What does the University of Exeter want from the web? Feedback from the World of Web Technologies

One of the major reasons for hosting our World of Web Technologies event in late March was to get feedback from visitors on what they thought the University should be doing with new web tools and services. In order to gather this information we encouraged visitors to fill in a short questionnaire, offering an iPod Touch as an incentive, which asked them not only what they thought about what we were demonstrating, but also for any other innovative ideas about what we should be exploring. This post summarises the feedback we received.

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“Overall, how would you rate this event?”

Our first question was a rating for the event as a whole, and overall the event was very well received, with 95% of visitors rating it as ‘Good’ or better,  and most rating it as ‘Very Good’ – so thanks to all those who came for such positive feedback!

“How useful would you rate the … tools that you saw?”

Our next set of questions looked at the five areas we demonstrated: Collaboration, Communication, Creation, Information & Publication, and asked for a rating for each. Results here were again very positive, the vast majority of users again rating the separate stands as either ‘Useful’ or ‘Very Useful’.

We were hoping that we would also be able to use these ratings as a guide for which area(s) to focus on, but in fact ratings were very similar, with practically all the tools demonstrated seen as useful and only a 4% difference between the top and bottom ratings. The actual order of preference was:

  • 1st: Location (average useful rating 4.35)
  • 2nd: Information (average useful rating 4.33)
  • 3rd: Collaboration (average useful rating 4.32)
  • 4th: Creation (average useful rating 4.20)
  • 5th: Publication (average useful rating 4.15)

“Of all the innovations you’ve seen, which do you think would make the most difference in your work at the University?”

Thinking about just the innovations that were being demonstrated, we were keen to learn which visitors thought we should be spending more time on. Of the specific tools showed, Second Life (perhaps surprisingly) came out as the most popular. There was also considerable interest in the use of QR codes, for various Social Networking tools (e.g. Facebook, Elgg/The Hive, Twitter), Collaboration/Desktop sharing software and, more generically, the use of Video.

There also seemed to be a more widespread desire for the type of tools demonstrated as a whole, suggesting that it might be wise to create and maintain a repository of recommended web based tools, together with guides on contextual use from members of the University. The new Confluence Wiki would be the ideal hosting space for this, as it would allow guidelines to be co-created by staff and students across the University, and allow for simple continued updating as the range of tools shifts and grows over time.

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Worlde showing which innovations visitors were most interested in

“Are there any other innovations that you currently use, or that you are aware of, that you think we should be investigating further?”

Knowing that many staff & students are already innovating with regards to web tools, we were keen to try and find out which especially of these people thought we should be spending more time looking into.

Of the tools that were already being used, Skype was the most recommended. Of new develpoments in the web, Augmented Reality was the clear winner.

The Web Innovation Project is already exploring some ideas within Augmented Reality, as indeed are some other groups within the University. Skype on the other hand may well be the ‘Elephant in the Room’, in as much as it is a widely used and appreciated tool, which is free, and with a strong pedigree and user base. It not only supports voice communication, but also video communication, instant messaging and desktop sharing. Considering it’s existing popularity it might be worth assessing Skype for use at the University more completely.

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Wordle of other innovations visitors thought we should be investigating/implementing

“Any other comments to add?”

Finally we also asked for general comments, and were very happy to receive much positive feedback about the way the event had been run. It’s clear that many people think we should be doing it again, and the potential for networking and learning about new web developments was well worth an hour or so of their time.

One thing that stood out from general comments was the desire to not only see more use of the tools, but also more particularly to see examples of good innovative practice at Exeter. How exactly we do this needs to be thought about, but it could well be that the new Exeter blogging service – or possibly an even newer social networking service – might be a good conduit to allow extended descriptions of tools in practice to spread to a wider internal audience. Co-created blogs centered around existing teams might be a useful way to spread expertise and raise awareness of internal practices across different schools and services.

If we do repeat the event we’ll certainly take on board some of the most common suggestions, in particular:

  • A more central  location so that more people can attend.
  • More detailed information on specific technologies as printed handouts for people to take away with them.
  • Clearer indication of which stand is which.
  • Better ways to manage busy/popular stands.
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Wordle showing a summary of visitors general comments

And one finall comment to finish with – a heartfelt thanks to all those who came to help the Web Innovation Project Team with running the event, not to mention those staff & students who came to see what we all had to say. Without you all giving your time, and for the presenters also your expertise, it would have been a very poor day indeed!

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