I’ve been thinking a lot about the World Wide Web and social media and their impact and utility in graduate schools. Conceptually I have understood the functionality associated with Web 1.0 and 2.0 and have sought to utilize these phases for enhanced digital interaction and communication. What follows are some of my initial musings.
As a 21st century institution, the VT graduate school has undergone a transition from the traditional role as an administrative office to ‘a place and space for graduate education.’ Throughout the last century, graduate schools (not unlike other institutions) tended to operate as “top down” offices providing information (policy, procedures) through “static” means (catalogs, manuals) to “users” (constituencies, especially students) as the receivers of information. Words similar to these have been used to describe the early days of the World Wide Web (1.0) – users could only view (receive) information and not contribute to the “webpages”, users (constituencies) as consumers of content not active participants, and the information wasn’t dynamic. Although available since 1993, the use of web technology by graduate schools began in earnest mostly in the 21st century and reflected the Web 1.0 approach of delivery to consumers. We took what we did and delivered it electronically.
The onset of Web 2.0 in 2002 and the availability of interactive tools and social media ultimately challenged graduate schools (as well as universities and national associations) to examine our operations and to embrace the change which was well underway. Web 2.0 allows for uses beyond the static delivery of content. It allows users to generate, interact and collaborate in virtual community. Web 2.0 tools include wikis, blogs, and numerous social networking sites. The VT Graduate School was one of the first in the nation to move to Web 2.0 conceptually and to build interactive tools (e.g., on-line catalog, featured graduate student, upcoming examinations) and to embrace social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook), all of which are inter-connected on the Graduate School website. These examples and the development of the virtual GLC (vGLC) are still works in progress and ones that draw upon the greater interactivity of Web 2.0.
Today graduate schools must actively encourage sharing of information, the creation on content, and collaboration among the constituencies. Although there is some “content to be delivered” the message and tools of Web 2.0 challenges graduate schools to think differently about what we do and how we do it and I’m not just referring to the administrative functions but the whole of the graduate education. Using web technologies, graduate schools (2.0+) must rethink graduate education, embrace change and redefine “space and place” to include the brick and mortar of the physical space as well as the digital space and build graduate community.