IdeaScale Usage Varies Across Departments
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 02:09
In the past year, students have steadily posted their ideas and concerns on Georgetown Ideas, a web platform for community suggestions run through IdeaScale, but use across departments has been inconsistent.
The online platform run through Idea-Scale was launched in spring 2012 by University Chief Operating Officer Chris Augostini and Program Manager for New Media and Digital Strategy Michael Wang to create a digital dialogue with the student body. Since then, Wang has seen the small online community evolve into a dedicated group of students, faculty and staff.
“We have found that the Georgetown staff community wants to be engaged as well,” Wang said. “They are excited to contribute and join in on the dialogue, so that’s what we’ve been thinking through: how to better facilitate this dialogue.”
One of the campus institutions that has latched on to Georgetown Ideas has been Lauinger Library. Of the 27 ideas that Georgetown Ideas has marked as completed since it was launched in spring 2012, five of these are related to the library. Library staff generally responds to all queries related to Lauinger.
“In general, the library is very eager to respond to all of our users — anything that’s easy for us to fix we’d love to do that,” Program and Events Coordinator for Lauinger Library Jennifer Smith said.
The library implemented an online booking feature for study rooms after Shirley Adelstein, a government doctoral candidate, suggested it in a Georgetown Ideas post.
“I had spoken with folks at the library about it before and I thought perhaps this might be something worth posting,” Adelstein said. “I was pretty surprised how quickly the library responded. I think that IdeaScale was one part of a number of elements that moved the initiative forward.”
University Information Services have also found that the student input on Georgetown Ideas, in many cases, can help refine projects that are already in the works. A post last year for full campus Wi-Fi on the site garnered 390 votes.
“It was pretty clear to everyone that ubi-quitous Wi-Fi is something we’re striving for,” Wang said. “But in terms of where do students want to see it, we saw a lot of enthusiasm toward the lawn and that appeared originally on IdeaScale.”
Georgetown Ideas also allows administrators to prioritize projects while facing already limited budgets.
“In addition to helping us define what a particular problem is, students are helping us determine within the constraints of a limited budget what we should tackle first,” UIS Director of Communications Laura Horton said.
Some students are dubious that administrators are actually seeing their posts on the forum.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of support, feedback, comments and in that way its had a positive effect, but I also haven’t seen any actual results from the post,” said Greg Miller (SFS ’14), who frequently posts ideas on behalf of the Office of Sustainability. “The process by which those ideas are translated into action isn’t very transparent.”
Miller cited mislabeled idea cards and the lack of a vote change function as two main problems with the current system.
“There are sustainability ideas that have been completed that have never been moved into that category by the administrators,” Miller said. “There’s no feature to change your vote even if you click it by accident.”
Conway Yao (SFS ’14), a frequent poster on the site, is also frustrated by the lack of response by some administrators.
“I think if all administrators could take a closer look and, if they’re not going to take action, at least post something,” Yao said. “Maybe some things are just not feasible from their perspective, but if they could at least address those things, then the students could get a better idea of what sort of products are feasible and which aren’t.”
Wang believes that administrative responsiveness is one of the growing pains of the system.
“The idea of crowdsourcing feedback is still new, and we are hard at work raising awareness in the community so that our administration can better collaborate and engage with students,” Wang said.
Wang notes that Auxiliary Services in particular already has alternative methods of student feedback in place.
“There has been a lot of new leadership in Auxiliary Services. They’re already doing a lot of outreach via social media — they’re not short of feedback mechanisms,” Wang said. “Just because they’re not using Georgetown Ideas yet doesn’t mean they’re shirking on communication.”
Smith does not fault fellow departments that are not able to offer the same kind of Georgetown Ideas presence as herself and her colleagues in the library.
“A lot of it is just having the time and having the resources to respond to [the posts]. If I was a department that had no ability to respond to comments on IdeaScale I think it would be pretty demoralizing to go on the site,” Smith said. “Fortunately, in the library, we’ve been able to address all of the concerns.”