Unraveling social networking

Another week, another survey, this time a snapshot of the top ten web applications as voted by around 3,000 participants from around the world.  Most of the entries are little surprise, with the likes of Gmail, Flicker, Twitter and Facebook all appearing as expected, but sitting at number five is an unexpected entry: Ravelry, ‘a knit and crochet community’ that offers a rather impressive user experience underpinned by ‘the usual search and Google map thingies‘, online shopping, project books, displays of finished work, pattern sharing, personal messaging and discussion boards.  Their own stats from Google analytics are supported by those from Alexa showing a rapidly growing user base, with up to a thousand users invited every day and a waiting list of over seven thousand.  Perhaps it’s time to reconsider that Wikipedia: speedy delete decision…. 

What makes this site so interesting, of course, is the thoroughly non-techie nature of its subject matter and the naturalness of computer use implied amongst its user base.  The way in which well designed sites such as this can draw together users from around the world and support their communities should have some very valuable lessons for learning communities.

New eassessment podcast

A new podcast on eassessment has been made available on the JISC website, providing a useful guide to the benefits of eassessment and the range of resources and services provided by JISC and the Higher Education Academy.  The podcast highlights outcomes from the National Student Survey 2007 showing the perceived value of eassessment systems; resources for detecting, deterring and designing-out plagiarism; training and information resources; accessibility; legal aspects of eassessment such as students’ intellectual property rights over their own materials, data protection and privacy; and capacity and community building activities, including our own SIG.  The podcast closes with a look forward to possible and probable future developments, such as the use of (e)portfolios and the likely impact of the Burgess Report.

WebPA: making an impact

Congratulations to the WebPA team at Loughborough University and the University of Hull, whose JISC-funded project has been shortlisted for the 2008 IMS Learning Impact awards.  The awards ‘recognize […] high impact use of technology in support of learning’, acknowledging both technological innovation and educational value.  The WebPA project makes a mature, open source peer assessment system available to the community, and is notable not least because this tool is already in active use in both universities.

Addressing from the start the sustainability concerns raised by other projects and being in the fortunate position of being a longer-term project blessed with useable software from the outset, one of the project’s key aims is to develop and maintain a user community around the software, working in collaboration with the Higher Education Academy Physical Sciences and Engineering subject centres to achieve this.

Downloads are available from the project’s SourceForge space, and an online demo provides an excellent introduction to the system.