IT addresses an important special need prompted by the modular nature of the MDP programme. The technology employed is Google Apps (used to set-up the SGS web site www.UBotho.net), a collection of web-based programmes and file storage facilities that run in a web browser, without requiring users to buy or install software. It has lost its beta-status label in mid 2009 and has attracted one million users, among them a number of tertiary institutions. It provides and integrates a range of functionalities which meet a wide range of user and SGS needs and expectations:
• Communication: Messaging, eMail, Online/VideoChat, Contact/Link Databases, Customisable Access Rights;
• Collaboration: Creation/Sharing of Calendar, Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Video, Web Sites;
• Knowledge Management: Storage Space, Repositories, Version Management, Search and Backup Facilities;
• Investments: Browser-based with all applications provided online (office standard applications compatibility);
• Plus: Ease of Use, 24/7 Support, close to 100% uptime, low cost/risk implications, no UB hardware required.
Summary of major Benefits
• Google Apps offers simple, powerful communication and collaboration tools for organisations of any size in business, education, or government – all hosted by Google to streamline setup, minimize maintenance, and reduce IT costs.
• The SGS concept applied integrates the functionalities provided and advocates individualised virtual personal learning and working environments as additional delivery platform for SGS’s modular programmes & stakeholders.
• It provides participants with an environment to create an online, personal web of knowledge and services that can be accessed independent of time, location, platform, and UB uptime.
• The participant is – within few limits - in control, can shape his/her environment, may distinguish between work, private and study related information and information services.
• The concept allows for the secure and convenient lifelong retention of the programme documents provided as well as the submissions contributed (own and cohort), hopefully instrumental to further self-build the graduate’s own future knowledge repository and management system.
• Personal as well as organisations’ (web) environments are important instruments to create order in a knowledge society. Consequently, the skills build are important in the context of the national development agenda.
• The technology used – often referred to as Web 2.0 and Cloud computing – is still in its early adoption stage but already provides a powerful toolset beneficial in our context.• Thus, in addition to all obvious advantages the students are provided with an opportunity to engage in and profit from technological advancements which many think will take off exponentially (with more functionalities) and will revolutionise the way we use information technology.
What we are planning to do
• Every modular MDP Student will have to choose a unique domain name of his/her choice (availability can be easily checked online). SGS will register the domain via the Google web site and pay the 10 US$ fee per year during the programme.
• By completion of the studies, the related UB billing instructions will be removed from the Google/provider account and the full control over the domain will be handed over to the student, hopefully to be retained, and, thus, available and utilised to build strong long-lasting alumni relations.
• After domain registration, SGS service staff will provide the students with instructions how to access his/her personal Google Apps Domain and where to access online training documents to master the functionalities provided by his/her Google Apps system. This training will enable him/her to make use of all communication, collaboration, and knowledge management tools provided in order to teamwork with fellow students and SGS staff (administrative and academic).
• The concept forms part of the contents and assessment of the lecture ‘Systems Thinking & Team Design’ of the very first MDP module. Hence, the skills and proficiency acquired, the timely and correct execution of establishing one’s personal web site and to get digitally in touch with the SGS staff and fellow MDP students is not only monitored but part of the credit-bearing assessment of the course.
• During the time of study, SGS will retain all administrator rights to the account/domain (legal waiver needed) and will disable the functionality of the student and other users to delete any files in the document repository. Additionally, some of the storage space available will have to be exclusively assigned to SGS to avoid uploading problems due to unavailable storage space.• The related learning outcomes of the MDP IT support concept will enable participants to set up similar systems for friends, colleagues, specific programme projects, or at an organisational level.