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Chris Millet

It's going to be quite a challenge pulling this off right - i.e. getting good adoption while making the solution educationally valuable. I've expanded on the idea of adding social networking features as a strategy to increase adoption, at my blog: http://chrismillet.com/?q=node/5.

(The trackback module for Drupal 4.7 doesn't appear to be working yet, so this will have to do...)

Cole Camplese

I think adding the features you are discussing would be a major plus, but how do we encourage them to create meaningful connections? As you mentioned the FB doesn't really promote all that meaningful links between users. I continue to wonder if students will ever use anything we build them.

Chris Millet

Cole - you're right, adding social networking in and of itself isn't going to guarantee meaningful connections. My point is that users need to have the means to easily create the initial connections, and do some simple things to reinforce those connections. The problem with something like FB in an educational context is that the system actually constricts the depth of the interaction, based upon what the interface allows you to do. Blogs a) have substantially fewer restrictions on the types and sophistication of possible interaction (esp. if you consider podcasting and vodcasting), and b) they're not contained in a walled garden, so a lot of incidental interactions can occur.

As for will they ever use anything we build them... Some of the initial findings of my blogs in the classroom study are showing that student attitudes towards blogs become more negative throughout the semester, presumably because they start looking at blogging as just more work. Reducing barriers to entry by making this service act like something they're already comfortable with and complelled to use can only serve open the doors a bit for something educationally valuable to happen.

D'Arcy Norman

Heya Cole - I would have commented earlier, but you already know everything I'm doing in this space :-)

We're using Drupal quasi-officially here at UCalgary, for weblogs.ucalgary.ca - it provides all of the functionality we need, and performs quite well. With some decent infrastructure, it should scale to 100,000 users easily - Big Sites like TheOnion.com run on it, so performance doesn't have to be a problem.

Drupal's strengths here are the community/connection possibilites - self-forming groups, blogs, podcasting, etc...

Also, Elgg has these same strengths, packaged in a different way.


Cole - I have taken the approach that students are blogging before they get here or once they get here they 'hooked up' with their friends. I would very interested to know the uptake of this project but my gut tells me it will be low _if_ you have a lot of students that already have their own blogs.

It is similar to uni email. How many students actually *want* to use it? Here it is very very few.

Cole Camplese

Jesse ... we have similar indicators here ... students that show up with blogs tend to stick to those blogs. University email is where we measure our users in a lot of cases. It is the most heavily used technology we currently have. More and more students are showing up with gmail for example and are sticking to it ... but, they are still forwarding all their University mail into that space. Blogging is really a platform for all kinds of things and if they end up getting that we'll see good adoption (IMHO). If we cannot convince faculty that it is the right thing to push for portfolios, note taking, intellectual development tracking, and whatever else , it will fail as a large scale program.

Darcy, we are close to committing to the static publish model -- that could change, but it takes some very compelling solutions out of the mix.

Michael Feldstein

NVU is a multiplatform stand-alone HTML editor that evolved out of the old Netscape Composer: http://www.nvu.com/index.php. For what it is (a low-end Dreamweaver alternative), it's quite nice.

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