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Using Social Media to Break Down Silos and Connect

Leading universities are turning to internal social networks to break down interdepartmental silos, leading to more communication, more interdisciplinary learning and better results. Photo by Gabriel White.

We are embarking on a technology initiative that starts with the fundamentals of enabling disparate environments to communicate and connect with each other.  This is significant because over the years, we’ve built siloed, disparate, and disconnected applications that operate independently, and are thus unable to share data with others.  We are looking at this initiative as a foundation, upon which we will enable greater inter-connectivity across our platforms.

Why are we doing this?

With the proliferation of cloud computing, the widespread demand to get data immediately, and the desire by senior leadership to implement faster (and better and cheaper), we decided to begin with the end in mind: the end of allowing students, faculty, and administrators to have direct access to systems and data—as long as they are authorized to do so of course!  So, in starting with the foundational elements of enabling inter-operability between environments, we have started to build this technology infrastructure.

After all that, the real end game here is to enable more social media within our environment, since that is what connectivity is all about.  We are not looking to reproduce environments like Twitter, Google +, and Facebook, but we see them also as enabling technologies for students and faculty to better engage in learning.  From the administrative side, if you think about the number of departments that have a strong need to connect with both faculty and students, social media is a natural platform for them.  For example, the Provost Department works with all academic departments to manage policy, the Admissions Office connects with prospective students at the start of their relationship with the university, and the Alumni Association connects with alumni to keep an ongoing relationship with them.  These are just a few examples of the many groups that are involved with managing relationships.  So, while our institutional mission is to further enable teaching and learning with these new technologies, administrators help accomplish the mission by leveraging social media to engage with their respective contacts in a more direct and real-time manner.

For us, social media simply enables individuals to get what they want, when they need it, and connect with who they want, when they feel the need to.

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