Over the last year the eLearning Unit have created an increasing number of online social networks for a range of departments and a variety of purposes across the university. The two most recent examples of this are a network created for students on Chinese placements within the Management School and a site supporting collaboration between colleagues in Educational Development and the University of Health Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan, as part of the INSPIRE project.
The online social network platform Ning has been used to create these networks but discussions are underway about a possible in-house replacement for this facility which is officially supported by CSD here at the University of Liverpool.
In some cases hosting sensitive materials or data on an external server would not be appropriate so an internal solution would be ideal. This is particularly relevant when assessment is facilitated through an online network which is not within the control of the university. There is also a cost associated with each current individual network and as more are created, for separate departments, questions about effective budgeting should be raised.
We feel that it would be sensible to pilot an internally hosted social network solution at some point soon as more and more requests are being satisfied with external platforms such as Ning. An alternative product such as Elgg could be to trialled on a hosted CSD server and an evaluative comparison between internal and external options could be initiated.
Any thoughts welcome. Please add a comment if you have an opinion or suggestion you would like to share.