More than a week ago Cathy Derecki and Curtiss Grymala took me through some of the work they have been doing on umw.edu—which has been a multi-network WordPress install for almost a year now. The ideas here build upon this post I wrote over the weekend about aggregating into umw.edu from my personal blog. Now that the campus is getting used to WordPress as the campus-wide publishing platform for our website, it seems high time to start pushing the envelope a bit to see if we can’t finally realize a aggregated and distributedly authored web site that truly exposes the work happening around campus for all to see.
To that end, I think we’re ready to move umw.edu beyond the brochure that has come to characterize university and college websites more generally. How relevant is that approach in the web-based ecosystem of dynamic information we all exist within? Here at UMW we want to integrate the life’s blood of course blogging, social media, and distributed publishing into the fabric of our university’s website. And based on the development Cathy and Curtiss have been doing we are all but ready to start. You can see an example of what they are ready to roll-out this Fall below. Notice the links to UMW Blogs courses, YouTube, Twitter, blog posts, Flickr, etc.
What’s nice about this is that it’s all being automatically aggregated together based on an individual user’s profile page. It is a self-service approach that gives each user control over what social media they want to share, if any.
What’s more, Cathy and Curtiss are also working on aggregated discipline-specific pages that will feature the work happening across various courses in a discipline on UMW Blogs (or whatever platform they use),Facebook, Twitter, etc. What’s powerful here is that we can actually create a series of aggregated landing pages for departments automatically and then re-syndicate that into an uber-aggregation piece of the work happening across all the disciplines at UMW—how would that be for a university homepage?!
I think this is truly groundbreaking stuff for a university website, why no one is talking about it has to be they just don’t fully understand how awesome it is. We’ve been proto-typing distributed authorship across campus with the Faculty-Staff Newsletter site Eagle Eye and it has worked brilliantly—1857 posts in just about two years and a 125 different authors.
Another thing is that we couldn’t be doing this at a better time because we have started a Domain of One’s Own pilot wherein anywhere from 300-400 faculty and students will have their own domains and web hosting. We will finally be doing what George Siemens, via Brian Lamb, suggested universities do:
…schools should be in the business of managing data flows rather than in supporting an end to end user experience. We can only dream what might result if the energy going into the campus-wide LMS’s would go into creating flexible and easy to use “syndication buses” or to addressing pragmatic instructor challenges to using the “small pieces” approach — things like student management tools, gradebooks etc. And what about providing the service of institutional archiving and data backups to mitigate the risks of using third party tools?
That remains a montra for us here at UMW, and we are getting closer and closer!