My abstract for my “Let the students do the talking…” talk at this years IWMW took me all of ten minutes way back in February and on Monday I realised why. Standing in front of my peers in York I realised I truly believe in and am passionate about what I say. Listening to Paul Boag’s presentation on “Social Participation for Student Recruitment” yesterday further re-enforced my view that we need to be in these arenas and ‘go with this flow’.
I started my presentation by stating that when I questionned “will we still need a corporate website?” in my abstract for the session I hadn’t given serious thought to the audience (of HE Web Managers!) I would be presenting to and I genuinely meant it. When I started talking it felt a little like do or die… I’d either get nods of agreement or a lot of criticism.
Thankfully on the whole (up to now at least!) it’s been the former.
So what have I been saying?
Well to sum it up I guess I’m saying lets encourage our students to talk about us (our University), lets not worry so much about what they say and lets concentrate on the experience we’re providing for them.
Let us also evaluate how necessary some of our services are for students.
We make many assumptions as a University – we assume we need to hand hold our students and we assume we need to provide them with a range of services. Do we? Is everything we provide adding real value? Or can they get better elsewhere?
I have a view, and this may be controversial, that only half of a students experience at University is about the teaching and learning. Yes it’s why they are there but it’s not always why they got there and it’s not always why they leave. So let’s not ignore the “social” and/or informal side of things… lets encourage and develop it.
We know more and more people are online and more frequently too. We can see the age at which children are developing web skills and identities is becoming younger and younger and we can see the rise in social networking and participation so we need to be watching and learning from these trends.
During my talk I highlighted some of the approaches we’ve developed at Edge Hill and I shared our experiences with them and have been encouraged by the amount of positive comments I’ve received in relation to them.
But are we doing anything special?
Well actually I don’t think we are. We’re simply learning from our students and listening to them. In many ways our Web Service is like the “perpetual beta” because we’re working away but also keeping an one eye on the web from the sidelines… ready to change and adapt as the online world does. And one thing is for sure – change it will.