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Golden Gate U Adds 'Conversation Channels' to Web Site

A redesign of Golden Gate University's Web site home page now ties the California institution's various programs in with social media conversations. The new public-facing version went live on March 5 and features "conversation channels," provocative questions intended to spark conversation about topics that are relevant to what's going on in the classroom and in the broader region and to help members of the campus community "shine."

For example, one topic currently being featured on the home page asks, "Are high-tech patent wars stifling innovation? Would we rather spend billions developing products or defending lawsuits?" Interested viewers can click to a page that lays out the issues with quotes from faculty and current and former students and provides ways to learn more about the law programs offered by the university. Several campus law experts weigh in: professor and law practitioner William Gallagher takes a constitutional stance for patent laws; Kevin Kitcey, IP law student, discusses future inventor patent protections; and Chester Chuang, associate professor of law, suggests in his contribution that patent laws have been a windfall for lawyers.

Golden Gate University's Web site has been redesigned to facilitate social media conversations and help draw attention to members of the campus community..

The topic also encourages people to participate in a conversation about the issue by following a specific hashtag (#ggupatentwars) in Twitter.

"We know that we have students and alumni that are actively involved in some of the bigger economic issues of the Bay Area. We wanted to figure out a way to bring all of those groups together around a dialog of what some of those topics and interests or opportunities were," said Cherron Hoppes, dean of undergraduate programs. "This was a way for us to expand our use of social media and to really take what we knew our alums and students were using anyway and tie it into what makes Golden Gate great--this practical profession notion: Whatever you learn in class on Tuesday night, you're using at work on Wednesday."

The use of Twitter, she noted, is a way to bring "theory and practice together in a way that is very topical, relevant, very now, taking what's happening in the classroom and what's happening in the economic world in Northern California and tying those things together to create a dialog."

Other current topics include the use of technology for "fixing" healthcare in the United States, a discussion about where all the green jobs are "that we were promised," and whether the U.S. government should doing more to regulate business--the latter promoting the university's forensic accounting program.

Although the current crop of hashtags shows no activity, Hoppes isn't overly concerned. "As with any organizational cultural change, we anticipate a little bit of a slow ramp up as people begin to think about that as being a place to go to carry on the conversation. We all believe that this is going to take on a life of its own. From what happens, we're going to be able to pull out additional great stories to add to that rolling window and the areas of conversation. We see this as being a self-perpetuating effort that's really going to highlight who our best of the best alums are, what the amazing things are our faculty are doing, and tying that back to our mission."

"Golden Gate University's culture of ideas and innovation needed an outlet to express itself," said Tim Spry, creative director and partner at Mortar Agency, the company that designed the new Web site and conversation channels. "Our intent was to create channels that make it easy for all [Golden Gate] leaders, students, faculty, and alumni to come together, share their knowledge and expertise, and connect with others in the Bay and nation that care about the same topics. It gives everyone a way to chime in on leading higher education, business, economics, and political conversations of the day."

Eventually, Hoppes noted, the university will be updating its learning management system, based on Moodle, to the latest version. When that happens, Twitter and other live social network feeds will be integrated directly into the course platform.

"This launch was pretty significant for us. Our old Web site was pretty flat and content heavy," she said. "All of us are getting used to the new suit. It feels a little bit early for us to think about how we take it to the next level. But I think everybody's excited about the opportunity."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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