UKOLN is now one of JISC’s Innovations Centres. But how does UKOLN participate in innovation? An approach we have taken during my time at UKOLN has been to make use of our annual Institutional Web Management Workshops (the IWMW series of events which have been running since 1997) to deploy a variety of innovative approaches. Doing this at a popular annual event (which is often fully-subscribed, attracting from 150-200 participants from throughout the HE sector) can help to maximise awareness of and, potentially, the impact of such innovation.

A number of examples of innovations were made available for the IWMW 2005 event, held at the University of Manchester:

The use of RSS for news alerts has become embedded at subsequent IWMW events, as has pro-active use of the venue’s WiFi network. At IWMW 2006 we introduced use of wikis to support note-taking and sharing at the discussion group sessions – again an approach which has become standard at IWMW events. IWMW 2006 was also the year in which tagging (using the IWMW2006) tag became popular, allowing bookmarks and photographs to be easily pulled together. And our initial experiments with the use of social networking services to support an event began that year, with the establishment of a Frappr community.

As might be expected innovation does not always necessarily lead to the deployment of a sustainable service. At IWMW 2006 we also tested use of a chatbot and provided access to a remote audience for a number of the plenary talks using the Access Grid. And as well as the ACcess Grid we also had a live Web stream of the plenary talks, with Michael Webb’s talk on Developing a Web 2.0 Strategy subsequently being made available on Google Video. We also experimented with another approach to use of a chat facility at the event – this year using the Gabbly service, instead of an IRC service we had used at IWMW 2005.

At last year’s event, IWMW 2007, we continued to provide an RSS feed (not only of news, but also syndication of the key content areas of the Web site – details of the sessions and the speakers) and a wiki service. And in addition we launched IWMW’s first innovation competition– which provided the participants with an opportunity to demonstrate to their peers examples of their approaches to innovation. Again the plenary talks were streamed on the Web and this time all of the talks were subsequently made available on Google Video.

We have evaluated the innovations – and we’re pleased to see that other services, such as JISC with its use of Crowdvine at this year’s JISC 2008 conference on Enabling Innovation, are now beginning to implement similar ideas.

But what do you feel we should do next? Should we seek to consolidate on these experiments? Or, alternatively, are there other areas in which the community would encourage UKOLN to continue innovation – so that if we encounter problems, institutions will benefit from knowing what not to do :-)