It is very possible that your lecturers may ask you to work online, or to produce work for assessment using a blog, wiki or another form of electronic communication. If you are using any of these tools or technologies for personal or work-related communication (academic or professional), you should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages.
Be aware: if you use social networks or blogs, or any other tool which means you have created an online public profile, remember that anyone can see these. That includes potential employers, your lecturers, your parents as well as your friends. Always use privacy settings when you set up accounts, and if there is publicly available information that you do not want your employers or lecturers to see, remove it, or ensure that your settings allow only people you’ve approved to view it.
We’ll be looking at blogs and networking in more detail in section 5, but to get you started .
Blogs are often described as online journals. There are blogs about every subject imaginable, at every level, and in many languages. Many universities have official bloggers: Imperial’s student bloggers are recruited annually. One of the easiest ways to create a blog is via a site like WordPress which offer free blog spaces.
Blogs tend to be informal and written in the active voice. A blog is easy to start, can reach a very wide audience, can be used as a reflective journal and can bring you in contact with similarly minded people. However, they can also be time consuming to maintain, can bring you unwelcome responses via comments, and are often opinion rather than fact.
Social networking sites include Facebook and other similar services. The style on all of these tends to be very informal, although increasing use is made by organisations and companies to promote their products and ‘engage’ with customers. The main thing to remember is that you may not own the content and may not be able to remove it in the future. There are many examples of problems as reported in the press (you’ll be able find these easily) but social networks also have many advantages. They are a good way to keep in touch with friends, they can showcase individual and organisational talents, and they can create new communities.
SecondLife is probably the best known virtual world. It is used by organisations and individuals and has its own economy which uses its own currency. This can be converted into real world currency. Users create personal avatars and retain their intellectual property rights in their Second Life creations.
Other virtual worlds are used for online gaming. Sites like WorldofWarcraft and Neopetsallow users to interact using avatars or equivalent. The Faculty of Medicine has a SecondLife site and you can find out more at their e-learning website.