Social networking is a growing phenomena with a wide range of sites offering different features to connect people to each other; from Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo, to LinkedIn and Academia.edu. At CARET, we’re stepping back from these commercial products. We see that social applications can offer powerful, compelling features to students and staff in higher education, and hope to enhance the existing real world networks that make the University of Cambridge experience so valuable. (Click here for more information and other projects in this area at CARET).
This project used user-centric design methods to build a range of social applications for CamTools. Our early explorations to find out how social applications can enhance and support teaching and learning helped us understand that there can be a big overlap with research activity too. We undertook user research with undergraduates, postgraduates and staff at the University to investigate how they communicate and connect with each other today, and synthesised this into design ideas, with help from real user testing, during Spring 2009. We discovered that events, and the social or people-oriented information around them, are important to staff and students alike. We have substantially added to the body of knowledge relating to user-centric design (UCD) practice in UK HE and brought in expertise from the realm of commercial software development.
Early applications will be integrated into next generation CamTools, with further applications following later on. All the software created as part of this project has been released under a community open source licence as part of Sakai.
All our research outputs and our closing summary are available on the Academic Networking blog and our final report is available as a PDF. We’ve published lots of information and practical guides on undertaking user-centric design to help others who may be attempting this for the first time.
Did you know? Over 41% of undergraduates at the University of Cambridge use Facebook several times a day.