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Project Assemby

You are cordially invited to attend an open workshop on User Generated Contributions in Higher Education. The workshop is focused around the themes of Westminster’s recent JISC funded project TWOLER – studying student generated Web 2.0 content with Lightweight Enterprise RSS.


Invitations to this event will also be extended beyond the academic community to selected thought leaders in the emerging world of Socially Generated Content and Web 2.0 in its broadest of definitions.

TWOLER investigated the proposition that if we brought down the institutional walls to our information systems then student generated contributions would develop. We anticipated that the ‘directed serendipity’ of student generated content would significantly add to the information environment of the university. Modelled on Wikipedia we investigated, and proved, that a loosely organised volunteer workforce provided with the right facilities would be effective.


Our work, and TWOLER, only begins to reveal the opportunity and potential for such activity. Fittingly our main project deliverable, Student 2.0 Recipes for HE, is very much work in progress as institutions we all begin to understand and adjust to the information enfranchised institution. This workshop is therefore designed to be similarly open, contributive and creative. Places are limited, there is no cost to attend but the price we ask is your contribution. Collectively we will learn a lot and will lecture only a little.


The day will be structured around four themes and a repeated structure: we will open with the TWOLER observations on the topic, we will then ask for short presentations from the floor (soapboxes), we then break into work groups where we form our ideas and present back.

The topics are:

1.  How easy is that! – an introduction to the Web 2.0 technologies that make user generated content an institutional reality

2.  What sort of things will students want to do? – investigating the fruitful areas of work, the win-win topics, the patterns of activity

3.  The Engagement Agenda – why are individuals motivated to contribute and what structure help them to be effective, what support is needed

4.  Resistance is Futile – exploring the institutional response, managing concerns, exploiting potential

The intention for the day is that the session material, the group work and group summaries will be captured digitally and developed interactively and on-line. To help this process we are fortunate to have access to the Learning Futures Room also funded by JISC.

With this invitation we will also form the agenda on-line and interactively. This is your chance to read some of the background to our work and to prepare for the interactive and group sessions, we are actively recruiting individuals who will volunteers to make a soapbox presentation [although we will also be happy to take volunteers from the floor on the day].

Please join us for this remarkable day. It will be a terrific opportunity to learn more about the institutional impact and effectiveness of student generated contributions as well as meeting and hearing directly from some of our student winners. Come along open minded, but not empty headed, and take away a bag of ideas for your own institution. We hope to be joined by a selected group of key thought leaders in Web 2.0 who will add their knowledge and perspectives to this important, emergent institutional challenge.


Places are limited to 40 and allocated on a first come, first served basis. We assemble at 9.30 for 10.00 to log-in and have coffee, lunch is provided and the day finishes at 4.00. Free on-line connections and an event blog will be made available and will form the nucleus of the assembly proceedings.


1.     How easy is that!

The project name, TWO-LER, provides a clue to RSS as the underlying technology which supports the student activity. We chose RSS as the technology to deliver institutional information to the cloud and to the Web 2.0 environment native to the student population. Providing these data sources was an effective solution to modernising a fairly typical legacy IT environment.


Our work was initially led by some intriguing Mash-Up examples on the Web and the government sponsored ‘show us a better way’. This first session will explore the potential and practicalities of institutions preparing for, and embracing, a Web 2.0 world. Not a deep technical session but best appreciated by those with a familiarity with mash-ups. Our embrace of Web 2.0 also meant we ‘ate our own dog food’ and provided the documentation for the institutional data feeds in an RSS compatible form, which itself led to the use of RSS based automated tagging services.


TWOLER launched at the same time as our institutional adoption of Google Apps for student email and collaboration. The impact of this technology – in usability, availability and scalability was a big factor in the success of TWOLER.

RSS: “It’s {RSS} been billed as brilliant but when you get it, it becomes ubiquitous” as we progressed through the project we recognised the versatility of the standard and changed the name variously to Really Safe SQL, Really Spreadsheet Stuff, Really Safe Sharing, Release Student Stuff …

2.     What sort of things will students want to do?

TWOLER was an experiment to see the things and ways students would develop their own information environment. Whilst the project team provided support, encouragement and some technical support we ensured the students remained in the driving seat.

Our challenge was to resist the temptation to lecture and to lead. TWOLER was to give free rein to the initiative and inventiveness of user generated content driven by their needs and delivered in their world. This session, which will include some presentations from the students themselves, will show where this serendipity led. It will also be an opportunity for participants to imagine the potential of Web 2.0 in their own institutions.

3.     The Engagement Agenda

The demographics and profile of contributors to Wikipedia is intriguing. Wikipedia is a terrific enterprise enlisting, form volunteers, over 130,000,000 edits per year. Popular as Wikipedia is the number of active editors is a small fraction of the population.

As we began TWOLER we were disappointed by the response – would we fail to reach a critical mass of contributors, does a Wikipedia require a truly massive catchment population to be effective, would the (relatively) limited number of students in the institution (20000!) be too few.

Our fears were unfounded and through a variety of methods and channels we built up a critical mass and critical involvement. In anticipating or designing user generated content we explored a number of approaches and, in the event, we had a terrific burst of user generated productivity. Most of the work was done in just the first semester of 2009/10.

This session will explore how to establish the conditions for active, and productive, engagement. We will identify ideas for other institutional settings.

"I created something that will potentially be used by 22,000 students every year"

4.     Resistance is Futile

Tim Berners-Lee’s model of the success of the web couples technical progress with societal change, nowhere is this more evident than in the Universities. Our opening slogan was to close the gap – between the institutional systems and the students world. The same thinking needs to be applied to our attitudes to information.


– exploring the institutional response, managing concerns, exploiting potential




Date: Friday 26th March 2010 Cancelled
Location:  University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW
Learning Futures Room (link to map)


09:30 - 10:00    Arrival (Coffee/Tea, setup)
10:00 - 10:10    Welcome & Introductions 
10:10 - 11:40    Session: How easy is that! - Web 2.0 possibilities
11:40 - 12:45    Session: What sort of things will students want to do? - Student potential
12:45 - 13:30    Lunch
13:30 - 15:00    Session: The engagement agenda - Recruitment & contribution
15:00 - 16:00    Session: Resistance is futile - Organisational response