One of the first Reengineering efforts I was part of at the VCCS was serving on the Innovation Through Technology Task force. The stated goal of this group was to “support the creation of high performance systems that utilize fully the talent and potential of our people, leverage the power of technology, enhance productivity, and produce better outcomes for students.” The ITTF group quickly agreed that one major barrier to reaching this goal was, broadly, communication. On the one hand, there was too little communication among faculty and staff across the VCCS, leading to the age old problem of reinventing the wheel.
On the other hand, there was also too much communication. Throughout the VCCS faculty and staff communicate with email, discussion lists (d-lists), listservs, and online forums. We have an intranet, Buzz, and our various college and system websites. We have Blackboard announcements, RSS feeds, and digital newsletters. There is Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, and Google+. We can connect via videoconference with Collaborate, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, and Skype. I could go on and on. The information is out there, but on which channel? Overall, whether too much or too little, communication across the VCCS has been ineffective.
You could say that this problem is endemic to our information age: the belief that more communication is inherently better. Blast out your announcement on every platform you can in order to reach the most eyeballs. I am guilty of this. But I am also guilty of ignoring a large amount of information I receive. My Twitter feed speeds by unread. One third of my emails are vendor spam or electronic newsletters. Probably like you, I receive way too much information that I can realistically absorb and have few tools to sort the more important stuff (email request from my boss requesting materials for next week’s meeting) from the trivial (50% off Groupon for a hot air balloon ride).
That brings us to ICE. The Innovation Community Exchange (ICE) is an online system developed by the folks at New River Community College as an outcome of the Innovation Through Technology Task Force. The intent of ICE is to help solve the ineffective communication I described by linking people, technology, and information in order to promote college innovations. ICE is an online innovation space where VCCS “makers” can to share ideas, promote products, and search for collaborative partners. Users can use the platform to search for an idea, an individual, a software package, or a learning opportunity. Users can also participate in discussion threads or training sessions, or download available products to try for themselves. RSS feeds and email notifications allow users to track developments.
A system like ICE could be a powerful tool for the VCCS to effectively share innovative ideas, services and artifacts, allowing colleges to accomplish things together that may not be able to individually.
That said, I wonder if ICE is going to be yet another communication platform to add to my list above, or if it will be perceived as useful enough to get some significant use across the VCCS? We built it–will they come? And if they don’t, what will we have learned?
Perhaps the Rambling Professor can convince you to give ICE a try.