Monday, April 02, 2007

Wrapping Up on Five Weeks

The Five Weeks to a Social Library course wrapped up on March 17, 2007. In being the first free, grassroots, completely online course devoted to teaching librarians about social software and how to use it in their libraries, Five Weeks to a Social Library provided a free, comprehensive, and social online learning opportunity for librarians interested in learning more about Web 2.0 technologies.

The course’s strength was the very fact that it had appropriately used social software to run much of its content. Not only did it use a wiki (hosted by Drupal) as the platform for its main page, it also capitalized on blogs for allowing discussion virtually anytime anyone felt like posting a message; this allowed for a two-way communication among participants and instructors. Moreover, presentations creatively combined streaming audio, text chat, and presentation slides which truly made online learning an interactive experience; even better, much of the materials are archived for access, thus allowing anyone with an interest to take the course long after its completion, anytime and anywhere.

However, if there are drawbacks to the course, it would be some of the content. For a more experience user of social software, some of the course content might be considered somewhat basic. Because blogs, wikis, Flickr, and social bookmarking are becoming ever more commonly used, focusing too much on them runs the risk of narrowing social software to just these tools. What the course could have done was emphasize more on “theory” and “concepts” such as collective intelligence, open platform, open collaboration, than on the actual tools themselves.

With the advent of the so-called “Web 3.0” or semantic web, blogs and wikis will come and go and will likely be replaced with newer and even more advanced tools in the near future. While the scope of Five Weeks to a Social Library is certainly limited due to its relatively short time frame and also because it is meant to be an introduction of social software for the novice, I felt that the course could have provided a “glimpse” at things to come by offering a presentation or two from a more advanced “techie”, be it a librarian or not, that would have summarized that we are only on the cusp of something great, and that social software phenomenon will look vastly different even a year from now, let alone many years from now.

Nonetheless, the course was an ambitious first step for providing the necessary knowledge that librarians need to advance the profession and provide better services for patrons. While it could have done more to maximize its potential, the course nonetheless passes with flying colours in terms of meeting its goals and expectations from Day 1 when it had announced such an exciting venture of an entirely free online course for anyone interested in social software.

1 comment:

Dorothea said...

With respect to your enthusiasm, I am far from convinced that the Semantic Web is around the corner, much less that it will supplant tools like blogs and wikis. What RDF-based tool is going to work better than a wiki for collaborative authoring?

I'll wager a conference dinner on it, if you're interested. Define "vastly different" a little more carefully, and let's touch base a year from now.

Especially for our chosen audience and our desired outcomes, it made little sense to focus on "theory." That's for library-school students. Working librarians need tools they can deploy immediately, that save them time and enable them to connect with their populations.

We gave them that. Can the Semantic Web?