I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a recent #jisccreativity event. My post is not a round up of that event, if you want that then this post by Eric Stoller does that much better than I could:

I would however quickly like to congratulate Jisc & specifically Lawrie Phipps for running the event. It’s not easy to manage these kinds of activities where it allows you to think way beyond any kind of box one minute and then bring that back to a sense of reality the next in order to develop a tangible idea.

My post is specifically about one of the ideas that I was involved in developing at the event. It was inspired in part by my own experience of having a “student mum” when I started my undergraduate studies. She was a final year student on the same course as me and was a fantastic resource of information for me as a fresher. During the year of her mentoring she provided guidance and advice about being a student but more usefully her experience was directly related to mine as she had already studied the course I was on.

Whilst the idea of mentoring in this way is certainly not new, I don’t think we are leveraging the potential of digital tools and technologies to make this mentoring experience richer and broader. Whilst I really valued having mentor it was only the perspective of one persons experience, some of my questions or queries she had not had herself, so couldn’t offer any advice for.

The idea that we developed was to use some kind of “app” (whatever that means) to crowd source support and advice from students who were currently studying or had studied on the same course as you. During our discussions I brought out my phone and showed the group Yik Yak (If you want to learn a lot more about it then this is an excellent post).

What’s interesting about Yik Yak is that it is based on geo-location, so you only get to see posts from your local area (usually based on university campus). It’s designed as an anonymous, geo-located, twitter type system. One interesting feature is the ability to upvote (or down vote) posts and to respond to them.

So, if we combined a YikYak type experience with the idea of a mentoring service what are some of the points we might hope to achieve?

  1. The ability for students to post questions they might have about their studies and/or student life.
  2. Ability for mentors to reply with relevant, experiential answers in a timely manner.
  3. For good answers to be “upvoted” to identify those which have value. (and downvoted for those which are poor)
  4. For mentors to earn “kudos” based on the quality of their answers.
  5. For prospective students to “peek” (this is a yikyak feature) into the kind of issues and solutions being discussed at universities they may consider applying to.
  6. To build up a FAQ section based on top voted answers to questions.

What is important is that this is a student to student support service, real questions and real answers and perhaps separate from any formal university support service or marketing service. It’s a bit like the “real university”, giving students a non marketised insight into the university experience and a support network made up from (potentially) thousands of peers.

There is still much to “flesh out” here, but I hope that we have an opportunity to take this idea forward to explore it’s potential in more detail.


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