I recently joined the University Webmasters Social Network (http://cuwebd.ning.com/) on NING. The flexibility that Ning, and similar (what I call) “SockNet” sites has big and positive implications for smaller Universities in particular. One-stop centralized do-it-yourself solutions like these can be leveraged in a variety of ways to bring University communities closer together: faculty and students communicating and interacting beyond the classroom; Alumni and Alumni Development staff interacting beyond SnailMail and e-mail; students studying abroad connecting with their mainland peers, etc. The possibilites are endless and quite exciting.
However, increasingly what I find in my real-life .edu experience is a reluctance (fear?) of exploring these new venues of community-building and communication. Where does that fear of adoption come from? Why the reluctance to explore new ways of creating a sense of a larger virtual community that very explicitly connects to the real-life community?
Dare I hypothesize that this reluctance or fear trickles down from the top? Is it that a limping economy makes those at the top err on the side of ‘caution’? Unfortunately, what ultimately happens when ‘fear’ comes into the picture: fear prevents progress in some ways, and untapped marketing and Admissions tools get pushed aside without the benefit of discussion.