May 8

Students’ Union website features

I meant to do a Students’ Union website review for years. There is so much information on the website that it would take ages to write this post, so I’m just going to write about some of the features you can interact with. The only features I won’t talk about in depth are the administrative side of societies (as I am not an elected member, so I don’t have permissions) and events/calendar (as they seem to be mostly used by societies).

A fellow student mentioned frustrations at the site a couple of years ago. I felt the same at the time, though after spending a few hours navigating the website this week I actually think it’s really well put together. And it gets better year after year. I think there are some features that are incomplete, but I think it’s more to do with lack of usage by members rather than poor design.

I’d like to see more social areas. But I also understand there may not be a need for it. After all, the SU have a presence on most of the large social media platforms and the university’s digital tool kit is full of items that could be used for this purpose. I’d like to see areas where previous minutes of union council meetings are published, alongside a forum. I’d especially like to see a blog hub with competitions/incentives. I know I’m probably one of very few who would like to see this.

The website is powered by MSL, who work with loads of other SUs too. You can see the similarities if you look at the site maps of various SUs (eg. Brighton, Sussex, Chichester, Essex, Kent…). I recommend using the site maps as I find them easier to navigate then the numerous tabs and drop-downs.

Profile

When you edit your profile and you see the dozen options available you’ll probably think this website will be great for networking. Half of these features appear to be inactive, or unutilised.

  • Show full profile to friends working
  • Show full profile to public not working
  • List age in years working
  • Display birthday (will show year if age listed) working
  • Show course of study / Allow friends to find by course working / unsure if this is working, I need someone to tell me, there could potentially be a problem with this as I’m the only person doing my course
  • Show list of friends not working, but maybe I just don’t have friends(?)
  • List latest blog posts I don’t have blog permissions
  • List latest forum posts the forum has been deactivated, when it was active my posts weren’t shown
  • Show upcoming (public) calendar entries  unsure, though I haven’t added/joined entries
  • Show list of memberships / Allow friend to find by memberships working / unsure if this is working, I need someone to tell me
  • Show list of interests not working, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere I can add interests
  • Show photo galleries working
  • Show events I plan to attend not working, though there doesn’t seem to be an option to join events
  • Show events I attended not working, though there doesn’t seem to be an option to join events

Commenting on news stories and blogs

This is something I do often on the site, I’m not sure if anyone gets a notification when I do as the only person who ever responded was Shile. I also haven’t seen many people comment on news stories or blogs. The one person I remember is Parker in March. The news articles and blogs are archived quickly, so there may be people in the past who’ve commented more often – I have no way to see.

The news stories are available at brightonsu.com/news/ and all blogs are listed at brightonsu.com/blogs/blog/

Change It

This is another thing I do often on the site, and it’s frequently the reason I visit the site. Change It are the ideas students submit that get discussed in union council. You can vote up or down to give ideas priority in the union council meetings. If you look at the current ideas you can see that they are between four-five months old. I know some of the previous union councils have been below quorum so that might explain the age of the ideas. You can submit an idea through a handy Google form at brightonsu.com/changethings/changeitform/

Friends

I’ve sent 29 friends requests over the past year or so. They are still showing as pending. I am not sure people get notifications if they receive a request. Also, if anyone has ever added me I do not remember receiving a notification and my friends page has never changed. There are four friend finding options – the only one that works for me in typing in the name. I am able to find people on my course, but I’m the only one so I’m unsure if this feature works. If I try to search by any other course, nobody ever shows up.

Message Centre

The Message Centre is where you can email members in bulk, however you cannot seem to filter by individual societies (but I believe you can if you go in via the admin page). There is a list of individual recipients, I am unsure whether they are just society members, users with active accounts on the website or all students? The numbers are unclear so I wouldn’t be able to hazard a guest. You can also change your contact settings so all notifications from societies go to certain email addresses.

Societies

I love this part of the website. The society tab is full of information. You can search and join by looking at the A-Z. Once you join you go to your basket and complete the transaction (it’s free, but set up like an online store). You can see your memberships at brightonsu.com/memberships/ and your transaction history at brightonsu.com/shop/transaction/.

App

I know there has been talk about an app for years. When I worked with the Springboard team I spoke with a student who was researching the need for a SU app a couple of years ago. I think this could be great, I liked community.brighton.ac.uk (you can see old versions on wayback machine https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://community.brighton.ac.uk/) and I miss having a place like this for communicating with the wider university. I think that we have so many different ways to communicate that it’s hard to pick one to focus on, and the changing nature of technology means we are often experimenting with newer ways. If there was to be a SU app I’d love it if it could embed all the features I’ve discussed above and use of the events calendar.

Webhelp

This is a newer part of the website and I only noticed it a month ago (I think) but it may be a revitalised old area. Webhelp is brilliant. It is a feature our website has been needing for years!

Category: Tech | LEAVE A COMMENT
November 24

Yammer

Yammer is my favourite social network. Which, I know is weird because most people don’t use it. Currently, the University of Brighton student Yammer has been accessed by 283 people. I would say that 95% accessed it once and never came back (I know because I log in daily to see if any new activity has taken place).

Here’s why I like it:

Access

yammer.com/uni.brighton.ac.uk

You log in using your usual student credentials. Easy peasy. You can then use an app to follow conversations (Itunes / Windows / Android).

Security
I really like that only people with an email address ending in @uni.brighton.ac.uk can view the student Yammer. (FYI there is a staff Yammer over at yammer.com/brighton.ac.uk). So it is a social network just for University of Brighton students.

Feed
It’s easy to embed on other blogs. But, because it’s only viewable to logged-in students, everyone else sees a blank space or a login screen.


Navigation
The layout is simple and similar to another well-known social network. So, things are where you expect them to be. The home icon takes you to the All company feed. The left-hand bar has an icon that takes you to your inbox and another that shows notifications. Under that you have a list of the groups you’ve joined. In the main body of the page you can post updates (inc. images and videos), tag people, create a topic (by using the hashtag) and post a poll.

Additional
Other features you can use are:

September 17

Delve

Delve looks useful. I don’t know what it is exactly but it’s only viewable to University of Brighton students. I thought it was just a profile page but when I looked for some articles about it I saw that you can see what people you are following are up to. My Delve page is pretty empty – probably due to my friends/classmates not using Sharepoint or OneNote often. The only people who I ever see activity for are members of the Elearning team.

I don’t like the inability to edit the layout of the page – I can change the background image but that’s all. As it currently stands, I would prefer if it was a basic layout like Mysite (more detail below).

I just use it as a profile page, at the moment (because no other content is being recommended to me). If you were to use it like a profile page, you could put all the usual information like contact details, interests, skills and previous projects you worked on.

In the edit page mode you have the option to change your newsfeed settings. This seems like a odd place to have this option.

I think Delve would be more enjoyable to use on an app (I can only see it available to use on iOS and Android). And, from what I’ve read/seen, it appears to get more interesting when you follow other people who use it. I’d love to collaborate with more users. I think it would be great for project work. Now I just need to find like-minded Delve enthusiasts…

More information about Delve is available on the Office website products.office.com/en-us/business/explore-office-delve

Mysite is not aimed at students – so much so, that you cannot even login on the main page. There is only a couple of places and things you can do with it. But it does have it’s uses.

You have a basic profile that you can update. I have a link to my profile in my email signature, the reason I use it is because it is accessible to both staff and students. I update my interests and skills on it. I also use the contacts function because I can add both staff and students.

September 16

Groups

I couple of months ago I tweeted that I thought our university’s student Yammer was more user-friendly than Outlook Groups. In true, internet-style someone pointed out that they both fulfill different collaboration needs.

After discovering the Outlook Groups app (download on Itunes, Android and Windows), I’m growing to appreciate Outlook Groups.

Access
You might be wondering how to access Outlook Groups. I cannot find a direct link (hence, my user-friendly comment). You can find the groups in the bottom left-hand column of Outlook, under your inbox and other folders. There are two options when you get there; Discover (browse the groups made by other students) or Create (make your own).

Discover
During my early days at University of Brighton I looked here for a social group. If there is one, I’ve yet to find it. I also found that many of the generically titled groups were private.

Create
I’ve created three groups during my time at university. I made a group for my degree course, but subsequently deleted it. Firstly, I found that nobody really seemed to read their emails prior to induction week. Secondly, there was no option to invite people to your group. If you put their name in the member section they are automatically added (I can understand why some people have issues with this!) Thirdly, I filled the group calendar with events I thought my classmates would find interesting – this just caused confusion. My other two groups are empty.

Functions
When you make a group or join a group, the things you can do with it are kinda neat. In no particularly order:

  • Unique email address (which you can allow outsiders to email) – it takes the format of yourgroupname@unibrightonac.onmicrosoft.com
  • Sharepoint site – at https://unibrightonac.sharepoint.com/sites/yourgroupname
  • If you use OneNote, you get a notebook (I haven’t used this feature though I reckon it’s probably a notebook that all members can edit and access anywhere)
  • Connectors
  • You can automatically subscribe new members to the email list – so whenever someone comments, everyone sees it in the email inbox
  • You can also unsubscribe from the email list – you will still be a group member, but you’ll only see conversations on the group page

App
As always, some screenshots of the app (showing home, conversation and Sharepoint files)
oghomeogconversation ogfile

September 15

Newsfeed

I’ll just put it out there that I love Sharepoint. I have friends and colleagues who just don’t see the sharepoint of it. Although I agree with all their criticisms of it, it just seems to cooperate nicely with me. (This may be due to me having a Windows Phone. I could spend hours talking about the weird things my Windows Phone does but all apps on it just seem to work harmoniously with eachother and my OCD-brain likes the uniformity and collaboration parts.)

The student Sharepoint takes a while to navigate, so I’ll blog about it in various parts to avoid overwhelming.

I’ll start off by talking about the Newsfeed. Students (with @uni.brighton.ac.uk email addresses) can view the newsfeed here https://unibrightonac-my.sharepoint.com/default.aspx

If you’ve looked at this page recently you’ll see me. In all the time I’ve used the newsfeed I have never seen activity from anyone else. It only seems to show activity from the past couple of weeks. I like it because it has the potential to reach all students (something that doesn’t seem to happen anywhere else – unless a general forum could be created in StudentCentral).

I view the newsfeed in the Sharepoint Newsfeed app. I recommend it for anyone interested in using the newsfeed. You can get it on Itunes and in the Windows Store (I don’t know if there’s an android app).

logginginnewsfeedIt’s easy to set up once installed and, I just think, it’s smooth.

You can also follow classmates and friends on the MyPeople page. I just like saying My people – it makes me feel like Marky Mark.

I also like that if you click on someone’s name it takes you to their Delve (but Delve’s a post for another day).