Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Facilitating a network

I am hoping to establish a network between those leading programmes in which medical students have the opportunity for contact early in the course with patients in their own homes or in the community. I think we will benefit from sharing motivations, materials and ideas on assessment. So I am wondering how I could support this. We could simply have an email list. Or a google group. Or a NING.

What would you use?

EDIT: This is to be a network with my peers- fellow medical educators- not with students.


  1. ABN (Anything But Ning).
    I'd suggest finding out what technologies the participants are most comfortable with and going with that. I tend to suspect it might be email :-(

  2. Definitely worth checking out what people are using now. Have u thought about a Facebook group?

  3. Hi Anne Marie

    I run a network for training consultants and I have to say I've found it difficult to get anyone to get together in the same online space!

    I've found I have to use a combination of Twitter, mailing lists, Facebook group and a blog to keep people in the loop on events. Real networking within the group only seems to take place at actual get-togethers, but the online stuff has been good for making those get-togethers happen and following up afterwards.


  4. Love the ABN:) Why does it not work when it should?
    I will ask people what they would feel happy about and link them to this post. And I kind of knoew that there peobably wasn't anything magoc out there but just thought I would check in case.

    Personally I wouldn't feel that happy with a Facebook group. I use Facebook for personal social communications. Is it possible to fileshare on Facebook in any case?

    Thanks both:)

  5. @Dave So you are a fan of Facebook groups too? Perhaps I am underestimating their value and it is time to conflate my personal and professional digital identities:)

    Thanks for the ideas. I suspect what you say about the value of face-to-face contact is very valid and will be necessary.

  6. I know what u mean, I sometimes find I have a split personality between Facebook and Twitter! You can share links and photos with FB, but perhaps not quite as straightforward to do what u want to do.

    Ning's definitely a contender (excellent developer community as well), but you do still have to get people there. I've talked to other people who are using it already, as with any tools of this kind, it's really down to putting in the time/work to get people to your site and encourage them to actually use it.

  7. @AM Ning doesn't work because it's a closed and inward-looking attempt to corral and control users which goes head to head with sites/technologies where users are present, such as email, Twitter, Facebook, whatever.

  8. I really must disagree over Ning!! There is absolutely no reason at all why you could not integrate and collaborate in your Ning network with Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else your students my be gathering. The real plus of Ning is that one CAN easily get a group of like-minded people together in a virtual room without other distractions and this can be used to your advantage without closing yourself off from all other social networking routes and avenues.

  9. "@AM Ning doesn't work because it's a closed and inward-looking attempt to corral and control users which goes head to head with sites/technologies where users are present, such as email, Twitter, Facebook, whatever."


    Personally i like Ning but statistics don't. Main stream users like facebook. ^_^

  10. Hello Julia

    Thanks for your comments. I'd just like to clarify that I'm not trying to form a network with students but with my own peers- fellow medical educators. I'm not sure that this makes a lot of difference but I suspect that many will not have a great deal of experience with online networks. I don't want things to be complicated and off-putting.

    Do you have any examples of successful NINGs?

    Anne Marie

  11. Hi Ann Marie

    Sorry to highjack this thread but I found your blog via the email you sent to Catherine which went out to the Blackboard users group mailing list. I work as an eLearning technologist within Cardiff University for MEDIC, helping run 3 eLearning MScs. The idea of establishing a network with medical students is certainly interesting and would be more than happy to meet you to discuss this further as it sounds like we have a lot of similar interests and probably work only a few doors down from each other!! This also highlights probably setting up a network for disseminate ideas and practice amongst Cardiff University staff!!

    I find Jane Harts c4lpt website very useful and there is a good comparison between 3 of the more popular social networking sites, though a little biased: http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/socialmedia/comparison.html

    Maybe that is a useful starting point?

    Karl Luke

  12. Interesting conversation. It has been my experience that you have to go where "they are" ... no one platform works. Although sometimes I wish it would!

    Some prefer email, others FB/Twitter. Some don't like any of it! This is one reason why I like Ning! You can feed in rss from a google discussion group /twitter discussion for example. Then link feeds into FB ...

    An attempt to connect the dots anyway.

    I'm now looking at how FriendFeed might also be used to pull multiple platforms together .. anyone have experience?

  13. Hello Karl

    Great to hear from you! In this case I am actually talking about networking with peers not students... not that it makes a great deal of difference.

    It would be great to meet up sometime and I'll be in contact:)

    I think Elgg is out as non-hosted. I'll probably wait to discuss with my fellow network members what they think might be a good idea.


  14. Hello Julie

    I'm still trying to establish who 'they' are- fellow medical educators running similar parts of the medical undergraduate course across the UK. They are likely to be people like me but most likely with less of an online presence already.

    I'll update on progress.

  15. Hi - you might want to have a word with INSRV about some of their new tools coming online. They have their own system, similar to ELGG or Facebook that might work for you.

    As for hosting ELGG - we might be able to do that for you - we do have our own MEDIC webserver, which might help out there.

    Drop me an email if you want to meet up and chat.

    Nick Webb

  16. Thanks Nick- look forward to chatting tomorrow:)

  17. Looks like you are going to be getting some good help and advice locally, Anne-Marie. To be honest, I dont think it matters who your members are as to what platform you use, but it seems to me on my travels around Ning that often professional groups (educators, communities of practice and so on) tend to do quite well on Ning even if they dont like Facebook....some folk think Fb is a bit young :-)
    Friendfeed is great but not that easy to use at first. I would say Ning is simpler, having tested out Fb, Myspace, FF, Ning, Twitter et al.

    Of course some groups still prefer good old-fashioned web 1.0 forums like Invision and Pro-boards, but there we are!

  18. There are some Ning groups which do seem to be quite active, others aren't. I think the group you are hoping to network with are not likely to be that connected and using blogs, twitter etc. @AJC may be right that you might have to use email.

    Our students have contact with patients in their own homes from their first semester and I'll see if I can put some of those involved in this in touch with you.

  19. I have my doubts about Web 2.0 technologies enabling you to shortcut the work of forming an academic network for educationalists interested in early clinical exposure of medical students.

    The key to success is a single minded person or group advocating the discussion.

    It would probably be better to share protocols, validated instruments and software which would be the honey pot for attracting like-minded individuals.

    That is what works with the IT developer networks. They just move from one Web 2.0 idea to another and they all work, not because of the underlying neat technology or interoperability of the communication platform, but by the clear focus of the communication that they enjoy.

    Content is king!

  20. Hello Dean

    Thanks a lot for your comment. I can assure you that I didn't think that the technology would help take any shortcuts. I was just curious about how peers might have managed something similar.

    The UK Communication Skills Council, which is very successful, uses a pass-word protected blog as its hub. Only 2 members of staff from each medical school can have access. They feel that this tight control on access is part of the reason for their success, but I expect strong leadership also plays a part.

    How does the IT developer network share the content you mention? Do you use a Jiscmail account?

    Anne Marie

  21. hmm.
    one of our first assignments for "Doctor Patient and Society" course in 1st year of med school was meeting one on one with a patient in their home. All the patients had some form of chronic disease, and our job was to find out all the ways it impacted their life. Was their function compromised? Have their family and friends supported to them or reacted in a negative way when they heard the diagnosis? etc.

    To connect with the course director, you might try going thu dpas410@interchange.ubc.ca.

    (This is a Canadian Medical School)

  22. just catching up on this. I have had some good and some just plain dull experiences of Ning: I think active facilitation helps. Above all I have found that NOTHING works if there isn't the will to communicate in the first place. If this group wants to collaborate and they have a specific purpose or focus all of the suggested sites will work.

    I posted a model for building trust in virtual teams on my blog and some discussion about the Ning I was part of http://thevirtualleader.blogspot.com/


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