The UVic Online Community evolves from its roots in the early Internet with new ways for alumni and students to connect.
WHEN ERICA GRAINGER PLANS A PARTY, swaps photos or organizes meetings for the Student Ambassador Association she helps to lead, she doesn’t visit a coffee shop or a friend’s living room. Instead, the 20-year-old kinesiology student goes to her computer and signs on to the UVic Online Community (olcnetwork.net/uvic) to let members of her group know about meetings or the status of their latest campus service project. “The site makes it easy to keep connected,” she says. “And with the online community, it’s not only your friends but also older alumni who can give you advice.”
September brought the launch of a new test version of the online community adding forums, photo albums and social networking features to the original service used by thousands of students and alumni since it was introduced by the UVic Alumni Association in 1998. Its new tools are inspired by Web trends led by popular sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube that capitalize on the strengths of the Web 2.0 phenomenon: its ability to let users interact with each other, collaborate and share words and pictures on Web pages.
“The new online community takes the best examples of blogs and social networking sites and brings them all together into a package that’s attractive and easy to use,” says Greg Churchill, the alumni department’s information technology coordinator. “It was designed to evolve with and incorporate emerging Web trends.”
Statistics Canada reports that about two-thirds of Canadians were online in 2005. According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project report released in March, twice as many people had high-speed Internet service at home compared to the year before. There are now more than 600 billion Web pages and a growing list of more than 12 million bloggers (just over half are under the age of 30) diarizing about their daily lives or their favourite passions.
Sara White, a 20-year-old Web designer and third year Business student, is one Web user shaping her own online experience through Web sites like Facebook. Her photos, short biography and links to other people’s profiles are a snapshot of her life. She says most of her friends belong to at least five such sites. “Initially, the Web had so much content created for consumption by a small group of people,” says White. “Now, anyone can create content…[and] you browse content created by people like yourself, not just so-called experts.”
Freelance sports writer Lucas Aykroyd, MA ’97, was one of the first to sign up with the original UVic network. After posting an online profile, Aykroyd connected with other people in his field. When he thought about moving to San Francisco, Aykroyd sent a note to an alumna who was a writer living in the region. “She wrote back a long letter outlining the opportunities in the Bay Area…It was a really useful experience.”
With thousands of different personalities contributing content, online communities are constantly shifting. As people form networks and debate issues, they exchange ideas that can translate into side projects—from business deals to artistic endeavors. This, says Churchill, is what makes the technology magical and gets him excited about where the next phase of the online community (and the Internet) will take us. “The content you see on Web sites is originating from the desktops of millions of Web users. It’s completely unpredictable. That’s why it’s so fascinating.”
UVic’s Online Community
Students and alumni can use the
new UVic Online Community to:
- form study groups
- plan class reunions and other events
- post resumes
- create forums and share photos
- create personal profiles
- request career and travel advice
- exchange business cards
- search job postings
- receive email and private messages
- contact 1,600 mentors across Canada through “Mentors Online” olcnetwork.net/uvic