Less buzzwords, more content

We’re very open about our web developments and always welcome feedback, particularly from our users, but we are naturally disappointed when we hear we’re not giving people what we want.

We arrived at the office this morning to the following comment on my blog post ‘Where to stop?!’ from an anonymous user:

Zzzzzzz.

Less buzzwords, more content. Give us something we can use; not look at. We’re (students) not bothered about blogs. We don’t care about tech news. We can get that from more important places. This is a university web site. Give us university content. Live access to our files in a decent way. E-mail from POP or ATOM. RSS feeds of our coursework updates and changes. Loose the Blackboard and Web CT and start giving us information that we need. We’re not looking at it, we’re using it.

Whilst the comment doesn’t explicity reference Go (our student portal) I assume that’s what it relates to and in response (as buzzword-less as I can make it) I’d like to highlight the following.

The Go portal is not a finished product/service indeed non of our Web Services are. Once we put something in the public domain we seek feedback from our users and we continually build/adapt/enhance it to ensure it’s doing what YOU want. University blogs are fairly new for us and at present we only have a number of bloggers within the community – so whilst the usefulness of these might not seem apparent right now the more our community grows the more interesting they’ll be for a wider group of people. In direct response to the user who added the comment I’d also like to add that you may say students aren’t interested in blogs – but then you did just read and comment on one! 😉

I completely take the point about more university content and can confirm this is what we are striving to add. There are plans to pull in feeds from WebCT/Blackboard and even direct from the Student Record System but these are third party systems so understandably adapting these to be accessible in the same way as our university resources is a little more time consuming – bear with us. New features will be added all the time. The overall aim of our services is to make everything more accessible and easier for you and not just within the Go portal we’ve developed. Longer term aims are to have our content pushed out so that our users can decided how/where they access it from. Again we’re working on these things so keep an eye on this blog to see where we’re at.

All of that said we are confident we are providing some great features already. The new version of Go is due to be rolled out fully later this month and it’ll give all students easier access to Mail, File Storage, Discussion, Community, Library and WebCT/Blackboard. Performing Arts students are already piloting new services which give them a bespoke (course specific) area which allows them to submit assignments, get module updates and notifications about their course. I would argue that the services we’re offering are purely about content and we look forward to building on them in the future.

7 thoughts on “Less buzzwords, more content

  1. I’ll just add quickly about the amount of tech news. I’m guessing this is referring to the Web Services blog directly. Yes, we feature a lot of general web/technology news which is available elsewhere, but most people don’t subscribe to dozens of feeds and so will hear at most about the odd articles that feature on the front page of the BBC News website.

    Part of the remit of Web Services is to spread information about new technologies which might be of interest to colleagues and students and I hope that some people find it useful – certainly looking at the statistics we’re getting quite a lot of people reading the site.

    In terms of pushing content out, as Alison says we’re working on providing more feeds and ways of getting information in a way that suits you. Some work has already been done but there’s much more to do. To get you started, one feed which we use internally is an aggregate of Edge Hill blogs:

    http://go.edgehill.ac.uk/blogs/feed

    As some people may already know, IMAP access is also available to email. We’ve been testing this for the last couple of months and I’ve asked Core Services to say something about it.

  2. I quite like the tech news. I read a fair bit anyway, but it’s nice to see it viewed from the angle of an academic institution. If you’re not into it, don’t read it, I guess!

    I think what’s more important (and refreshing) though, is the level of transparency/approachability/informality that blogging and posting on the forums gives to the different departments and their work. I for one appreciate it.

    While we’re slating WebCT and Blackboard though, I dunno why you didn’t give Moodle a go. Making that interact with your homebrewed services would have been straightforward, I’m sure!

  3. Moodle was trialled by our colleagues in Learning Services (who are responsible for the VLE) but they opted to stick with WebCT and upgrade to the new version (WebCT/Blackboard). From our perspective Moodle would have made it easier to integrate with our services but our colleagues must have seen more T&L benefits by sticking with WebCT.

    I’m sure this will be something we’ll revisit in the future though.

  4. I love WebCT. People will never be satisfied always wanting the latest new fad. Let’s start using what we’ve got properly before moving onto something else because believe me if we had Moodle, people would moan about that and ask why we can’t have X.

    To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln.

    “You can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot please all the people all the time.”

  5. In the end the choice of sticking with the current VLE (WebCT/Blackboard), was not really to do with teaching and learning.

    To move to Moodle, someone would have needed to re-train all the institution’s staff to use another system and move huge amounts of existing course materials over. This just wasn’t possible with the existing timescales relating to licences running out. Also the institution wasn’t happy with a lack of an external support contract for Moodle..

    I’m very keen on Moodle myself – it is very flexible (although for technophobic staff this might be a downfall) and as Alison said easier to integrate. However it would have to be a long term plan to move to it. It would be realistically no earlier than 2010/11 academic year.

    It’s worth looking at, but more and more academics are looking at systems that give the student power to create (eportfolio systems, social network sites). What will the place for VLEs be a few years in the future.

  6. Some interesting comments!

    I completely that you can’t please everyone and think that is true of any service not just VLE’s! Hence this post.

    In response to Peter’s comments I too wonder what the role of VLE’s will be the future. With our students increasingly joining us with more and more IT/Web skills and preferences their expections are bound to change. I think we’ll be offering more and more plugins to user owned technologies and making allowances for personal preferences in the future rather than continually rolling out institutionally hosted systems and services. It’s not going to happen overnight though and we have a lot of work to do with what we’ve got in the meantime.

  7. Hi!

    I’ve just started at Edge Hill University, and was wondering how i would go about accessing my email via IMAP, as i have looked all over the Edge Hill website to no avail.

    Thanks in advance, guys.

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