This morning, Will Richardson posted a blog about University of Michigan's new degree in social computing. He questions its utility suggesting that one can become an expert in social computing by simply becoming part of the social computing community and developing the skills needed to function successfully. He writes that one can demonstrate success by, " building a rich, online portfolio that illustrates your ability to be an online community manager, social network analyst, community organizer or any of the other job descriptions they list as possible outcomes? For, um, zero dollars?"
What does it mean to have an online portfolio today? Certainly one would need a blog. A website would probably be helpful as well. Is a wiki important? Does one need to set up a social community site like this one on ning? I've even got a Living Textbook.
But there are just so many different tools out there, for me the question is, how do you continue to build awareness of your on-line products? Though I'd love to hear other opinions, for me the answer is do everything that you possibly can to get the written word out there. It's not enough to just do this once. This needs to be done continuously. As you write, link things together so that once a reader finds one thing it's easy to find other things.
OK, so if I know how to do the above things, what else is there to do to promote your online work? GIVE IT TIME!!! When I first started writing on line Christian Logan told me that it might be a year until I'd be noticed. Well it's been ten months and my numbers are going up. More people are subscribing to my blog and visiting my website.
So, the question is, if one can simply learn how to be a productive member of the online community, why does there need to be a degree? Will, as I think more about this, I'm inclined to slightly disagree with your premise. When people study things in graduate school they are hopefully not learning how to do - they are learning theory and understanding. Will this blog post attract readers for my other blog? Does this blog post make any kind of a difference to educators? Does this writing make any kind of an intrinsic difference to me? While I can answer this last question for myself, I don't believe that these questions have been rigorously investigated. If the U of M program is worth it's salt, and despite the fact that I did my doctoral work at Michigan State University, I recognize that most things coming out of U of M are pretty good, the master's program won't teach people how to use the on-line social community. Instead it will engage students in thinking and learning about the fundamental questions related to this online community.