Malleable Musings

August 2, 2009

Facebook Courses

Filed under: Facebook, Uncategorized — Brendan @ 10:44 pm

On the surface my new job has very little to with social networks however it’s been an interesting week in terms of social networks and web 2.0 tools.

I attended a really interesting presentation by Ross Parry on Tuesday in which he talked mainly about using common web 2.0 stuff instead of Blackboard. He’s a really engaging presenter!

Then having seen some of the stuff from #IWMW2009 (the link is Mike Nolan’s atom feeds) I found something about the top UK HE Twitter accounts. I found it funny that an account I started had ended up top (at least in the initial post – see Friendfeed for my reaction and for this Facebook post that I found from one of my old colleagues).

On Friday I ended up in a discussion about amplification that I would never had been invited to, if I hadn’t been involved in social media.

I was also asked on Friday to do a guest post on how HE/FE use social media to engage with prospects, current students and alumni. I was asked if I could come up with something thought provoking or even a bit controversial to get a discussion going.

Social networks, and especially the behemoth that is Facebook, are important advertising and communication platforms. I read a tweet sometime earlier in the week – sorry can’t remember who from – that suggested that Facebook might eventually replace Admissions pages and LinkedIn will replace Alumni pages on institutional websites. Whilst I’m doubtful that this will happen. They will probably remain as critically important tools in the work that I do – even though social media forms no part of my job description.

Therefore, in the end I thought it was best to point the person who asked me to guest post at a few other people whose blogs I read. Although I’m now having second thoughts and think it’s important to write something around how crucial it is to appoint the right staff and then trust and support them well when wanting to engaging with social networks.

The reason for this is the self-reflection that I did on Saturday when Tony Hirst tweeted about COURSE PROFILES – A Facebook Application for Open University Students and Alumni.

I was thinking about something like this for quite some time when I was in my last job. My intention was to produce something very, very similar to both the Course Profiles and the My OU Story application that Tony talks about in his Google doc.

For me, this idea was a no brainer. Just look at this Facebook Page or the comments/discussions in the student-created student group on Facebook and you can see why applications like this are so important.

Unfortunately I never got around to implementing an application like Course Profiles properly. Although I did manage to create an application, uolcourses, that would add a badge with some self-declared text on to the user’s profile, that was all it did and I was miles away from releasing something into the wild.

I can’t remember what it was that eventually stopped me, or even when it happened. I’m sure it was probably that I hit a snag in a piece of code, and couldn’t find a way to get it working. If today you were to look at the application I created it simply returns some debugging data.

I remember approaching some of my more technically minded colleagues about incorporating a course unit list but I couldn’t persuade the techies (or rather their managers) of the importance of developing Facebook applications.

So the only resource I was able to push in to this was my own time, late at night outside of working hours, using my limited technical skills.

I’m really pleased to see that Tony and his colleagues at the OU were able to provide a mutual platform of support to each other to enable an application like Course Profiles to be produced and I can’t wait to see the new applications they are working on.

However one thing I don’t understand is why they aren’t linking the Course Profiles page from their main Fan page.

BTW: if anyone reading this thinks that they have a thought-provoking guest post in them about how HE is using social media to engage prospects, current students and alumni please let me know and I’ll pass on your details.



  1. Course Profiles was developed completely outside the system, and My OU Story only slightly less so; neither of them are official apps; they were built without permission and without a project code or budget code. The system tolerated them, even linked to them, but never backed them, supported them, or saw them as an innovation worth developing; IMHO, of course.

    @liamgh has the code – if you want to develop it further, we should probably talk…

    Comment by Tony Hirst — August 3, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  2. Tony thanks for the comment. Sorry for making an assumption. It’s funny how we always think the grass is greener elsewhere.

    I’m certainly in no position to develop it further but I might know people who are. Well done for pushing this through – I’m sure there are a lot of grateful students – and I for one am very impressed.

    Comment by Brendan — August 3, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

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