It’s like a shared drive

Back in 2005 our organisation didn’t share much. We worked in silo’s – and in many cases still do. When we weren’t communicating face to face or over the phone, information was typically making its way slowly around the business in paper form. What we did share was often transferred through shared folders – or mapped drives as they were more commonly referred to.

Shared folders were fine, but subject to improvisation. A shared folder will often contain many files, and sub-folders. Each sub-folder containing many more, each with a different content type, structure or naming convention – a sign of how many were contributing with little or no usage guidance.

We didn’t host many we services back in 2005, but curriculum technology was about to steam ahead. Emerging from a difficult time with Learnwise, we had identified Moodle as a VLE that would transform our curriculum delivery. It was around this time that we also became aware of SharePoint. Here was an opportunity to take some of those paper communications and documents, and transfer them to a digital medium.

We had some very clear objectives for SharePoint, and for Moodle too. It very quickly became clear that Moodle could do for us what Learnwise had not been able to. Curriculum staff were gaining enthusiasm for this new learning environment. We knew that Moodle was a great platform for curriculum delivery, but we also considered whether Moodle would be the right platform for our business support content. We realised that SharePoint was a great content management system, and we also considered whether SharePoint would be the right platform for our curricular materials. Our conclusion was that Moodle, our VLE, would be used purely to support curriculum delivery. SharePoint would be used purely for hosting content related to business support activities.

In education, shared drives have been popular. Simple, practical (crude even) methods of sharing content among users with varying roles. It’s easy with a shared drive to add your content. The idea of a shared drive has persisted from our distant past, and for the most part, is how we use the very capable SharePoint application. This is my experience of how SharePoint has most frequently been used – it’s like a shared drive. It’s been an interesting product to work with, but hasn’t continued to deliver continued opportunities for innovation that were evident when first adopted.

I don’t view the upgrading of any application to a newer version as being the solution to any intrinsic problems that may be associated with it. In this case, problems with a given version of SharePoint won’t be resolved by simply upgrading. Similarly, a new release of Moodle won’t suddenly generate increased learner participation. Instead, a new approach is needed. I regularly comment about the continuing prolific activity of uploading lots of files. It’s really not the sort of activity that represents the position that learning technology should be in today. We can create that very same content online with the right tools. We don’t all need to be using the same suite of Microsoft tools that have been dominant for so long. Admittedly this isn’t the case for everyone as some organisations have been very successfully in using open source alternatives for some time – and well done to them. For an organisation to be held to ransom by continual upgrades in order to achieve a certain degree of usability is surely far too restrictive for a modern and fast moving business – educational or otherwise.

It’s all too easy to place a high reliance upon new products to reveal solutions for long term problems. When (and if) the latest and greatest version arrives, it won’t provide all the answers.

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