I'm helping the Univ. of Arizona Management Information Science dept start a new course on Managing Online Communities.It started out as an idea through my involvement in the IBM Academic Initiative.In a meeting with the IBM AI Director, Kevin Faughnan, the U of A MISDepartment Head, the U of A Computer Science Dept Head andothers, we were exploring ways of how academia is keeping up with theIT and CS topics of interest to incoming freshmen undergraduatestudents. My point was that the MySpace Generation is already wellentwinned into the net today and actively participate in more onlinesites that older generations. You need courses that appeal to thisrising interest in online technologies, as well as being potentialfuture job possibilities in this field. I suggested the idea of acourse that touches on all the technologies involved in onlinecommunities and social network systems, and in particular, how tomanage such communities for a business.
This is our first step course to see how much people areinterested in the topic. It's 3 credits (about 3 hours a week) for a4.5 month-long semester at the third year Undergraduate (Junior) level, startingthis August. There are multiple goals but the primary idea is based onthe notion that many companies are finally beginning to create jobpositions of a Community Manager or other IT support role for creatingand managing online communities. They call it by different names butthis is essentially what they are pointing to. This is quite differentwhat people think of in terms of a Web site manager. The whole courseis an experiment but I think it has a chance of expanding to alarger/wider scale. This course will at least get them started in thatarea, but I think there will still be a lot to learn about thisevolving future.
I don't think it will be that hard or new for them to grasp consideringthat we are talking about the MySpace generation, but we want to showthem that this might become a future work opportunity in the industryif they know how companies themselves are interested.
Aside from just getting the students up to speed on all the differenttechnologies and topics in social networking and community, there'd beassignments and group projects. The final project I think will beinteresting to many universities all over: the students taking thiscourse will subdivide into pairs, and each pair will be working with asmall group (micro-community) of 4-5 high school (secondary school)students from a school that we are partnering with. The goal is for ourstudents to teach some of these ideas to the high school students, andtry to build and manage that community (on a short term basis).
- our students get some exposure trying to work or organize others(is dealing with high school students ~= dealing with executives andexperts? :) )
- both our students and their students learn by doing
- we get a broader reach of the ideas (those high school students are potentially future college students the next year)
Other regularly/weekly assignments are of course, blogging or postingin forums on a regular basis to get them used to the rhythm.
We have great support from the head of MIS (Dr. Mohan Tanniru) aswellas the principal of the High School we are going to work with. I willbe helping the MIS Lecturer, Andrea Winkle teach the course; she hasbeen running SummerCamps for high school students on the topic of IT, so she hasexperienced working with them before, which as involved in the FinalProject adds a valuable aspect to the course. (Just working with somany highschool students is an interesting juggling act as it is)
The following is our general list of topics that we are basing it on.It's not complete but hopefully we should have a good range of topics:
- Overview of the role of online communities in business
- what businesses are doing in their online communities
- competing for mindshare
- user-generated/user-led vs. organizationally-developed content
- what are and are not online communities: community identity & interaction
- Overview of common types of community tools:
- What happened to just a simple Web page? - Web 2.0
- content & collaboration tools: blogs, forums, instant messaging/forums, wikis, etc.
- workflow, process and project management tools
- information organization: categorization, taxonomies, tagging
- distribution and syndication: RSS/Atom Web feeds
- Overview of community environments:
- forum-based communities,
- spaces-based communities,
- tag-based communities, etc.
- Community development & maturity:
- designing, launching, recruiting/populating, growing.
- what is acceptable, what is not,
- setting up member guidelines
- Encouraging your membership:
- Motivation and Inhibitors,
- reward mechanisms,
- Measuring your community:
- what metrics should you measure,
- how do you determine success
- Marketing your community:
- things to do to let others know about or join your community,
- search-engines, word-of-mouth/grass-roots marketing