Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is email dead?

A colleague recently suggested that email within our organisation is not looking at all healthy and may be on its last legs. At 40 years of age email is not that old in human terms but for many staff email is well past its use-by date and often feels like this video clip with most staff receiving serveral hundred emails each month...

A full inbox is a dis-heartening sight - particularly if you spend hours emptying it one week only to discover it full the next. For some (many?) the email ritual has become one of 'quick-scan' - 'select-all' - 'delete'.

Unfortunately this process can result in missed opportunities, lost student work and low response rates.

For an organisation with over 2,000 staff across 19 campuses communication is vital but it can't always be face-to-face. And we realised some years ago that it can't be all paper-based - the large bin used to fill very quickly as staff walked away from their pigeon-holes.

So... where does that leave us? We have the telephone which is now mobile and therefore more convenient - and more intrusive. And mobiles are rapidly becoming PDAs that beep every few minutes as emails arrive - in addition to calls and SMS.

We are flooded with information but starved of what we need to know and what we would like to know.

Are there solutions? I think so... Provided we can first agree on what is best done through a particular mode of communication and how best to use the chosen mode - and then share those guidelines across the organisation.

We have many choices...

Face-to-face: Meetings don't always have to always be state-wide, or formal, or filled with information...

Email: Can be auto-directed to folders, compiled into digests or newsletters, flagged and prioritised, auto-forwarded to preferred addresses... Email should not be 'just-in-case you needed to know' information or bulk mailed when it doesn't concern the majority of users.

Portals/Websites: Can be organised to locate information just-in-time, be RSS enabled and be up-to-date.

Online spaces: Can be used for collaborative editing of documents (eg Google Documents) or more complex collaboration (Wikis or Google Groups)

Aggregators: Can be used to receive and organise and share what each person wants to know from websites, portals, newsfeeds, multimedia channels, blogs and micro-blogs, wikis... (eg Google Reader)

Podcasts/vodcasts: Can be used to broadcast or narrowcast audio and video.

Blogs/micro-blogs: Can be used to share stories, collaborate and create personal and professional networks - locally and globally.

Mobile Phones: Can be used to send reminders and information to individuals and groups - as well as get feedback.

Online meeting spaces: Can be used for communication, sharing, collaboration, simulation depending on the space chosen (eg Elluminate, FlashMeeting, Second Life...) Sessions can be recorded for playback or broadcast or narrowcast.

Paper: Can be newsletters, magazines, pamphlets, stickers, posters, cards, books...

Existing services: There are many online services, directories, channels... that are provided locally, nationally and globally for educational institutions, educators and students. (eg edna)

What else do we need to consider before deciding on guidelines for communication, collaboration, dialogue and networking across a large multi-campus organisation?

Which combination of these is likely to provide the most efficient and effective communication solution?

Is it possible to 'save' email or is it too late? :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Still Smiling :-)

I've been asked how I feel about the new changes associated with the Polytechnic.

I realise I'm now feeling very positive. I think it's something that has crept up on me.

"Why?" I'm asked.

Good question - possibly because:
  • I recognise and appreciate the huge effort many are making to get things working in difficult circumstances.

  • I do what I can and work around what I can’t.

  • I seize opportunities in the confusion of change.

  • I manage my own time and resources as much as I can.

  • I document and dialogue my progress.

  • I see 2009 as a bridge to somewhere else.

  • I hear and tell new stories about what is and what will be.

  • I see students and staff smiling.

Does that mean everything is rosy? Not at all.

But I've relaxed into the uncertainty... let go of what used to be (well mostly)... and built new relationships.

And people are starting to smile :-)


Monday, March 9, 2009

Learning Technology Surprises

There were a few surprises in last week's survey of just over 2,000 Polytechnic staff.

10% responded to the survey and most did so in the first day.

Full Size

For me some of the surprises were:

  • 61% of staff access ICT for their work from home
  • 77% have used Google Earth
  • 45% use Facebook
  • 24% have used computer games with students
  • 60% use mentoring/coaching with students
  • 61% use self/peer assessment with students

The requests and comments at the end of the survey highlighted several issues for staff including the need for efficient and effective communication and dialogue across multiple campuses. This will be covered in the next post.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Connected Learning Across a Large Organisation

2,000 staff, 18 campuses, 400 emails in one month, meetings, meetings, meetings...

The Tasmanian Polytechnic values 'Connected Learning' but how does this happen for staff across a new large multi-campus learning organisation? Fortnightly meetings have become monthly meetings, inboxes and message banks are full and time runs away...

Perhaps we need to expand our communication toolbox beyond meeting in person, mobile phones and email. There are a number of well developed services that are specifically designed to supplement traditional ways of connecting across distance and time.

The following PowerPoint looks at some of these focusing on the need to establish sustainable communities of practice that span multiple campuses and connect globally.

View full size.

Given that many staff are already beginning to feel "overwhelmed" or "out of the loop" or "without voice" the need is great...