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Nicholas Bowskill :: Blog :: Very First Impressions

May 30, 2007

I think this software is good for allowing a group to convene over a topic or issue of shared interest. However, I don't think it really feels good for a replacement VLE. That's because each page or person is generating their own forum and discussion -we digress! Fine if we say that a group may like to work cooperatlvely on personal projects. Each person can report on personal progress and obtain feedback from others.

The problem then seems to be holding a focus in the centre (something that perhaps this software doesn't seem designed to do anyway). Without such a focal point it risks feeling too detached from everyone else. Online events may provide some social glue and a common experience but otherwise I would imagine using this as a glorified web page or myspace portfolio tool might be best. Perhaps a living portfolio kind of tool is a useful application for this kind of facility. In this day and age I would also want to see other facilities in here. Things such as video and picture blogging from mobile phones etc would be nice and are available on sites such as Ning.

I think other technologies such as start pages or google docs etc would be better for collaborative authoring so again I wouldn't regard this as elgg's strongest suit. Feeds from here can be pulled down onto a phone or elsewhere so that might be useful.

The major VLEs can all offer personal pages and feeds and blogs etc (several already do) and that leaves you wondering why the need for social networking software aside from learning and teaching across course and institutional boundaries. That would be an example of where it might be most useful for students and staff to network with all and sundry online and they can patch it into work in other online contexts - courses, projects etc. In that sense I think this kind of facility may be obviously very useful - as a bridge.

It would allow people to work across groups and to obtain input from a variety of other sources through dialogue or resources available elsewhere -networking. This positions it alongside alternatives such as myspace, facebook etc etc. These places are already being regarded as slightly old fashioned by many who look instead at networking via youtube and more recently SeeMeTV where user-generated content can be part of revenue-sharing. 

So, to be reductive, its an interactive web page! You can mix your own stuff with content from elsewhere and discuss it all in the same place. Nothing wrong with that.




eChina Project Team Lancaster University,

email: n.bowskill@lancaster.ac.uk

web: http://protopage.com/nickbowskill 


Overview for Keywords: elgg, evaluation, first impressions, pedagogy, social networking

Blogs with Keywords: elgg, evaluation, first impressions, pedagogy, social networking

Posted by Nicholas Bowskill


  1. I agree with you.

    I think there is quite a bit of potential for the ELGG software, using it to collate a portfolio of your reflections on work, or a portfolio of your work, as a PDP planning tool, a shared working space for projects using a Blog, and in some installs a Wiki.

    And by all means it is not the only tool available to do most of these activites with, just one of a plethora of tools available.

     One even has to ask in education, whether an institution based social networking tool is welcome?

    I don't see this type of environment replacing a VLE in the near future, i still think that there is a place for a VLE, i don't deny that many VLE's need to ensure that they are changing and keeping up to date and providing features which those in "Learning and Teaching" desire. But i still see a VLE as a central place where you can link to a variety of different tools to be used, somewhere you can set as a based for all the different modules you are studying/facilitating and access all you require from that one place.

    Having tools/systems which do similiar but perhaps different things is also useful, because every one of us has a different style in which we learn, and providing for that, is something we should be doing.

    Nicola van den BergNicola van den Berg on Thursday, 31 May 2007, 11:00 BST # |

  2. Hi Nick

    Good comments and observations. Elgg is decentring, and that is a good thing, however the decentred-ness of it is unsettling for many. The question is how to keep the open decentred characteristics while improving navigation for information dissemination and knowledge construction. I am trying to gather comments and observations on the usability of the site. There will be some developments shortly that might address some of these concerns.

    Please join the usability group that Panyotis has set up.

    George Robertsgeorge on Thursday, 31 May 2007, 11:03 BST # |

  3. I think one of the key differences is that with a VLE you tell the users what the community is and what the activities are; EMERGE has a community-building social network tool (this), but its up to its users to create the communities and activities. This requires active network construction by users: you have to want to find similar people and figure out things you want to achieve, and then use the tool to 'just do it'. 

    This puts a lot more of the onus on users to be self-directed and purposeful, which is a bit of a challenge if you're used to something more structured. Just being presented with Elgg is rather like being presented with a VLE which contains no modules. "What do I do?" The answer would seem to be: "make up some groups and ask people to join them"

    I'm not an Elgg expert by any means (though I've known - and encouraged - the guys who developed for a long time), and I'd be interested in hearing more impressions of how this is -or isn't-working

    Scott WilsonScott Wilson on Thursday, 31 May 2007, 17:05 BST # |

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