The first thing I've done is to set up a dedicated Twitter account (DrCann) for student support. For this to work, the professional student support channel is going to have to be kept clear from the rest of my lifestream on Twitter as most students won't be able to cope with the signal to noise ratio. Similarly, I've set up a dedicated Seesmic account (drcann) for the same reasons. In both cases, these accounts are linked to my University email account, and of course, all of this is in addition to the existing support channels such as email, Blackboard and face to face. I'm also considering the possibility of setting up a FriendFeed room, but I haven't really grokked that yet.
Near synchronous channels such as Twitter and Seesmic create an expectation of instantaneous 24/7 response, and that's not going to happen. I can also think of plenty of other ways frisky students could break this model, so reluctantly, there will have to be a few rules. (If we didn't have rules, where would we be? :-)
Students will be told:
- Twitter and Seesmic are external services. The University of Leicester is not responsible for the content of external web sites, and does not endorse any content, opinions, advertisements or any other services provided at those sites.
- To use these optional services, you must set up a free account at Twitter and/or Seesmic using your University of Leicester username so that I can verify that you are a student on a course I am currently teaching. You can have multiple Twitter/Seesmic accounts and may wish to set up one for University use and one for private use. If on registering you find that your UoL username is already taken, contact me and I will assign you a username.
- If you send me a message via Twitter or Seesmic, I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible, but if I am not in my office, it might take time for me to reply.
- Read the Twitter/Seesmic help material and make sure you understand the difference between public and private messages. I advise you to use these services for advice only and not for any private issues. (Contact me by email or speak to me in person if you want to discuss something privately)
- In the event of abuse (e.g. sending content likely to cause offence), I will block your account so that you cannot send me any more messages. To avoid sabotage (!), keep your passwords private and do not leave public access computers while logged in!
How am I going to persuade students to use these services? I'm not. It's a choice they can make if they wish. The demand will come by viral marketing, e.g. showing them how to pull the feeds into Facebook.
So why are you doing this?
As an experiment, I can't say what the outcomes will be, but the hypothesis that I'm testing is that in the long run (not including learning how to do it), it might provide a better service, save me some time, and both the students and I will be happier. And along the way, we may just do some viral professional development too.