Well…touch wood I’ve not spoken too soon.
As part of my work operating the JISC CETIS Lifelong Learning Group I decided that I wanted to set up a space where the people working in (or just interested in) this area could get together for discussions and the like, make connections – not only across projects but wider. I looked at Google Groups (limited functionality), Elgg (didn’t want to have to install and host it) and EduSpaces (built using Elgg but bloody awful interface). I then got to Ning.
Creating a network is as simple as it gets, then you have the facility to change the look (either using Ning templates or putting together your own CSS…I’ve recently switched to the latter), decide what tools are going to be available…the usual suspects are there – forum, RSS and blogging, but then you can flex your muscles a bit and switch on/off some other treats (Groups? Check. Video? Check. OpenSocial Gadgets? I’ve left that one for now…)
I started off by inviting a small selection of people at first. People that I had talked to about this kind of thing before and whom I felt confident would engage. This was then followed up with an open invite to the 2 strands of the JISC eLearning Programme that I’m primarily involved with supporting – The Cross Institutional Support for Lifelong Learners (I and II) and HE in FE. Membership has slowly grown over time, with the odd bit of forum posting taking place but only recently do I feel it’s suddenly turned a corner and is now starting to look like an engaging space.
I think this was helped by the fact that the JISC Programme Managers agreed to encourage projects to get involved, particularly with a view to building up some content on the challenges projects are tackling so that we could build on it at the latest programme meeting (yesterday).
Perfect. One of the major reasons I wanted a network like this one is so we could have a place to continue and build upon the discussions and relationships that come about at these meetings. So many times I’ve been to a programme meeting where I hear lots of interesting people sharing lots of interesting ideas and thoughts, identifying shared issues and saying, “We really want to talk to you, you and you as your work is very similar to ours”. And then? Then you leave the meeting and everything goes quiet until 6 months pass by and you all get together again and…well, you know the rest.
So, more members have signed up. People are plugging upcoming events of interest to the community. Members are pulling in the RSS feed from their project blogs and some are even setting up blogs within the network. Oh and the video? Yep, we’ve got one on there now – what a great way for a project to introduce themselves.
Forgive me for sounding like a bit of loved-up fanboy but it’s nice to see something I have a keen desire to see blossom…well, blossoming
Still early days, I know. But there is life there…and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow.
Oh yeah… http://cetisllg.ning.com