Social software like blogs and wikis, and perhaps more importantly, rss feeds change the processes of academia. This includes administrative processes, as well as teaching and learning. [I wonder whoâ€™s more resistant to change: faculty or administrators & staff. I know that faculty have had the opportunity to be exposed to the potential of social software. I also know that most havenâ€™t taken advantage of the opportunity. I donâ€™t know if administrators/staff have even been exposed, except for the IT shop.]
I donâ€™t care for the old processes anymore. They seem so inefficient; they just take too long to get things done. I remember working on a committee last year, where we needed to brainstorm and circulate our various ideas. For the second meeting we all brought our ideas in on paper and we spent the entire meeting, reviewing each othersâ€™ work. In fact, we didnâ€™t even get through the majority of it. For the next meeting, we circulated our ideas in advance via email. This was an improvement, but still lackingâ€”everyone printed copies of the documents to bring to the meeting. We have wireless nowâ€”why not just bring your laptop or other portable device? I canâ€™t imagine a work group anymore without a digital space in which to work.
Forget what you think a blog is. Pretty much any periodical publication could use a blog format. All those handouts from Academic Services or the Registrar. Whatâ€™s the advantage over say email? Well, aside from the ease of publication provided by the blogging software, you donâ€™t have to address your documents. Rather, they only go to individuals who want them. Imagine students or staff subscribing to rss feeds from academic or administrative departments with information of interest to them. Imagine how this could be integrated with other software the subscribers are already using. Information about advising and registration deadlines could be fed into e-Portfolios, which could provide another incentive for students to regularly using them.
It seems so natural to process committee work as it gets posted (i.e. as members do the work and make it available on-line), rather than waiting until right before the meeting to read it all and hopefully have time to reflect on it. Imagine being able to actually do work, access resources, create documents in real time in meetings. We ought to be able to do that today.
Maybe we need to rethink the purpose of meetings, as weâ€™ve been rethinking the purpose of class sessions. Meetings shouldnâ€™t exist merely to disseminate information. Their purpose should be to conduct business that needs to be done face-to-face. Time is too valuable for anything else. How about if, instead of meeting, we task staff to do their jobs and then cut them lose to do so?
Question: Academic departments each have an Instructional Technology Specialist assigned to them. How do administrative departments get their IT support? I don’t mean desktop support but rather the systems support faculty get from their ITS.
Another Question: Is there a plan for how to address the needs of any faculty workgroup that comes along looking for digital tools to enhance their work processes?