The point of the recent Open Forum
was always to stimulate ongoing discussion, so that thread is now closed, but this one hopes to draw attention to important issues arising from it. Here is what Fran Barone had to say when summing up the Open Forum.
I would like to see similar developmental discussions continue and perhaps even diversify with more participants and varied media.
Dumbing-down and smartening-up
I admit that sometimes the erudite commentary by senior academics here can be intimidating to those just starting out or with a passing interest in a subject. But I think it's against our ethos here to fragment contributions by encouraging newcomers to remain afraid to participate. That was an old way of doing things that the OAC's creation intended to reverse. Plus, it's very difficult to learn new things if people only wish to discuss what they're already an expert in.
Similarly, since we have been on the topic of group management throughout this thread, it’s important not to encourage groups to separate themselves from the rest of the site. All group content is public and everyone can respond to it. All parts of the site will always remain open to everyone. Perhaps instead we can encourage those who wish to share more relaxed thoughts to start a blog here. Blogging is a great way to voice your opinions with less formality.
1. Adjust/re-organize the menu bar and its layout to improve site navigation
2. Possibly add a floating sidebar for enhanced navigation
3. Pare down the Latest Activity feed
4. Consider accessibility options - both site-wide and on the part of individual members (e.g. uploading videos with subtitles)
5. Translation now added!
5. Prune and review the Groups (essential!)
6. Review the Wiki or a wiki-like function for collaboration (this would include the ability for members to upload syllabi and lecture notes)
7. Awareness and highlighting of site-wide activity, from groups to blogs to eSeminars and book reviews, keeping members and new visitors informed
8. Spam removal: Membership is now moderated for a spam-free OAC!
8. Putting the C in OAC
– What kind of collaboration do we want to encourage here?
9. How to increase participation in general?
10. Making the best of our multimedia capabilities. E.g. I like the video that Rachel made. We should encourage members to contribute more helpful items like that to put on the About page. It can aid participation by illustrating how this site works and what it has to offer.
11. Publicizing and recognizing the accomplishments of others – how to do this? E.g. I’m presently looking into any services Ning provides to potentially add an interactive box on the homepage for "voting up" content, Digg-style. More on this soon.
12. Encouraging members to develop new initiatives within the OAC or connect the OAC to their external activities. E.g. blog cross-posting, interdepartmental collaboration, student participation/projects
Where to go from here?
Many of the items above are suggestions with no clear plan for action, so that’s where to go next. I believe that the groups issue is extremely important, as is the question of cooperation and collaboration. Both areas come down to the overarching issue of site activity, how to harness it and how to engage members in more productive ways.