good place to find quality employability resources, but we’d also found out a lot about harnessing and developing a small community of practice, to ensure their quick growth and dissemination of their work to a wider audience. And we’d done it all on a shoestring, using only free Web-based tools. In fact, there was some suggestions that flying so low under the radar of top management and university policies was what enabled us to do such a good job in such a short time. No worrying about IPR and metadata schemas, even long-term technical sustainability or anything.

So, here are my slides (or here on SlideShare): you’ll see in here how to use our new Web resource, and also how we got here. I’m hoping to convince Cherie Woolmer to do a brief post as well, with her take on the day and what we’ve achieved.

View this document on Scribd

February 9, 2010 Posted by | SHEEN Project Dissemination, SHEEN Project Events & Meetings, SHEEN Sharing Project | , , , , | 4 Comments

Top hats & trainers: traditional repositories vs. Web 2.0 resource sharing? SHEEN Sharing at EdShare Workshop

Well, I should have blogged on this last year. But our beloved SHEEN Sharing is drawing to its official close, and I’m tidying up some loose ends. I want everything to be available on this blog for future reference.

So, last year, the JISC-funded EdShare project, based at Southampton University, put on a workshop designated “Traditional educational repositories vs. Web 2.0 sharing” and invited some people from relevant projects. Are formal repositories for sharing teaching and learning materials a thing of the past, now that we have so many fabulous Web 2.0 tools to use for resource sharing?

Now, I have a good relationship (I hope!) with some EdShare folks, primarily Debra Morris, who was organising the workshop. I was just drooling over the agenda for the workshop and wondering how I could swing an invitation to present on SHEEN Sharing, when Debra emailed me and invited me to present … on metadata! Well, I am a metadata-phile in my other professional life, but I told her all about what I really wanted to share at this workshop: what I, a repositories “expert”, or at least, very-experienced-person, had discovered about resource sharing while working on SHEEN Sharing. Debra and the other EdShare people were kind enough to say yes when I said “No, I don’t want to present on that, I want to present on this…”.

The slides I presented at this workshop are below. You can also find them on SlideShare, if you prefer, here.

I was simultaneously presenting to fellow formal repositories experts, and to a group that I thought was trying to say that Web 2.0 is taking over the role of repositories. So I was nervous. Also, it was the first time I had presented on our work on SHEEN Sharing outwith the employability / HEA / Scottish HE context; in fact, right in the heart of a more long-standing professional community of mine.

But it went great! The other presentations, and the workshop discussions were fascinating and juicy. Everyone had a keen interest in discussing and exploring, and they seemed pleased and fascinated with SHEEN Sharing’s findings. And my key messages were well received (and repeated in other presentations): that repositories and informal Web 2.0 sharing are complementary and serve different but overlapping use cases; and that repositories developers and managers must be mindful of supporting integration with Web 2.0 tools, for the sake of supporting the kind of informal, transient, and non-techie educational communities they serve.

Debra Morris wrote an excellent summary of the day here. You can just see the back of my head in one of the photos. Thanks again Debra and EdShare for this opportunity to allow SHEEN Sharing to contribute to the educational repositories community!

Here are the SHEEN Sharing slides from the day:

View this document on Scribd

February 9, 2010 Posted by | SHEEN Project Dissemination, SHEEN Sharing Project | , , , , | Leave a comment

Improvements and Updates to Netvibes Site: Feedback Please!

Our Netvibes site is the public face of SHEEN Sharing’s original remit: the one-stop-shop, virtual repository/portal type thing that presents a range of quality employability resources, as planned and hoped for when SHEEN Sharing was originally funded in January 2009.  It displays selected resources by using feeds out of Diigo, from our Diigo groups and tags, and other Web-based feeds and resources.

Now, as it currently stands it is a sandbox / demonstrator site, mainly designed by me with some help from Cherie Woolmer at Strathclyde University.  I am not an employability co-ordinator, so I have used quite a bit of creative licence in trying to imagine the kinds of things the ECN will eventually want to go into the site.  It will be much easier for folk to say “not that, this” than to try and think of things from scratch.  So please keep that in mind when you have a look!

Even with this in mind, I have learned a lot since January 2009, and received a lot of feedback.  So, before we even get to the bit of the project extension where the ECN sits down and hashes out what it wants its Netvibes to look like, I have made a range of improvements and updates, as follows:

Google Scholar Resources Gone 😦

I had to remove all the fabulous Google Scholar feeds.  We used a wonderful Yahoo Pipe that enabled me to do a search in Google Scholar (e.g. “employability AND eportfolios”, resources published after 2006) and create a feed in Netvibes that showed the up-to-date results of that search.  Google Scholar of course only lists peer-reviewed publications, so this was a very rich resource.  However, Google does not allow this kind of feed and they have now blocked this Pipe and others like it from working.  Boo!  However, I have added a Google Scholar search box here.

EvidenceNet Searches: A Holding Pattern Until They Get Their Feeds Sorted

We are waiting with baited breath for the awesome HEA EvidenceNet repository to start providing feeds of specific searches so we can pop some of these into our Netvibes tabs.  So, we hope to be able to search for resources, or events, in EvidenceNet, e.g. with the topic “personal development planning”, get a feed for that search result, put it into Netvibes and thereby always see the most up-to-date list of evidence-based UK resources or events.  We know they are going to provide this, they just haven’t yet.  In the meantime, I’ve worked out that you can just use the URL of a search results page, and put that into Netvibes as a Web page, and get a rather clunky but still usable display of said search.  See here and here and here and here and here.

Delicious Feeds on Work Related Learning: Thanks Glasgow Caledonian!

I discovered some juicy resources tagged on Delicious with “work_related_learning”, so, in the absence of anything immediate on Diigo, I added a feed for that Delicious tag here (along with an above-mentioned EvidenceNet search page).  Shout out to Allison Littlejohn and team at Glasgow Caledonian for many of these!

New Version of Diigo Allows Group Tag Feeds: Cocurriculum Resources Tagged by Employability Group

Felt much joy when I realised Diigo had fixed a previous problem in their new version: I now have an example of a Diigo feed for a specific group tag (resources tagged “cocurriculum” by the Employability Group) here.  This will be great when we come to adding tag dictionaries to our Google Groups.

New Voluntary Sector Tab with Reflective Student Blogs from SHEEN Placements

Created a new Voluntary Sector tab, which has the feed from the SHEEN Placements blog in it (it’s still there under “Student Resources” too, Fiona, don’t worry!).  It also has the project’s Twitter feed, and individual feeds from the two student blogs accompanying the Samaritans placements set up by the project.

Some Content for International Students Tab

Added a couple of EvidenceNet search pages under the International Students tab, which was previously empty.

Small but Significant: You Can Read the Page Title Now!

Changed the colour of the title text to a much more harmonious and readable shade!

Moving Forward: Netvibes Day in November

Still have some empty tabs, and would like some new and exciting ideas from the ECN about what they’d like to see in the Netvibes page.  We’ll be having a day-long workshop session to hash it all out and make decisions in November, so please keep an eye on emails on the ECN JISCmail list if you want to take part in that.  We’ll use that day to train keen development group members in keeping Netvibes up-to-date after I go, too.

Launch in 2010

And, we’ll be running a launch event in January or February 2010!  So please help us make it as good as we can!

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Bookmarking, Resource sharing sites, SHEEN Project Dissemination, Tagging, Using Newsfeeds | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Improvements to This Blog: Feedback Still Welcome!

During the course of SHEEN Sharing’s initial nine month phase, we received quite a bit of feedback re this blog.

Some of this arose from the original ambiguity about the blog’s purpose.  While we were getting started, this blog was both a dissemination tool for the project, and a sandbox/demonstrator for the ECN to see how different Web 2.0 tools worked.  So, we had not only project news, documents and postings about how to use Web 2.0 tools, but also various feeds and widgets in the right-hand columns demonstrating how other tools and tags could be used to enrich the content here.  Some ECN members were very keen at the start, and tried using the blog to post about things they wanted to discuss with the rest of the network, or employability resources they were interested in.

Now, we are much clearer about what we want to achieve and which tools we want to use for which purpose.  We are using our Netvibes page as our one-stop-shop site, kind of a virtual “repository”, for disseminating quality employability resources to the ECN’s stakeholders.  We are using Diigo for two purposes: one is for co-ordinators to save, share, discuss and disseminate their favourite employability resources, the other is to use Diigo’s excellent social networking tools to provide safe online group discussion spaces.  You can see how using Diigo to save and share resources can feed directly into our Netvibes page with no additional work by the ECN by looking at this tab and this tab.

We are using this blog, plus our Twitter account, to disseminate the SHEEN Sharing project itself.  It will stand as a record of the proecess we went through and what we achieved.

With this in mind, I have removed several of the “sandbox” widgets with feeds from the right-hand columns, and also re-arranged and re-configured the remaining items there in a way that I hope will make the blog easier to find your way around.  Please do have a look and feed back to me if you can suggest any improvements.

I’ve also updated the SHEEN Sharing Project page and several of the Scottish Employability Projects’ pages, to indicate progress made.  In particular, check out the pages:

Sharing Student Experiences Trial Group

and

Voluntary Sector Project Trial Group: SHEEN Placements

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Bookmarking, Group Spaces Online, Microblogging, Resource sharing sites, SHEEN Project Dissemination, Social Networking | , , , , , | Leave a comment

SHEEN Sharing Extension to February 2010

Good news: SHEEN Sharing has officially been extended until February 2010.  Our thanks to the SHEEN Steering Group for this validation of the hard work everyone involved has put in so far.

You’ll be seeing some new blog posts coming out here updating you on many different aspects of SHEEN Sharing’s progress.

We’ve been extended to really capitalise on the first nine months of the project.  Now that the ECN are starting a new academic year, and have had tasters of all the cool Web 2.0 things they can do, we want to really start embedding the chosen trial tools and new practices in their work.

When SHEEN Sharing started, the core idea was to end up with a one-stop-shop on the Web to share and find and disseminate and discuss good quality employability resources with a range of stakeholders in and around the ECN.

Our One-Stop-Shop: Netvibes
Our one-stop-shop is the virtual repository for employability we have created using Netvibes: http://www.netvibes.com/Employability

This repository is still in a “sandbox” phase: the next four months of SHEEN Sharing will be dedicated in part to turning this into a resource the ECN can use, contribute to and be proud to send to other stakeholders.

Contributing Your Favourite Resources: Diigo
The way for ECN members to contribute their favourite resources to the Netvibes repository is through bookmarking and sharing them on Diigo.

This has the added benefit of allowing them to access their own bookmarks from any computer on the Web, and to link in with each other and a wider international community to discuss and share resources.

Catching up on Netvibes and Diigo: Flashmeeting Webinar Later This Month
With the extension of the SHEEN Sharing project until Jan/Feb 2010, we will be having some more Flashmeeting webinars.

I will be hosting monthly webinars, with open drop-in support from 9:00-10:30, and presentations / discussions on particular topics from 10:30-12:00.  The first webinar this month will be for a recap/catchup on Netvibes and Diigo (including an overview of new features in Diigo v4, released late last month).

In addition, Cherie Woolmer and the project development group will be organising a series of employability co-ordinator led webinars to show-and-tell tools and practices that have changed their jobs and lives for the better through SHEEN Sharing.

Further Diigo Trainings: Introductions, Recaps and Diigo-ing Deeper
We will also be running two more Diigo Training days, in November 2009.  Each day will consist of a morning session recapping the original introductory workshop for those who haven’t been able to attend, which can also serve as a refresher for those who would like one.  Each afternoon will be a chance to dig a bit deeper into Diigo for those who have already been using it.  Those who attend in the morning will also be welcome to stay for the afternoon.

NB: Diigo recently released an all-new and shiny version 4.  This includes one amazing new feature: the ability to save an archived copy of a resource you have bookmarked, so if the resource ever disappears you have a copy of it to use in future.  It also includes the feature we’d been eagerly waiting and hoping for: the ability to set up a working feed from a Diigo Group by individual tag (e.g. a feed just for resources tagged “cocurriculum” by the Employability Group).  We’ll cover all this and more for those who want to see it at the afternoon trainings.

Keeping Up-To-Date on SHEEN Sharing
Further information on the above and more will continue to be disseminated via the SHEEN Sharing blog and Twitter account.  Please note that the blog is now totally dedicated to dissemination of SHEEN Sharing as a project: sharing of employability resources by the ECN will continue via Diigo.

The SHEEN Sharing blog can be visited here: https://sheensharing.wordpress.com/
You can subscribe to updates from the blog using the RSS feed here: https://sheensharing.wordpress.com/feed/
Or, you can look at the blog updates on the Employability Netvibes page, in the first tab which is currently devoted to SHEEN Sharing as a project:
http://www.netvibes.com/Employability#Welcome (see the section in the bottom right: “SHEEN Sharing Blog updates”).

To follow us on Twitter for even more pithy updates, go here: http://twitter.com/sheensharing

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Bookmarking, Resource sharing sites, SHEEN Project Events & Meetings, SHEEN Sharing Project, Using Newsfeeds | , , , , | Leave a comment

SHEEN Sharing Evaluation Event, 16th September 2009

The SHEEN Sharing project is having an end-of-project event in Glasgow on Wednesday September 16th, at The Teacher Building.  The Teacher Building is in St Enoch Square in Glasgow, which means it’s about a 10 minute walk from Queen Street Station (map here).  The venue also offers car parking at £5 a day at the nearby Thistle Carpark: please contact them directly for information: 0141 5661871.

The following documents may be of interest to participants, for reading prior to the meeting, or to keep on hand during the meeting:

SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report

SHEEN Sharing Review

SHEEN Sharing Web 2.0 Tools Handout

All public project documents are available on the Scribd SHEEN Sharing Project Documents Group Page.

This event will include a morning of looking at what the project has discovered and achieved so far, including presentations from employability co-ordinators on their personal experiences, and a video of two co-ordinators discussing how SHEEN Sharing has impacted on their work and professional development.  We’ve invited interested stakeholders to the morning session (and lunch) to catch up on where we are, and to give their input.

Over lunch, Heather Fotheringham of the HEA’s EvidenceNet service will offer an informal presentation on that work for those that are interested.

In the afternoon, the Employability Coordinators’ Network will workshop detailed plans for their future use of the tools introduced and trialled during the project.

In preparation for this evaluation event, we will be running a survey to follow up on the initial survey carried out at the start.  This will include opportunities for ECN members to reflect on and evaluate their use of the tools and resources introduced by SHEEN Sharing to date, even if they can’t make the September event.  Everyone who completes a survey will go into a draw for one of two Amazon vouchers.

Please bookmark this page as further details of the event’s agenda, timings and so on will be posted here.

*** Update, 10 September 2009 ***

Final Agenda

10:30 – 11:00 Registration and refreshments

11:00 – 11:45 Overview of the SHEEN Sharing project to date

11:00 – 11:10 Cherie Woolmer (Strathclyde University): Welcome & housekeeping; Why SHEEN Sharing?;  SHEEN Sharing and the ECN.

11:10 – 11:35 Sarah Currier (Project Consultant): SHEEN Sharing, January to September 2009:

– The SHEEN Sharing Review and Benchmarking Reports: What we discovered about the ECN as a Community of Practice; What are the ECN requirements and how Web 2.0 might support them

– The SHEEN Sharing tools: Blog and Twitter account for dissemination; Scribd group for sharing project documents; regular drop-in FlashMeeting webinars for support and discussion; and an informal community “repository” bringing together Diigo and Netvibes.

11:35 – 11:45 Questions and discussion.

11:45 – 12:45 SHEEN Sharing and the ECN:

– Fiona Boyle from Queen Margaret University will talk about SHEEN Sharing’s support of the SHEEN Placements project in utilising a blog and Twitter account;

– Cherie Woolmer of Strathclyde University will talk about how SHEEN Sharing impacted on her work as a member of the ECN community, as and individual, and internally within her institution;

– Gavin McCabe at Edinburgh University and Jessica Henderson at Heriot Watt University discussing, on video, a broad range of issues around the impact and potential of SHEEN Sharing;

– Sarah Currier, Project Consultant, will show examples from other ECN members, and give examples of their feedback.

12:45 – 13:00 Where to from here?  A brief look at the results of the end-of-project survey, with discussion.

13:00 – 13:45 Lunch for all.  Heather Fotheringham from the Higher Education Academy will be available to show folk the EvidenceNet repository.

13:45 onwards: ECN members only: evaluation and planning

13:45 – 14:25 Breakout Session 1

– Two breakout groups will look at, respectively, ways forward for Tools and for the ECN Community.

14:25 – 14:35 Grab a tea/coffee/biscuit.

14:35 – 15:15 Breakout Session 2 (as above; groups switch topics).

15:15 – 15:30 Closing session: report back from breakout groups; set priorities and assign tasks for the future.

NB: We have the venue booked for the whole day, so if any participants want to arrange to use the space to meet with colleagues before or after the event starts (between 09:30 and 17:00) please contact Cherie Woolmer or Sarah Currier and let us know.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | SHEEN Project Dissemination, SHEEN Project Events & Meetings | , , , | 4 Comments

SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements: Introduction and Summary

Full SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report (Final Public Draft) available here.

This report is primarily the result of a series of workshops with, and a survey of the Employability Co-ordinators’ Network. My thanks for their honesty and enthusiastic participation.

Introduction to SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report

The SHEEN Sharing Project aims to support the Employability Co-ordinators’ Network as a community of practice, with a particular focus on utilizing online tools to communicate about, share and recommend resources of relevance to their employability work. The project will also support discovery and dissemination of relevant employability resources for stakeholders outwith the ECN, e.g. academics, staff developers, student support departments, funding bodies, national services, etc. Outputs and findings will benefit the wider education community, and the FE and HE funding bodies across the UK, by contributing to sector knowledge and understanding of resource sharing and community support using current Web technologies.

In preparing for the major work of the project Workpackage 4: Trials of Web 2.0 Tools, I gathered ECN requirements and ascertained co-ordinators’ level of awareness and experience with Web 2.0 tools in their work. This exercise, Workpackage 3: Requirements Gathering, was carried out in the first three months of the project from January to March 2009, in parallel with Workpackage 2: Web 2.0 Review; both fed into each other during this period. See also the SHEEN Sharing Review report here.

Executive Summary

  1. Who are the Employability Co-ordinators’ Network?

    Etienne Wenger, one of the key educators on communities of practice, notes on his website that:

    “Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.”

    Looked at as a community of practice, the ECN is:

    • National (across Scotland), and geographically distributed, with some members, particularly in the north of Scotland, less able to attend centrally based meetings;
    • Mostly female (76% female / 24% male);
    • A mix of part-time and full-time (59% full-time / 41% part-time);
    • A mix of professional backgrounds;
    • A mix of institutional situations, in terms of:
      • the type of department they are based in (59% educational/staff development / 41% careers service), some being co-located in different departments;
      • the emphasis required by their institution on employability work (including working at a policy level; working on curriculum and course development; and working directly with academics and students);
      • university type, from red brick to the ancients, including the Open University and the federated UHI Millennium Institute.
    • Temporary: funding for their work will not continue beyond the next couple of years.

    Some implications:

    • There is significant time pressure on many ECN members;
    • There are a range of professional and institutional cultures, priorities and communication styles coming to bear on their ability to participate;
    • There are institutional cultures with different approaches to and support for use of technology (for instance, one institution blocks use of certain Web 2.0 tools on campus; another doesn’t allow use of Flash);
    • There is a sense that the work accomplished must somehow not be lost after the end of the ECN’s funded tenure in this role.

    So, although this is a small group of professionals, it cannot be assumed that they have access to the same resources, have the same work priorities and pressures, or have similar jobs.

    However, despite their differences, it is clear that the ECN has worked from the beginning as a community of practice, engaging in a process of collective learning about their tasks as university employees whose remit is to promote employability for the benefit of students in higher education and their potential employers. Given the affordances Web 2.0 can offer to a distributed community like this, the SHEEN Sharing project could have much to offer in their continued work, learning and professional development.

  2. What are the requirements of the ECN?The basic requirements that have emerged are as follows:
    • Communication:
      • Mutual support;
      • Sharing experience, practice and learning.
    • Resource sharing, comprising:
      • Resource discovery, sharing, recommending and rating;
      • Sharing experiences of use of resources;
      • Targeted resource dissemination to all stakeholders.

    During the initial meetings, however, it also became clear that learning new skills in utilising Web 2.0 technologies would be helpful in their roles supporting teachers and students with employability issues, an impression supported strongly by the SHEEN Sharing Review. As noted in the recent report of an independent Committee of Inquiry into the impact on higher education of students’ widespread use of Web 2.0 technologies (entitled ‘Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World’ ):

    “[…] the dispositions developed through engagement with Web 2.0 technologies – to communicate, participate, network, share etc – overlap with what are viewed both as significant 21st century learning skills and 21st century employability skills.”

  3. Benchmarking the ECN

    ECN members communicate less frequently than they would like, largely due to time constraints and issues of information overload, with all forms of communication tending to occur monthly or less. The ability to communicate privately and in a targeted way is valued, as are opportunities to meet in person, or to utilise tools which simulate the informality and support of face-to-face meetings.ECN members use bookmarking as the primary method of saving resources they have found, which points to social bookmarking as a possible way forward for SHEEN Sharing. They tend to rely on Web searching to find resources again, and email to share resources with colleagues. However, a considerable number of ECN members have low confidence in their own efficiency and effectiveness with finding, sharing, disseminating and re-discovering resources; un-surprising given their desire for the SHEEN Sharing project to help with this.

    To date, ECN members have some experience in their personal lives with social networking tools, but not much enthusiasm for them, and less experience with the main resource sharing and dissemination tools required for SHEEN Sharing. However, they strongly support the major aims of the project: sharing opinions, practice tips and ideas around resources with ECN colleagues and other stakeholders, and improving their own efficiency and effectiveness in sharing resources.

June 17, 2009 Posted by | SHEEN Project Dissemination, SHEEN Sharing Project | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

SHEEN Sharing Review: Introduction and Summary

Full SHEEN Sharing Review (Final Public Draft) available here.

Extra special thanks to Richard Hall (De Montfort University), George Roberts (Oxford Brookes University) and Sheila MacNeill (JISC CETIS / University of Strathclyde), who kindly allowed me to interview them about their excellent experience in the use of Web 2.0 to support communities of practice in UK higher education. Honourable mention also to Tony Hirst and the Open University SocialLearn folks who also inspired and helped me.

Introduction to SHEEN Sharing Review
The SHEEN Sharing Project aims to support the Employability Co-ordinators’ Network as a community of practice, with a particular focus on utilizing online tools to communicate about, share, and recommend resources of relevance to their employability work. The project will also support discovery and dissemination of relevant employability resources for stakeholders outwith the ECN, e.g. academics, staff developers, student support departments, funding bodies, national services, etc. Outputs and findings will benefit the wider education community, and the FE and HE funding bodies across the UK, by contributing to sector knowledge and understanding of resource sharing and community support using current Web technologies.

In preparing for the major work of the project, Workpackage 4: Trials of Web 2.0 Tools, I reviewed literature about, and current practice with, the use of Web 2.0 for the purposes of resource sharing and community of practice support in higher education. The intention of this review was to inform the SHEEN Sharing project as to the best way to proceed with helping the ECN. The short timeframe and small project team precluded an exhaustive literature review, and it was not intended to be overly formal or theoretical, but rather to offer the project an overview of the current landscape, and key tips, tricks, and pitfalls to avoid.

This work, Workpackage 2: Web 2.0 Review, was carried out in the first three months of the project from January to March 2009, in parallel with Workpackage 3: Requirements Gathering; both fed into each other during this period. See also the SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements report here.

Executive Summary: Tips, Tricks, and Pitfalls to Avoid
Drawn from the various reports, and more crucially from the interviews recorded in the Appendices, these tips and tricks are the key purpose of this review:

  1. Know your community
    • Their makeup, professional background, how diverse they are;
    • Their technical expertise and confidence levels;
    • Their enthusiasm for the project’s remit;
    • Look at their personal resource management strategies (so you can fit in with these);
    • What their local drivers, barriers, pressures and policies are that affect the project’s remit.
  2. Engage and support your community
    • Be aware of individual visibility and ensure equitable opportunities for participation;
    • You need champions and mentors who are embedded in the community;
    • Champions / mentors need to model good practice;
    • Engage the most keen to mentor and teach those who have less time but are interested: that’s how communities of practice work;
    • Use the kind of tools you’re going to be encouraging for project management functions;
    • Offer lunch for meetings – gets folk along;
    • People engage best when they are told stories by their peers (not talked at by experts);
    • Focus on what will make their lives easier, enhance their work, save time and be fun;
    • Find out what their problems are and go down the route of solutions;
    • Look for common tasks that they want to carry out and build activities on those;
    • Use a team-based approach to embed tools, give support (engage line managers);
    • Engage with strategic planning, academic quality, data management needs (these can be management drivers for support);
    • Use champions to mentor on a particular task using a particular tool;
    • Enable them to see from each other one thing that might work or transform practice;
    • Get student volunteers to help with mentoring, ideas- can involve elected student reps with experience in this;
    • Agree collaboratively for everyone to do something every day or once a week etc.;
    • Hold regular Webinar/Web conferencing meetings:
      • These are Web 2.0- good “gee whiz” factor, but easy to use, non-threatening;
      • Allow people to communicate and take part from geographical distance, from home, etc. at convenient times;
      • They can *see* each other: important for establishing relationships;
      • Choose a tool where they can begin to establish a profile online (good introduction to issues around this);
      • Record meeting outcomes for others to refer back to, play back, later;
      • Relatively low access costs, choose a tool that just works out of the can;
      • Have a regular schedule planned ahead of time so they can drop in and out.
    • Abbitt (2009) found people use social bookmarking tool around the time of deadline for course requirements – may be an idea to initially provide structure and deadlines.
  3. Technical issues
    • Need to sell sustainability of Web 2.0;
    • Usability for front-end users;
    • When you have 100s of resources, take a mixed approach (mix of tools and technologies);
    • Be ‘agile’ in your methodology- evaluate as you go and be willing to change course, change tools, add new tools to meet emergent needs;
    • Support people who are finding it hard: they can get scared off at first attempt;
    • Support people with workarounds to institutional barriers like firewalls or blocking of Web 2.0 applications.
  4. Potential pitfalls
    • It’s easy enough to set everything up for people, but they’ve got to be motivated to use it; they won’t use it just because you’ve set it up for them;
    • Minimise or completely remove any artificial barriers to Web 2.0 tools;
    • Local university technical departments can cause barriers by blocking certain tools and technologies;
    • Project participants ultimately focus on whatever the official project outcome is. If it’s a formal report, they will work towards a formal report that ticks the boxes.
  5. Employability and Web 2.0
    • “[…] the dispositions developed through engagement with Web 2.0 technologies – to communicate, participate, network, share etc – overlap with what are viewed both as significant 21st century learning skills and 21st century employability skills.” (Hughes, 2009);
    • This fact could become a significant driver for encouraging employability co-ordinators in developing their own Web 2.0 skills, the better to engage in a useful way, and understand, their stakeholders;
    • SHEEN Sharing can enable the ECN to become champions for all that Web 2.0 represents, of crucial importance at a time when, as George Roberts notes in his introduction to the JISC Emerge final report (2009): “information literacy is being dynamically redefined”.

Hughes, A. (2009) Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World: Report of an independent Committee of Inquiry into the impact on higher education of students’ widespread use of Web 2.0 technologies. JISC. Available: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/documents/heweb2.aspx

JISC Emerge (2009) JISC Emerge: A User-Centred Social Learning Media Hub: Supporting the Users and Innovation R&D Community Network. JISC. Available: http://reports.jiscemerge.org.uk/Publications/

June 17, 2009 Posted by | SHEEN Project Dissemination, SHEEN Sharing Project | , , , | 3 Comments

Literature review and requirements/benchmarking documents: Final Public Drafts now published

Finally, we now have a Final Public Draft available of both the SHEEN Sharing Review and the SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report.

The above links take you to each document’s page on Scribd, where you can view, print, download (in various formats) and share them. You’ll also see them listed under the Project Documents from Scribd heading in the far-right-hand column.

I’ve done separate postings for each here and here on the blog, which consist of the introduction and executive summary for each report.

June 17, 2009 Posted by | SHEEN Project Dissemination, SHEEN Sharing Project | , , , , , | Leave a comment