A network is born – First intake sessions on ResearchConnect – Social Networking platform for Researchers at the University of Manchester

Well what can I say? After a summer of installing ELGG, tweaking and theming and generally crafting (beating) the software into a usable, corporately recognisable application, today we threw open the virtual doors to ResearchConnect. The scope of the project has expanded somewhat from it’s initial inception as a platform for PhD students from two faculties at the University into a platform available to the entire research community at the university.

ResearchConnect is a trial project that has come from a small bid from our Roberts money allocation.

So what are my hopes for ResearchConnect?

Well firstly I would like to gauge the appetite for such applications amongst our research community. Will members actively engage with the site and if so what types of things will they use it for? Will members find it useful to have this kind of facility and what are their views on the need (or otherwise) for social applications in academia? My hope is that we can find ways of using web2 and user generated material to provide opportunities for learning, networking and reflecting.

I am interested in communities of practice and networked and user directed learning. Will communities of practice emerge on ResearchConnect; perhaps within research groups or broader groups based on common research interests such as methodologies? Will members be able to find out useful information from the community and will it supplement the more formal VLE based learning opportunities that we currently offer?

What makes online communities tick and really inspire meaningful contributions? We will be looking at ways to foster successful researcher communities and to document the types of activity (online and face to face) that work/ don’t work.

With my web developer hat on is I am interested to find out which features of the application really matter. Is ELGG the right piece of software? What is good and/ or bad about it and how does it compare with other applications such as Drupal?

I’d also be interested to hear from similar projects of people using social tech in HE/ research environments.

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