I recently published a post on the Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers which commented on a 6-page feature article published in the Times Higher Education (THE) which listed the 20 top-performing institutional Web sites according to a small group of sixth formers who are looking to select a University.
I’ve had a letter published in this week’s THE about this article. In passing I mentioned the flaws in publishing a league table based on such a limited survey. However didn’t dwell on such considerations (which could sound like sour grapes). Rather I pointed out that University Web managers are very aware of the importance of use of Social Web services – a subject which has been addressed in recent Institutional Web Management Workshop events and was highlighted in a plenary talk on “Let the Students Do The Talking” given back in 2007 in which Alison Wildish described how Edge Hill University was encouraging students to engage in discussion using the Social Web. It is not, as the article seemed to imply, a question of the top twenty ranked institutions using approaches which others are blissfully unaware of.
So rather than informing the readers of the importance of the Social Web (although the article may be beneficial in helping to remove internal political barriers to such innovation) a more interesting area to explore might have been the question of the institutional policies in providing Social Web services and, of particular importance with October’s Comprehensive Spending Review rapidly approaching, the metrics which can help to provide evidence of the return on investment in the provision of such services.
The danger is, I feel, that there will be unnecessary duplication in the development of such policies. I am aware of the University of Essex’s social media policy. But how many other institutional Web policies can be found easily?
And how do you determine if your Social Web offering is working effectively? What metrics can be used? Again this is an area in which the sector should be being pro-active in sharing and provide open access to ideas, discussions and policies. This is a topic I’d like to revisit – but for now I’d welcome comments from those working in institutional Web teams who do have resources to share.