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New Facebook application: My OU Story

For some time the same team that brought you Course Profiles has been working on another Facebook application for Open University students and staff and now that application has been released, it is My OU Story. The idea of this application is that it provides a place for people to tell their story related to OU studies. They can (through the preferences page) choose to allow the stories they post to be shared with everybody, people in their network, just their friends or even keep the story to themselves. When you post you story you can also record how you are feeling at the time on a mood slider (which I hope you like as it took ages to get right!). Once a person has submitted a few stories you can see how they are feeling over time by having a look at their mood graph. Being a social application through, the interaction is not just one way. If somebody reads your story they can also provide feedback, maybe to say they are happy for you, or on worse days to "hang on in there". The application can even link to Course Profiles to associate a story with a course code.

This video gives a great walkthrough of how the application is used:
So why would anyone use the application? Stuart Brown on his blog explains the sort of situation where it might be useful. Learning at a distance can feel quite isolated at times, unlike a traditional university OU students are rarely surrounded by other students that are sharing the highs and lows of the learning experience. There are various ways round this such as local study support groups, tutor support, forums and so on. My OU Story is another addition to these ideas. The stories allow groups to share experiences and support each other. Sometimes knowing that a problem is not being faced alone really helps in getting through, other people might be able to offer useful advice or helpful feedback. It is not only for the tougher times though, you might want to share an experience of how your course has enriched your life, or simply show off about a good assignment mark!

The application has been coded using PHP and FBJS, a version of the Javascript language used on the Facebook platform. The graph was produced using the GD library in PHP. It helped this time having already coded one application, I didn't have to spend time figuring out how to work with the Facebook platform, instead I could spend time implementing nice user features. Again we didn't use the traditional systems development process of analysing the requirements, drawing up a document detailing everything and then coding. Instead the team of Tony Hirst, Martin Weller, Stuart Brown and myself all discussed features and requirements and worked though to a common understanding of what the application should be like. As a developer this is a very rewarding experience as we can then contribute towards the entire idea and be responsible for it.

To be honest it is difficult to know how this application is going to be used so it will be interesting to follow what happens. As always we would love to hear what people think of the application. The application itself and a feedback forum can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=11926232497. The application is of course in "perpetual beta" so we are very interested to hear ideas for it and how you found using it.

Comments

I think it sounds like a really good idea. Like you say there are the forums where you can meet other students and talk about stuff but you would never really be able to get that personal for fear of being labeled too self aware.

This type of app means you can have a big long rant if you want and people can choose to view it rather than have it stuffed under their noses as per the forum format.

I really like this idea as I too am soon going to be in a distance learning situation and hope that this is made available to students of many universities. If there is one thing that I think will make me feel like I am a part of the school it is the bonding between students that always happens on a traditional campus.

Really good idea. Distance learning can be tough at times and a place like this is just the thing to remedy that. Plus one of my favourite things about the OU is the variety of people you can find. Anything that facilitates students from all over finding each other is bound to be a good idea.

Social interaction is a big part of learning for me. Really broadens the horizons.