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Fostering Conversation & Collaboration

As a board member for the Ohio Humanities Council, I’m often reminded that conversation is integral and crucial to the humanities; yet many would not consider how to use technology to foster conversation a humanities initiative.

Inspired by the UMWBlogs and other university WordPress multisite platforms, a colleague and I embarked on a mission to create a blogging or digital commons platform at our university. The university had not upgraded to a content management system and so faculty and students had the option to either create their own web pages on their university accounts or to go outside the university to Facebook, WordPress and other social media/blogging platforms. The university uses a central IT model that encourages new online resources to be approved and supported by the Computing and Technology Services (CATS) and often by Communications and Marketing and/or the Center for Teaching and Learning. These partners gradually warmed to the idea of university blogs or a digital commons and we launched into what has become a two and a half year process of discussions, trials, and beta tests. In the past year, the university decided to adopt Drupal as the CMS for the university’s web presence. We became aware of Drupal’s Digital Commons platform as we were discussing the CMS last summer and we have tentatively adopted it for a collaboration oriented social media platform and WordPress as a resource for courses that may be expanded to replace the individual html web pages. My goal was to encourage interdisciplinary collaborations by making the research, learning, and creativity within the university visible both to ourselves and to potential partners outside the university—the new CMS may go along way to heighten the visibility of university research and resources and the digital commons (soon to branded with a new name) will provide space for formal and informal groups within the university. It will also replace faculty and staff listservs. Blogs/Learning will provide a public facing, collaborative, constructivist platform for courses outside Desire2Learn. Blogs/Community may eventually knit together the formerly isolated and somewhat random individual and project sites around the university. The university libraries also participate in the Ohio Link digital repository initiative with our WSU CORE. Each approach has it limits and some worry that this is just too much.

Questions: Where in all of this does collaboration with those outside the university take place?  How do these resources related to the widespread use of Facebook by individuals and university offices? We have also looked at OpenScholar and we find there is often something new to check out before we attain final approval on any one strategy; what is the value of the long dialog, initiated by humanities faculty but now encompassing many offices and constituencies within the university?

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