The hallmarks of a UC education include scholarly experiences with distinguished experts and becoming part of lifelong communities of peers that care about the world around them. For the past decade of dynamic technological innovation we have taken it for granted that the best way for students to engage with those hallmarks is to continue doing things the way we’ve always done them, but to make those things somewhat more efficient with university-centric technologies. For example, even though we know that students rely on mobile device notifications, text messages, chats, and multimedia, our methods of communication for support services and classes are primarily based on email, face-to-face interactions, websites, instructor-centered learning management systems, and paper handouts.
A few years ago some students at UC Santa Barbara began exploring how they might better engage with their scholarly learning communities and campus support services in ways that seemed more natural and efficient to them than email and standing in line at the advising office. Through their research and partnerships with experts at UCSB, they created a student-facing FERPA-compliant social education web app (Nectir.io) that integrates with key university systems and provides a secure campus-wide mobile communication network and workspace. With Nectir, students can create their own scholarly and learning communities, receive mobile notifications for class and university announcements, and get support from real people in real time using text chat and file exchange from their mobile devices. Campus services, such as academic advising, housing, and transfer student support, can use these emergent communities to push out important information to thousands of students in one central location, lessening the need for multiple email lists.
UCSB agreed to pilot Nectir in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020, and it was under consideration for licensing when the challenges presented by the rapid transition to emergency remote online classes and university services brought to light - in a very visceral way - that the processes and pedagogies of our hallowed halls were not necessarily well-adapted to the dynamic modern-day digital world our students function in and depend on. With that in mind, UCSB licensed Nectir as a way for the campus to reimagine the ways students, staff, and faculty could build and maintain campus communities in a dynamic, but physically-distanced, world. This presentation will describe that experience in light of data collected about the uses of Nectir from students, staff, and instructors throughout the 2019-20 academic year.