By Lee Cherry
There has been an interesting chain of events happening behind the use of MySpace as an educational teaching tool by one of the professors here at NC State University - MySpace coursework under microscope. It appears, yet again, a new form of technology has far outpaced the policy and administration of technology in a large organization.
I am a big proponent of using "mashups" to create an environment for both blended learning and enhancing an application or web experience - facebook, linkedin, youtube, wordpress, movabletype, meebo, del.icio.us, etc. Integrating functionality of another succesful venture into product can be an added benefit in many instances. MySpace has been on a short list of “what ifs”… I think MySpace has managed to capture a lot of attention and loyalty among its users - of all age groups. Therefore, it was a matter of time before someone would adapt it in other innovative ways for their needs.
Now, I'm not saying MySpace is a silver bullet for any one particular thing, but it is definitely something that has caught a lot of people's attention and eyeballs - more eyeballs, more audience, more channels for revenue, more chances for change and learning; superficial maybe, time will only tell. I believe we are just scratching the surface for building a business use for presenting something on MySpace. On the other hand, I believe MySpace has a long way to go to correctly implement a more powerful means of adjusting some of the interface and usability issues.
To the University's credit, it has spent a lot of time and money on developing a series of tools that offer a method and a means to carry out distance education on a large scale - which is both the trend of the consumer education arena and the desire of the University (see more eyeballs statement from before). However, these tools still have a lot of room to grow before they really can address professor and student issues on usability and effectiveness.
I have trained with these distance learning tools and personally used them for classes but have found they can detract from the experience and are difficult to integrate into people's learning routine. I have also tried talking to the other professors here about utilizing the resources but only to receive bit of pushback. Not only must one have a professor willing to understand how to fit the technology into their traditional (and often entrenched) pedagogy; you must also have to have a technology that can adapt to their needs. However, that's a whole other debate.
You can spend lots of money, to build a toolset that you expect your users to fully utilize and enjoy; only to discover they are using a more personal and effective means to fulfill their needs. It's up to your organization if you decide to force the situation and build walls around your application for the sake of efficiency and coherence or work with your users to integrate and adapt the situation to create the most effective and desirable product to surpass their needs.