Jeffrey Schick, IBM Vice President of Social Software and one of the corporate world’s foremost social media experts, visited campus today to discuss how social networking technologies can facilitate community-building within colleges and universities.
Schick was invited by Gary Cohen ’78, IBM General Manager of Global Communications and a member of Union’s President’s Council, a group of alumni advisors who help advance Union’s educational mission.
Schick led an interactive session with invited attendees from a wide variety of campus offices, including President Stephen Ainlay and student leaders. Using the Wold Center’s new Kelly Advanced Computing Lab, he demonstrated how social software can enhance collaboration in a higher ed setting by enabling professors and students to work across geographic boundaries and access information precisely when and where they need it.
“Fundamentally, social software connects people with people, and people with information,” he said. “The big difference today is that it used to be hard to publish information. Now, it’s easier than ever. Technology increases the pace at which collaboration can take place.”
IBM has embraced social software tools in its own intranet, which hosts more than 29,000 virtual communities of employees and more than 40,000 active bloggers. Employees are encouraged to use the company’s social software to create Facebook-like profiles with their professional skills, background and contact information, resulting in an online network that now sees more than 6 million “lookups” each day.
“I believe very, very strongly in this type of collaboration,” Schick said. “You used to have to climb up and down a hierarchical structure to find things, but today’s tools make it very easy to ‘pivot’ between people and information.”
During the Q&A portion of his visit, Schick fielded several questions on how Union might begin to adapt such technologies to achieve its own community-building and collaboration goals. “It’s possible to start with something fairly simple, like creating profiles,” he advised. “The key is to apply technology to the objectives you already have, and then see how it can help you achieve those objectives more efficiently.”