Monday, May 26, 2008

Looking for Applications of Social Capital

I could talk about how I hope to launch the redesign at work and then start making my rounds on the conference circuit. But that seems a bit obvious, and also doesn't do much with the technology side of the equation of the course material.

So instead I've been thinking about what I can do at work to help incorporate these ideas into our own website, either as part of the redesign or as an area of further growth after the redesign is over. I'm not really sure if there's much point in trying to build a custom application. There's no sense in trying to out-Facebook Facebook. But maybe just getting some of our offices such as Career Placement, Cooperative Education, and the Small Business Development Center active on a site like LinkedIn and offering training to their “customers” (that seems to be a dirty word in higher ed, but I think to deny that side of our relationship with the study body leads us to mentally separate the connection between us meeting their needs and us getting a pay check).

I've worked this job long enough to know where the technophiles are, and in this situation they're not where I need them to be. This line of reason my get derailed before it even has a chance to leave the station. I guess I could try to subvert the system and take things straight to the students. But how? I mean, if there's any sort of training I want to offer to employees I've got professional development day at least once a semester. There's nothing like that for the students. There's no way to work this into the syllabus of a pre-existing class and without a PhD I won't be able to create a new class of my own. What we really need is to incorporate some basic digital humanities ideas into courses like English 101 and 102. That's something Dr. Clougherty tried to pitch back at TTU but it wasn't very well received. He was extremely lucky to get the web design program passed all the bureaucracy, but ultimately I think it was the constant fight to get even that much innovation introduced on campus that lead to his seeking greener pastures. Vol State might not be quite so resistant to change as TTU simply by virtue of being a 2 year school, but exactly how much is it worth to purposefully swim against the current in an educational institution? Ultimately, I love my job and I'm quite happy here. But couldn't picking the wrong battles do a lot of damage to my quality of life and job satisfaction without adding any real value to the students?

So I think the first step is to look up data on the rate at which our graduates find jobs. I may be dreaming up solutions for problems that don't even exist. I'll try to get my hands on some figures for both graduate employment and retention rates. Maybe I can find a couple of academic departments who would be willing to pilot a program using social media to keep their students connected on and off campus and on into their careers. I think the secret to success in organizations traditionally resistant to change is to not just tell them a better way to do thing, but to actually show them a better way. The down side is you end up often asking for forgiveness after the fact, rather than for permission before hand. Then again, is that really such a bad thing?

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