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Sharepoint in Education - the social intranet (Introduction: Part 1)

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by , 30th December 2011 at 06:51 PM (16994 Views)
When I first started writing on Edugeek, many will remember me as one of the Sharepoint gang. My more recent writings may have convinced some of you that I was less interested in it now…but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sharepoint 2010 is a brilliant product – and one which could be put to great use in Schools and Colleges.

The Rationale
As IT Professionals, we are constantly battling against the students (and the staff in some cases) with Social Networking. We are also in a battle to bring some kind of information organisation. When I joined my new Academy – the traditional old-school “shared mapped drives” were the mele you would expect. The problem with these areas is that they are difficult to make dynamic. They are also open to all kinds of abuse – and bar some serious messing with ACLs and NTFS permissions…it is basically unmanageable. Just try searching for a “lost” document in there too…I dare you!

A Home page
A picture says a thousand words...! Well - heres a screenie of my "still in development" environment. A central landing page with new items depending who has logged on. Here - you can also signpost other services.


Improve Staff Access
So, what can we do about this? For a start, at its most simplistic level – a single Sharepoint site with Document Libraries per Learning Area or Department. That’s a start, with the Document Libraries set with permissions “Contribute” only set for members of those areas.

No more general dumping grounds, and also management of the area is under the Learning Area or Department. If you configure Search (by default, you will get this out of the box – I will go into more advanced settings at a later date) – you can search for anything. The terms you search for can be in the title or within the actual body of the document – and it will still be returned (so long as you have permissions!).

Lets take that one stage further – a Site per Learning Area. Now, it is not just a Document Library they can use. The users now have a News Board, Discussion Forum, Calendar and Task list too. So – we have extra functionality for them – take for example department meetings – linked with their agenda and minutes. This is becoming cohesive.

Still want more features….why not! Those documents that you have added, well lets say they are Microsoft Office documents. Most of them will be. Add the Office Web Apps feature to your site (details here) and you can now view and edit these documents in the browser (IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari) – and even better, multiple users can edit at the same time and it will live update! Genius…think collaboration now.

Student use?
We have so far just been talking staff, but extend this now to Students. We have the separate “Staff Areas”, so lets add sites for the Students by Learning Area too (or have the Learning area, but with a private area for Staff off that – the architecture layout is up to you!). All the same functionality exists, and you can group the permissions around your exisiting AD groups. No reorganising required – why reinvent the wheel?
Now – the title said Social Sharepoint…and Ive not touched on that yet. But, I wanted to start with a little intro to what would get you to this point in the first place.

Enter MySite - The Social Network
MySite has been a feature of Sharepoint since 2003. Back then, it was a bit of a pig to manage to say the least. With 2010 – not only has it got easier to manage and implement, but it has gathered some extra killer features. MySite is basically what it says – a personal site for each user. It actually really consists of two – a profile and a storage area. You have a news feed – a la Facebook – and a document library. All files on Sharepoint are essentially stored in Document Libraries. Here are two images of the entry point to MySite – the first showing your feed, all activity from your linked people (a la friends). The second, your profile.

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The next post will cover how to set this up...

Updated 30th December 2011 at 07:07 PM by TheScarfedOne




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