What’s not to like?


Six months into the project and we are starting to look at and analyse some of the very useful data from the surveys and interviews I have been doing. One of the most interesting things to emerge has been the variety of responses to the ‘social networking integrated with educational resources’ question. We asked whether a facility which allowed use of social networking credentials to gain access to some of the University’s online resources– and let’s face it Facebook is going to have the lion’s share of that – was a good idea and likely to be useful. We also sought opinions on streaming information like timetabling data, lecture reminders and library loans into Facebook, Google, Yahoo etc .

I think if I had been asked to guess I might have said that many of the staff and managers of systems would be somewhat cautious and that the overwhelming majority of students would have said something along the lines of ‘Duh! Why are you even asking?’

Yes please 🙂

I have learnt once again the dangers of stereo typing.

Very few staff raised objections to the concept though as one would expect many did add provisos about the necessity for appropriate levels of assurance and perhaps some reminders about not leaving Facebook logged in in the communal kitchen.

I’d prefer if we didn’t encourage even more social networking. I’m one of those people who find it all quite nauseating’

Whilst it is true that a majority of students did think it a great idea it was not a landslide. Somewhere around 40% were unequivocal in their support for it with around 30% being decidedly against the idea. The remainder sat on the fence or seemed a little confused by the idea.
Comments left by the students ranged from excited encouragement to a few rather rude suggestions as to what we could do with social networking applications. Many responses displayed a disarming honesty and a work ethic which the tabloids would have us believe non-existent in anyone under fifty. ‘It would be too much of a distraction’ ‘I’d prefer if we didn’t encourage even more social networking. I’m one of those people who find it all quite nauseating’ ‘You’d be making it too easy and tempting to procrastinate!’
With a plethora of articles recently about Facebook privacy – or perceived lack thereof – it was no surprise to find concerns about that too. Some didn’t seem to trust the University not to delve into what they were getting up to with whom and others didn’t trust the applications not to start harvesting data about their academic records or what clubs and socs they belong to.
Still despite all this I think the trend is towards having everything you need in one place – that place usually being on a smart phone. Of course no-one will be forced to have a Facebook account before they can come to university. On the other hand amalgamating university and social life will only encourage the onslaught of Facebook – and the chance that those who don’t FB will feel marginalised.
So should we rethink the whole idea? Do we ride that snowball or try to leap out of the way as it rolls by us?

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Leo Lyons

I am an analyst currently employed by the University of Kent to research and draw up recommendations in connection with the JISC funded Logins for Life project. The project is looking at ways of extending Kent's online relationship with its users beyond just the time they might spend with us as students and staff. The project is also investigating ways to link exisiting digitial identities with Kent IT accounts.

3 thoughts on “What’s not to like?”

  1. It strikes me that from the responses you’ve got the question shouldn’t be ‘should we push data out to Facebook’ but rather ‘should we pull Facebook in’.

    Personally, I’m very much from the ‘Facebook should never be used by ANY organisation as the primary method of communication. Ever.’ camp, but I do believe in giving people the choice to use Social Media as a way of getting information or interacting with an organisation.

    So, in that vein, perhaps we should be looking more at how we can bring Social Media into our systems here, perhaps as a one-stop-shop style portal? Threadsy (www.threadsy.com) does a nice job of integrating multiple email accounts and social media into one place at the choice of the user. Obviously wider integration would be needed to include other systems here, but I like the theory behind it.

  2. Whilst in any forum one should probably be reasonably careful what one says, the links you posted Bonnie strike me as being worryingly 1984.

    It will be interesting to see how ongoing years of students see Facebook and any integration opportunities. As a tool it is still in its relative infancy, many of its users in a sane world should be considered early adopters. As it weaves its way more and more into the social fabric of society (or its successors, etc), I wonder if attitudes will change (either way)?

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