Jonathan Isip is an assistant professor at the UP School of Library and Information Studies (UPSLIS), and holds additional administrative positions as Information Officer and Graduate Program Coordinator. They work in partnership with the System Administrator to facilitate technology adoption and they advise on data privacy matters in the School, alongside managing its social media accounts, emails, and website. They teach courses in archival theory, records management, information governance, and foundations of information studies. Nathan is a records management and data privacy consultant as well as one of the creators of the archives podcast and video series For The Record.
Finding Your Place: Programme and Platform Considerations for Different Audience
None of us are really strangers to online learning. We have websites, social media accounts, and the occasional business-specific system we constantly keep calling IT to fix. What the pandemic brought about was not so much a shift to digital, but rather a change in the way we think about the services we provide. It was not simply a case of taking what we’ve been doing and putting it online, such as in the case of on-site lectures and workshops.
Of course, exploration comes with risk. New ideas might flop or be complete disasters, but until you try them out, they are just ideas sitting idle. My presentation revolves around understanding: understanding who we are and what we wanted to achieve as an organisation, understanding our stakeholders and their interests, and understanding our content and the way we deliver it.
First, understanding ourselves as an institution. It is important that we don’t see online delivery as a separate activity but rather an integral component of our institutional functions as a university, that of education, research, and service. Understanding this institutional context immediately allows us to classify the types of content we produce, and the desired outcomes and types of learner interaction for each. Similarly, it allows us to consider our limitations, particularly in terms of staff capability, budget, availability of time, and the general enthusiasm and support of management. After all, even if digital content creation, delivery, and management should be integrated in our services, it doesn’t mean than it simply appears and happens. We must ensure that our people are given sufficient time, not to mention technical and moral support to produce the content we provide learners online. Creating a community within the organisation that can share and appreciate the joys of an online learner asking a great question during the Q&A or having new people joining a lecture they would not have otherwise attended due to travel or time-restrictions is a brilliant way to build enthusiasm for online learning among staff.
Of course, at the heart of all these efforts are our audience. Rather, specific groups and types of audiences. While it might be nice to think of reaching out to “everyone” in the wide-open online world, having clear audience groups in mind allow us to tailor our programmes to suit their specific needs. We are able to interact with them through their preferred platforms, but just as important, we can avoid intruding in personal and safe spaces, particularly in case of groups such as students who are practically “required” to engaged with our content. Another thing to consider is that audiences may not necessarily be on the platforms we prefer to use or even be active in those platforms during our regular office hours. It takes a certain amount of compromise and adaptability to find an engagement strategy that works for them and the organisation.
The content itself and the way it is delivered should be tailored to the preferences of our audience. It might make perfect sense to us to make a podcast about our collections, but then people might demand to see photographs or virtual tours. Likewise, an online gallery or exhibition website might be the de-facto way of showcasing graphic collections, but then people might want to see someone on video talking about their favourite photograph. The key to online engagement is to not be afraid to try things out, but also to not be afraid for things to fail. Listen to your audience, read their feedback, study the analytics, and feel free to experiment and change things around.
Nathan’s slide deck can be viewed here.
Watch Nathan’s presentation from the day on the DLNET YouTube channel below: