Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Collaboration, Sharing, Knowledge @ VUMA Portal

I have attended a workshop, where we had been introduced to the latest project from FOTIM (Foundation of Tertiary Institutions of the Northern Metropolis) - the VUMA! Portal. The purpose of the workshop was also for FOTIM to learn more on: How to enhance this Portal, how to promote, etc. Below I'm giving you a short explanation about this initiative and how can be used by students and academics.

VUMA is an initiative of FOTIM. The members of FOTIM are: University of Limpopo, North-West University, University of Johannesburg, Tshawane University of Technology, University of Witwatersrand, Vaal University of Technology, University of Venda, University of Pretoria and University of South Africa. The first phase of the Vuma! Portal was launched in October 2007.

To succeed at university, students are expected to show proficiency in many skills, including language and literacy, thinking skills, numeracy, communication and presentation skills, study skills, computer skills and others.

The Vuma! Portal is FOTIM’s attempt to pool the information and resources of its member institutions to support students in their university lives. Through partnerships formed with students, universities, funders and other providers, FOTIM aims to support the VUMA! Community growth as open, free environment, that gives students the opportunity to explore responsibly the many issues relating to university life and entering the workplace.
The Portal is intended to serve the collaborative needs of tertiary institutions, enabling them to enhance the learning experience of current and prospective students while creating a platform for academic collaboration and support. The Vuma! Portal space can be used by students to meet other students, seek peer advice, talk to experts and share university experiences, upload resources and contribute to a growing body of knowledge.

Build on the Web 2.0 platform, the Vuma! Portal relies on the contribution of users to grow the online space. The many tools available on the Portal are:
- blogs
- discussion forums
- polls
- wikis, aimed at encouraging collaboration and sharing

Through VUMA! students will have the unique opportunity to collaborate with students from other universities, share their views, submit content, and become active contributors in building this community.

The VUMA! Portal will be a source of advice and support to teachers and parents on the challenges and pressures facing university students, and the roles that they can play in supporting students.

The VUMA! Portal university staff facility aims to become the premier location for online collaboration amongst university staff in their professional pursuits. Its core purpose will be to create a formal and informal space focused on stimulating collaborative efforts in curriculum design, materials development, resource sharing and student support.

The VUMA! Portal space for prospective students will provide a mechanism for supporting students in making the right choices as they consider their options in higher education and future careers.

How to join the Vuma! Portal?

* From the main VUMA web page, Click on the preferred option:
Students, Parents & Teachers, Prospective Students, University Staff
* Create your own account
* You can access through the Navigation option: available blogs, discussion forums, polls, etc.

* You can participate with your ideas and inputs that can help students to enhance their learning, research & thinking styles by using the various wikis.

What I like most is the option : WIKIS

There are three wikis options:
* The Study Center gives an opportunity for:
- Students to collaborate with other students on topics relevant to their studies and university life.
- Academics to add useful information under the different entries. Vuma! Portal can be used to TUTOR students.
- Librarians to add their knowledge of literacy instructions
There is already information available in this space to help students with their:
- Study Skills (learning styles, critical thinking, problem-solving, mind mapping, self-confidence, reading confidence, handling lectures, etc.)
- Exam Skills (essay style, open book exam, exam preparation, etc.)
* Life Hub ( enhance your university life)
* Writing Center (basics of good writing, avoiding Plagiarism, Writing Scientific Essay, etc.)

Many LINKS are available to useful website, under each of the entries.

P.S. You can EDIT these articles & ADD NEW CONTENT!

What should the Libraries and the Academics do?

* Participate actively in this project to enhance the quality of their students' knowledge
* Promote this initiative as widely as possible
* Make sure that LINKS to the VUMA! Portal are easy to access ( EduLink, Departments web pages, Library web page, etc.)
* The Library should provide additional trainings to students on “How to use VUMA! Portal", " Web 2.0 technological tools", etc.
This PORTAL is about: Collaboration, Sharing, building Relationships, creation of new Knowledge. There are already over 1000 subscribed users. The vision of Vuma! Portal is embedded in three year strategy.
A number of issues were raised at the workshop:
- If students contribute Lectures notes, what are the implications - Intellectual property issues?
- There will be standartisation of Information literacy materials. All participating University libraries will be involved.
- It were raised questions about links to Career Information, so students can easily find jobs after their university degree is completed
This project is open to changes and will adapt to the needs of its users.

Go and have a look at this portal, get the feel of it, test it and then give us your opinion. The initiators behind this Portal (FOTIM) will greatly appreciate your comments (

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