Pitfalls for new professional archaeology bloggers

This is the last of three posts for students in my Introduction to Professional Archaeology topic, as well as other people who are new to blogging about archaeology. You can read previous posts here and here.

So you are considering starting a blog yourself—or have started one already. Great! In this post, I look at some of the potential professional pitfalls that can come from sharing your thoughts with the world, some of which can  undo all of the benefits of blogging I have outlined up until this point. The broad problem is quite simple: anyone can read your material, and a bad piece of work can be in front of hundreds or even thousands of readers just as quickly as a very good piece. That is something to be concerned about, but not terrified of, because it should be seen for what it is: a subtle form of pressure to produce high quality work on the web. So, that said, here are some tips for novice archaeological bloggers from the perspective of a professional archaeologist who has been reading and writing about archaeology on the web for about a decade.

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The benefits of blogging for professional archaeologists

In a post earlier this week I provided a brief account of why blogging is of interest to archaeologists and also touched on aspects of the history of ‘archaeo. blogging’. I’ve taken the time to do this to provide students in my Introduction to Professional Archaeology class with a background to blogging and social media in archaeology, which I argue is an important part of professional communication in the discipline today. Here, I focus on the benefits of blogging and also collate some ideas as to how archaeology students should start out with blogging and social media. For those on twitter, see also #profarch.

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Social media and professional archaeology in retrospect

This is the first of two posts directed at students enrolled in an online topic that I teach at Flinders University on Professional Archaeology.  The focus of this week’s module is to encourage students to critically evaluate the role of social media in professional archaeology. It is naturally the case then that this is an issue best explored publicly in the hope of encouraging some of my students to connect with each other and broader networks. As this is an introductory topic, it is written for an audience who is relatively new to archaeology.

I’ve maintained a long-standing interest in social media in archaeology, and have run and developed various blogs since ~2004-05. In this series of posts I want to consider the role of social media in professional archaeology  for aspiring professional archaeologists. In this post I offer a brief retrospective on where blogging in archaeology emerged from and why it is of such interest to us.

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Minimising the misery and pain: tips for completing a Doctoral Thesis

Long time readers  know that I’m a relatively freshly minted PhD graduate (2010 vintage) and a quick browse through some of my earlier posts here or on twitter would no doubt reveal some of the anguish and horror that I went through during my candidature. So, it is a rather strange turn of events for me now to be offering advice to PhD candidates who are setting out on that unique and harrowing journey. Nevertheless, I’m about to go and offer  some general tips on ‘success in a PhD program’ to new PhD candidates in my Faculty. Why they asked me I’m not sure, but I thought it worth posting those tips here because I think they’re more generally applicable to anyone starting a thesis.

As a brief prelude to those tips, I should note that my PhD was very messy and I suspect I was far from being the role model PhD student. I disappeared into remote areas for months at a time, took around 6 years to complete and for a whole lot of that time I was working full time. I did finish and I did get a job, but I would  do a PhD very differently were I to start another one tomorrow.

(Warning, longish read!)

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Apologies for the break (and a brief update)

What can I say? Work is frantic at the moment and consequently my blog and twitter stream are a great deal quieter than normal. That’s academic teaching for you. However, we’re now almost through our first semester here in Australia and over the past few weeks I’ve been able to refocus on my research. Before I blog about those projects though I thought I would cover a few teaching related things that I’ve been up to this semester.

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The risks of professional blogging

Colleen at Middle Savagery has been facilitating a discussion about archaeology and blogging for the past few weeks and this week the question she poses is:

What risks do archaeologists take when they make themselves available to the public via blogging? What (if any) are the unexpected consequences of blogging? How do you choose what to share?

I thought I would participate in the discussion this week by considering blogging in relation to University students and recent graduates. In my experience, a large proportion of those who actively use blogs to write about research are students or recent graduates and I think there are specific risks associated with this (there are also many benefits, but I’ll come to that!).

I fall into a category that is sometimes termed the ‘early career researcher’. I’ve worked as a professional archaeologist for about a decade or so, have recently completed a PhD and I now teach at an Australian University. I have blogged since about 2005 however I have never been a prolific blogger because I’m often very busy with other things.

There is one standard that I have tried to maintain in my blog writing for the past couple of years: is the post professional? By that, I mean is it ethical, accurate, logical, well written and appropriately sourced? Writing unprofessional posts is a very risky business, regardless of how established you are in your chosen career. We simply do not know who will be reading our work: academic colleagues, members of committees (ethics, jobs, funding), community members, developers, school students? If your work does not meet basic professional and ethical standards of the discipline in which you work, then what is the message that you are sending to them?

People who are well established in their chosen career usually have a clear sense of just what is unprofessional and the kinds of impacts that unprofessional work can have when released into the public domain. I think this is less so for recent graduates with limited experience of professional life. However, as we might all  agree, the media landscape today is not the same as it was even ten years ago and there are umpteen opportunities for professionals to get their message into the public sphere and to interact with each other via various kinds of new media. This is a new problem – and opportunity – for archaeology.

There are several key risks associated with students or recent graduates who maintain blogs. First, there is the risk that they unwittingly post material that is unprofessional and that this will negatively impact on their career. We all know that an unprofessional post in your archives that was not very widely read at the time may come up in a web search two or five years later when you are applying for a grant or job. Most bloggers whose work I have time to read are very cautious about what and how they write; however, this may not be the case for those who are new to writing professionally and whose sense of professional standards may not be very well developed. If you seek a career as a professional and you run a blog you will be judged (in part) according to the professionalism of your blog, whether you want to be or not.

Second, there is the risk that an unprofessional post can be influential and attract a great deal of attention. A blog post about a research result or heritage management project that is controversial, for example, may attract the interest of mainstream media outlets or simply be promoted widely through social media: we all see examples of poorly researched and inaccurate popular archaeology stories that are uncritically promoted by dozens of people using social media. Also of concern though is the potential for inappropriate information to be released into the public sphere. For example, a blog post containing information that is culturally sensitive (e.g. about Indigenous heritage), commercially restricted or that includes results that have not been through a peer-review process could potentially have very significant ramifications. I’m not aware of any examples of this occurring in Australia, but very few archaeologists bother with blogs here so that is not entirely surprising.

Some may argue that the beauty of blogging lies in the way that peer review occurs in the comments and that the flaws of unprofessional posts are quickly pointed out by readers. I agree that this can be the case, but it is not consistently so. For most archaeo/anthro-bloggers, our audiences are very small and a problematic post may not be subject to very much criticism at all. Further, it may not be the correct kind of criticism, since readers of blogs may themselves not have the appropriate skills  to identify flaws and may not necessarily even be aware of relevant professional standards. One way around this may be to create a ‘research blogging’ style blog where  posts are to some extent peer reviewed in relation to an editorial policy (see my suggestion about Four Stone Hearth here). But I digress.

I am certainly not suggesting that students and recent graduates should not blog. Learning how to write good research blog posts is almost as important as learning to give a  conference presentation or prepare an academic poster. Blogs are clearly not recognised as a form of academic publishing, but the benefits of writing them are diverse and significant, particularly for students. However, students and recent graduates face unique risks when they decide to start blogging and as such, they should be learning about blogging at University level and encouraged to write and critique blog posts in a sheltered and supportive learning environment. That doesn’t mean telling students to simply “go write a blog”, but rather, incorporating it into the assessment process, providing feedback and helping them to develop and improve their skills. That way, when they do go out into their various professional careers they will better positioned to use blogs professionally rather than as professionals who use blogs poorly.

Edit (16 March):

You can read Colleen’s wrap of contributions on this question here. Some great work, including some contributions from a few CRM/heritage management archaeologists that I wasn’t aware of, as well as a post from Terry Brock on maintaining integrity in archaeological blogging. However, I don’t tend to agree with Colleen’s implication that maintaining a professional stance means writing boring, dry blog posts – I think the best kinds of blogs are those that are engaging and of wide appeal, provided they don’t send the wrong messages. Colleen’s own blog is a good example of an engaging style that sends the right kinds of messages to readers. Let’s face it, blogging doesn’t count for anything in relation to measurable academic outputs, and so there’s not much point writing posts that 10 people might read. Better to write openly and accessibly so that others might enjoy reading your work and to learn about archaeological ethics and professional standards.

Digital archaeology: a workshop

I have agreed to present a half day workshop in my Department here at Flinders University on what I am calling ‘Digital Archaeology’. It’s aimed graduate students in our archaeology and cultural heritage programs who want to know more about how digital/web technologies are radically changing how we go about doing archaeology. It’s a little similar to what some in the USA seem to call cultural heritage informatics, but that’s not a term that is in very wide use here in Australia at this stage.

The workshop will be a three to four-hour long introduction to the technologies that students can use to improve how they collect, analyse, manage and share archaeological data. I want to focus on things that students can use now, and that will likely be around in one form or another for some time. Where possible, I want to advocate open access/source approaches. It will be entirely introductory and assume that participants have little or no experience using many of the technologies being covered. I may be assuming that they know too little, but I think we need to offer a basic entry point into this material for people who are not at all familiar with it.

I am, however, keen to make sure that this workshop is useful to participants and that it covers things that are of widest possible value. This may be a little cheeky of me, however I am posting my brief thoughts here on what I am planning to include in the hope that you, dear reader, might spare a minute to comment. I’m glad for people to adopt ideas too, but be kind and acknowledge where possible: in this regard, I have benefited from talking to/reading stuff by Ethan Watrall and others associated with the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative.

Core concepts:

  • What is digital archaeology?
  • What are digital data?
  • What are ‘open access’, ‘open source’ and ‘creative commons’ and why are these things important?

Digital research tools:

  • Web feeds and archaeology (or keeping abreast of what’s going on)
  • Managing bibliographic data with Zotero
  • Google Earth and its application to archaeology (managing GPS data, creating basic maps and some discussion of the way it has been used in research)
  • Geographic information systems – QGIS (this will be brief)

Digital images

  • What is metadata and why is it important?
  • Scale, resolution and formats: a quick primer
  • Managing and sharing images with Picasa
  • Sharing your work: Flickr and Picasa Web

Finding, collecting and cleaning digital data

  • Why is it important to standardise archaeological data?
  • Cleaning up other people’s data (using Google Refine or basic functions of a spreadsheet)
  • Creating geographic data (using Fusion Tables to create KMLs for gEarth/gMaps/QGIS)

Communication and collaboration

  • There’s more to the web than Facebook!
  • ‘Bloggy’ media (Tumblr, Twitter, Blogging)
  • Web collaboration (Google Docs at this stage)

Yes, it is a lot however its an introductory workshop that aims to increase awareness of these issues and technologies rather than how to actually use them all. I’m hoping that it may prompt a few of our research students to get more interested in this stuff. Comments appreciated!

Post image is Portable GPS Device – Finished (Kinda) by 3D King (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The underbelly of an archaeology fieldschool

In June-July next year I am running an Indigenous archaeology fieldschool for students enrolled at Flinders University (see About.com’s post on fieldschools if you’re not sure what they are). It’s quite a daunting task, particularly since I’ve not organised a field school before, and I’m yet to entirely decide on what this particular project will entail, where it will be held or what kinds of activities I can throw at students to help them to develop their skills doing Indigenous archaeology. One thing is clear though: I want to ensure it’s a realistic example of what ‘doing’ Indigenous archaeology involves.

The best way to provide a realistic experience for students is to incorporate the fieldschool into an actual research project. This has worked quite successfully for other Flinders Archaeology staff in recent years and has the potential to benefit the research project by increasing the amount of work (survey, recording, etc) that can be conducted on what are usually slim research budgets. Although I have a few options for research projects that I can tie to fieldschools, at this stage I’m leaning towards running the fieldschool at a place known as Waypa, which is part of Anhatangaith country, near Weipa on western Cape York. The reason? We have funding for an ongoing project here,  a great relationship with community members and there is an absolute stack of work to do on this site. Moreover, it’s an extremely important place for the local community and I’ve long been of the view that the area is of at least State level cultural significance, if not National level. I have a few other potential locations for fieldschools, however nowhere else do the stars align so neatly: community need, relationships and funding. It also happens to be a very interesting place, which I’ve blogged about previously.

View Waypa Indigenous Archaeology Fieldschool 2011 in a larger map

The logistics of remote fieldwork are always daunting, however I’ve been involved in a few fieldschools over the years and have also organised quite a number of field projects involving volunteers, Indigenous community members and so on. So dealing with remote fieldwork logistics is not my primary worry. Rather, I’m concerned about the potential problems that could emerge by taking a group of students to Waypa, particularly with regard to maintaining the health and safety of all involved as well as ensuring that the project doesn’t impact negatively upon the community.

Taking students ‘bush’ is always a concern, and for good reason. I’ve had students drive vehicles into trees and creeks,  they’ve fallen into creeks crawling with crocodiles, have been scared witless by snakes and on occasion have even gone down with heat stroke and numerous other minor maladies. Chosen carefully, small groups of one or two people are easy to manage, however in this  case I’m planning for around 8-10 students, a small fieldschool in comparison to some, but any more than this and the logistics become more and more difficult particularly for food, accommodation, transport, etc. Furthermore, as I explain below, there will likely be just as many Traditional Owners involved in the project and I expect that 15-20 people camping in the bush for two weeks might not be a picnic in the park. In theory, personal safety of participants is a manageable risk. Students are usually sensible, there will be a few people around with appropriate first aid training and (worse case scenario) it’s only a 1.5 hour rough drive to a hospital. It’s also (by law) a ‘dry’ area which means that there will be no alcohol involved. Archaeology students, alcohol and remote fieldwork are, in my view, not a wise combination and I suspect this takes out a major risk factor.

Ensuring that the fieldschool benefits community members and doesn’t have any negative repercussions for them is my second major concern and is something that requires a little more forethought. I haven’t yet asked permission to hold the fieldschool at Waypa and nor have I held discussions as to what the key priorities for community members are, but this is entirely due to the fact I’ve been office bound and haven’t had a chance to catch up with anyone since February. Any work in this region requires the full involvement of senior Traditional Owners for one very simple reason: it’s their country.  Traditional Owners usually like to be involved so they can keep an eye on the visitors, as well as for a chance to get out on country. Often, several people are employed to supervise the work and to ensure that visitors to their country are acting appropriately and the work is proceeding satisfactorily. One of the things that I enjoy most about working in this area is that extended families will typically want to come camping as well, which is always fun and usually results in plenty of fresh fish, fruit or other bush treats. More importantly, it means that we can have a ‘conversation’ about the project that includes all involved – including extended family – on a day to day basis. This conversation trickles along during the entire project: over breakfast, during survey or recording work, or over a cup of tea at 3 am in the morning. I think this alone justifies the need to camp with community members and I think everyone gets a lot more out of the process.

As I said though, how this all will pan out for this project is not clear yet, not until I’ve sought permission to carry out the project in January. Indeed, it may not happen at all, so watch this space!

The archaeology at Waypa is spectacular and I’ll post something more about that along with a description of the area soon – perhaps when I’ve spoken to the Traditional Owners. Waypa is the location of a former Presbyterian mission site and so most of the settlement was established on very hard gravel substrates, which means that the archaeology is mostly on the surface. There are also a number of pre-contact (i.e. pre 1881) sites such as shell middens and artefact scatters in the area which for the most part are undiscovered and unrecorded. For this reason, the project will likely be oriented towards planning and carrying out field surveys across very large areas. This is a skill that’s fundamental to doing Indigenous archaeology in Australia.  In reflection though, the other major theme of this fieldschool will relate to working with community members which if anything is the most critical skill archaeologists need in Australia.

In any case, I’ll try and continue to post as this fieldschool comes together. I figure it might be a useful insight into what goes on behind the scenes in terms of planning and undertaking an archaeology fieldschool. So do let me know if you have any questions!

Student Tweeting – and learning?

I just read a short post  at the Chronicle of Higher Ed about twitter and teaching and one quote in that story struck me:

Before Mr. Junco started using Twitter in class, he says, hardly any of his students had Twitter accounts. “Now I hear students say, ‘Facebook is where I go to socialize, and Twitter is where I go to work,’”

This is a theme that has been running through my engagement with social media for a little while now and one that I advocate when dealing with students and colleagues who ask “why do you bother with Twitter”?

Facebook is fantastic for socialising and networking with friends, family, colleagues but unless you run two accounts it is all too easy to have events in your personal life filter out into your network of peers. I deleted my Facebook account for the second time early last year while finalising my PhD after I realised that my friends list included a potential thesis examiner and a number of influential senior archaeologists. This realisation silenced me and highlighted the complexities and difficulties associated with melding together professional and personal networks via social media. Naturally, I was a quick to get on board with Twitter because of its simplicity and openness, and the fact that unlike Facebook people were mostly posting material relevant to their professional lives rather than personal ones.

Ultimately, I’d like to use Twitter in teaching, not for anything formal but more as a backchannel to topic content to help students to link up with each other. Although I have more pragmatic concerns to work through in terms of online teaching/learning activities, we’re putting some effort into building a twitter community around our Department. There are perhaps 10 students enrolled in our archaeology/heritage programs that I know who are using Twitter, most of whom seem to have joined  after the recent launch of our own account @FLINarchaeology. By building social networks via Twitter, we’re hoping reach out to current and potential students, as well as to engage more with the local and broader professional community; we principally post about events in the Department as well as news items, books, papers, jobs and other materials relevant to our programs. It’s going well so far, and students are slowly starting to send messages to us and to post news and information that they find, which is exciting.

Yesterday I wrote a short article for some upcoming marketing material we produce about the professional use of Twitter. It’s purpose is to advocate to students the benefits of embracing Twitter as a professional tool very early in their careers, and to highlight some of the issues associated with using the service in this way. I won’t post the whole article here, but I do want to post the ‘tips’ I included for students new to Twitter.

  • Be professional. Never, ever announce anything on Twitter that you wouldn’t be happy to announce on a loudspeaker in a crowded pub. There are people reading your tweets, perhaps not many to begin with but as they say, from little things, big things grow…
  • Use your real name. With effort, Twitter is a great way to build useful and real professional networks, however there’s little point in building these if people don’t know what your real name is. So, if possible try and use your real name as your Twitter name (i.e. @yournamehere), if it’s still available!
  • What are you doing? One or two personal tweets a day is nice, particularly when you are doing interesting things. Sadly though, most of your followers may not be all that interested in reading tweets about your day to day life posted at 25 minute intervals. So think twice before telling the world what your breakfast was like.
  • Sharing is caring. Twitter is a great source of information on things that interest you. However, one of the reasons that people will want to follow you is because you post interesting, useful things that are relevant to them. So, sharing useful and good quality information is critical to building a good following on Twitter. If you find a good newspaper article/journal article/video/blogpost, post a link and short description. If the quality is not so good, mention that to your followers (or don’t share it at all!)
  • Be courteous. Your followers are important, if they like what you post they will ‘retweet’ your posts or recommend that their followers should follow you. Being rude, crass or posting other inappropriate things is a fantastic way to rapidly loose followers. Also, if people mention you in a tweet favourably, be sure to thank them.
  • Your profile. The short statement under your twitter name on twitter.com is your chance to convince potential new followers, in one or two sentences, that you are worth following. Make it good and avoid leaving it blank. Equally, if you have a website then link to it on your profile page.

I’m still a little undecided if and how Twitter can be incorporated into teaching, particularly due to the technical issues associated with making it work as well as approaches to incorporating twitter into a class blog or other online learning environments. At a general level though, compared to Facebook, Twitter is far more useful for facilitating student learning and expanding their professional networks, provided that students make a decision early on about whether it is for work or for play. And that is my take home message to students (and colleagues!) who ask about the value of Twitter.

I’d be very happy to hear any other tips for using Twitter as a professional, so please forward them in if you have them!

Blogging and University based learning

I’m developing an online/flexible delivery mode version of a topic I’m teaching this semester here in the Department of Archaeology at Flinders University. The subject is a graduate level version of Indigenous Heritage Management in Australia, which is an important topic for anyone who wants to go on and work in the Indigenous heritage management field (read the topic overview here).

Writing the topic content, selecting readings and developing assessment is one of the appealing things about working in Higher Ed and so too is delivery of this to a class of (mostly) eager students. I enjoy the face to face contact with students during and outside of normal teaching time: the curve ball questions during lectures, the chats after the lecture, the conversations around campus and during occasional social events.  Indeed, I think interaction between topic coordinators and students, as well as between students, is quite important. It can raise students’ awareness of broader issues relevant to the field, give them an opportunity to ask questions, or discuss things that interest them. The informal engagement both inside and outside of formal teaching time are very important to producing good graduates.

This brings me back to the issue of online learning and flexible delivery where traditionally it has been difficult to provide these informal opportunities for interaction. My understanding is that the traditional approach in Australia doesn’t seem to have changed all that much since I enrolled in distance ed courses almost 15 years ago: that is, large books of readings, a course/topic handbook with set questions, ongoing structured assessment pieces and long, solitary hours working through the modules. Not entirely happy memories. Here at Flinders (and I suspect at most other Universities these days) content for flexible topics is delivered to students in a large parcel and supplemented in various ways with our teaching and learning intranet system that hooks into a version of Blackboard. It’s a little old and limiting, but it does serve a useful purpose and the University has some very good topics delivered this way.

But I still feel that flexible delivery students are missing something, well two things actually. First, they have extremely limited interaction with me. I get occasional emails, provide feedback on their assessment and so on, but they entirely miss out on those opportunistic chats in the coffee shop and the ability to ask questions during or after a lecture. Second, as far as I know they are not even aware of each other’s existence, so they’re not getting the opportunity to chat about the things that students often like to chat about amongst themselves, or to problem-solve each other’s issues. So my question is, how can we increase opportunities for this kind of engagement in the context of flexible delivery topics?

There are no easy answers, however a few recent tweets by @parezcoydigo (Chad Black) as well as a few posts on ProfHacker (eg teaching with twitter, New tech tools in the classroom) and some examples of very good quality student blogging (Science communication at Melbourne Uni, and at using blogs in teaching from Neuroanthropology) have been helpful in developing some ideas that I’m collating here.  Underlying these is the idea that we need to begin shifting our perspective on flexible delivery. That is, we need to move away from seeing flexible topics as principally being about offline content, such as handbooks of readings and lectures written in topic work books. Spare the trees, engage the students: use a blog.

Courtesty of Gideon Burton
Courtesy of Gideon Burton (CC)

I’ve seen examples of face to face teaching that incorporates ‘bloggy’ media (examples here, here,  via Chad Black, and also again at Neuroanthropology) and indeed we already do this at Flinders by asking graduate students to post short articles about fieldschools, work experience, research projects and so on to the Flinders Archaeology blog, established by Dr Alice Gorman. But I’m yet to see blogs used in flexible delivery topics as the primary hub for interacting with topic content. This might just be because they’re beyond some type of wall (i.e. accessible to enrolled students) but even so it would be great if people wrote about what they’re doing.

I think that private blogs restricted to enrolled students raise many opportunities for flexible delivery teaching (and for supplementing traditional face to face teaching), including:

  • Scheduling the delivery of content via posts over the semester. This way, students receive content in stages rather than as a single large (and perhaps daunting) package. This allows them to engage with the topic in ways that are more similar to attending weekly lectures/tutorials, and hopefully not be too overwhelmed;
  • Lecturing through integration of text, podcasts, pictures, presentations and videos into single blog posts (polymedia?). We already use this type of content when delivering lectures, so why not embrace more engaging content in flexible modes?
  • Integrating comments systems to allow discussions around lecture/module content;
  • Use of some social media to create discussions around the topic. For example:
    • coordinator-facilitated introductions to other enrolled students on SM platform of choice;
    • promoting discussions around topic content (eg use of topic hashtags as suggested here on ProfHacker);
    • ‘coffee shop’ chats with topic coordinators via social media, eg. responding to curve ball questions
  • Using web apps to promote discussion around assessable content. For example, ask students to develop and submit presentations, posters or discussion topics/posts to the web, and require other students to participate in online discussions (again, through commenting);
  • Use of web apps such as Google Fusion tables or Zotero to create collaborative databases;
  • Establish content repositories of material generated by students. For example, ask students to contribute to subject bibliographies linked to assessment, wikis about themes/issues relevant to topic learning outcomes, and finally, shared repositories of helpful guides, books and sources of information;
  • Each semester, lecture/module content could be archived and new posts created based on reviews of the original content;
  • Some content such as good questions/discussions/examples of student work could be retained for reference in future delivery of the topic, as could the online content repositories;
  • Posts from students about their learning experiences over the course of the semester could be used to help others, and to promote the topic. Great student content could be made accessible to the public via more central blog or traditional print media.

These are of course only the beginnings of various ideas and I have no plans to attempt any of them without further discussion with colleagues. I suspect that it would be possibly dangerous to try and introduce these or other ideas into an established topic too quickly as we need to ensure that high standards are maintained and that core learning outcomes are not compromised or overshadowed by shiny glittery techno things. We all know that the web can be as much a distraction as a useful research/learning/networking tool.

However, I do maintain that Universities should move well beyond existing approaches to flexible delivery and begin to use the web to enhance the level of engagement between students and staff, and amongst students. This is a fundamental part of University learning, and for the first time it’s becoming possible in flexible delivery topics.

I would be most interested in anyone who has comments or suggestions on how they are using the web to facilitate learning in Higher Ed (regardless of discipline) or thoughts on limitations or opportunities of doing some of the things I have outlined here.