Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Educational Use of Yammer

Recently LTS started exploring Yammer as a communication tool and knowledge center. Yammer is basically Facebook for work. It looks and functions very similarly to Facebook. Below is Facebook on the left and Yammer on the right.

I am a Facebook junkie, so it was very easy to just jump in and start communicating. Here are some of the main differences I've noticed, most of which are great enhancements:
  • You follow people instead of friend them.
  • On Yammer, when someone comments on a post someone else wrote, that whole post will show up on the commenter's profile and in their followers' newsfeeds. On Facebook, this type of interaction is deemphasized and would just partially show up under "recent activity" only on the commenter's page (not their friends' newsfeeds, but it does show up in the new real time activity thing on the top right of the computer screen).
  • The phrasing is a bit more work oriented - instead of "What's on your mind?" it says "What are you working on?" and there are some work-oriented features like praise. I know there are more but I haven't used them.
  • You can upload files!!!!
  • Did I mention you can upload files???
  • The organization of the News Feed is a little funky. It defaults to "Top Conversations" which seem a bit arbitrary (which, I guess, is like Facebook's Top Stories but then at least you have recent stories right below). You can choose "All Conversations" from the drop down which (I believe) brings them up in chronological order with the most recent at the top.
  • And finally, you can reply specifically to another person's comment to a post (see below)

As with Facebook and Twitter, you can use an @ mention to get someone's attention (I also did that in the above comment to make sure Matt noticed my reply). One feature I really like being able to use in a work setting is "liking" things! I am so used to the "like" button that sometimes I want to like unlikeable things, such as emails or documents, so this is a step in the right direction for me! I personally think "like" is much better than"+1" but that's probably just my personal preference (Google+ is another post entirely).

Ok, so I need to get to the point here! Educational use.
  • Yammer functions basically the same as Facebook so it is a very easy learning curve, but it's not Facebook. So it could be used the same way anyone uses Facebook academically, which is often a venue for students to communicate informally, in relation to a class, to increase a sense of community (ask questions about homework, due dates, etc. or set up study groups).
    • Even though faculty can say that class use of Facebook does not mean anyone needs to be friends and the school/personal line will not be crossed with the use of Groups, there is still some hesitation. With the frequency of Facebook privacy setting changes, that is understandable. I thought I was a Facebook privacy settings pro, but yesterday someone I am not friends with (my sister's friend) was able to comment on a picture I posted of my sister, although my album is set to friends only. Hmmm. 
  • One positive aspect I have cited in the past about using Facebook for class is that students are on it anyway, but I don't think it's a huge deal for students to navigate to another site to relieve privacy concerns if this functionality is needed (don't forsake D2L discussions, which is still the best option for scholarly discussion). 
  • There is a mobile app, but I find the Android version a little confusing because posts are listed in chronological order and comments are listed the same way as original posts. I don't really like how the Android app notifies me every time anyone posts. If it picks up, I will look into the possibility of changing my notifications or possibly uninstalling it. There is also a desktop app (Mac & Windows) but I prefer the website.
  • It is also nice that Yammer does not have advertisements on it (not yet anyway). 
  • Just FYI, we have a verified UWEC network, so only people with uwec.edu email addresses can join our network. However, it is possible to create an external network and add others.
So what are you waiting for? Make a Yammer account and follow me! It's available and free, at least for now!

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