The quiet time between Christmas and New Year has been a great chance for me to reflect on the key questions at the heart of this research project (it's been wonderful having such a peaceful office!). I've been taking a step back and considering what we really what to know in order to make a difference to our University members. After all, we are the Centre for Applied Research, and making sure that our research leads to valuable change is what it's all about. The data gathering phase of our research has always been seen in three stages, and with one stage under our belts and moving into detailed planning for the next stages, it's a good time to reflect on how the data and preliminary analysis from stage 1 (looking at undergraduates) should influence the research questions for stages 2 (looking at graduate students) and 3 (looking at academics). Returning to and rethinking research questions seems to me a delicate balance - the University landscape has moved on in the last 3 months, with other related projects being launched or piloted, and so it's well worth us asking again what we want to achieve. At the same time, our original research question, 'How can the social networks of students and academics help them in their learning, teaching and research?' remains valid, and it's important to keep a steady eye on that goal. Ultimately, however, we need to break that high-level question down into a more detailed research questions for each stage of the data gathering phase, and it seems reasonable to be willing to reconsider these detailed research questions over the course of the project.
This project aims to bring some of the affordances of consumer social networks to teaching and learning, and will deliver applications within CamTools, our Sakai-based VLE. This is an informal blog by the project team at CARET, University of Cambridge.