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You Just Joined a Group on the Commons – Now What?

There are hundreds of groups on the Commons, and you’ll probably want to join a bunch.  For public groups,  when you click the join button, membership is immediate. For private groups, you’ll need to ask to join, and the admins of the group will need to approve your membership.  There are also hidden groups on the Commons, and to join these, you’ll need to receive and accept an invitation.

So What Next?

If you are new to the Commons, you might wonder about groups and their purposes.  Some are very very casual, and have sporadic activity.  Other “working” groups are very active, and many members share information and collaborate on projects.  Here are some examples of how groups are used on the Commons:

  • Common interests. For example, the CUNY Open Education Resources (OER) is a public group with a public blog that provides “… a space for CUNY librarians and teaching faculty interested in free and open textbooks and other open education resources…”
  • Department or program administration. For example, The College of Staten Island English Department has a private group with a private blog that facilitates communication between faculty, students, and staff members.
  • Committees.  Groups on the Commons provide fantastic ways to share files, minutes, organize meetings, discuss plans, and collaborate on projects.
  • Conduct graduate classes. Group forums are a great place to bounce around ideas, discuss issues, and post class announcements.  Private group blogs can be used to publish syllabi and post writing assignments and course reflections.  Class members can work collaboratively on projects using Docs feature.  Check out the Digital Praxis Seminar for an example.
  • Projects.   ePortfolios @SPS – a private working group and group blog for the “Connect to Learning at SPS” project)
  • Campus “Commons” sites.  A great example of this is The Lehman Teaching & Learning Commons – “a space for Lehman’s faculty, staff, and graduate students to join in conversations and activities about their Lehman experience.”
  • Conferences/events/seminars.  Plan, organize and advertise upcoming group events.

Group Tools

group optionsThere is a lot more to groups than the group forum.   Here is a quick review of all the tools that are avaialbe to group members:

  • On your group’s Home page, below its summary statement and avatar is the group activity stream, a rich log with links to everything that’s happened in the group – new members, new forum topics, replies to discussion threads, announcements, etc. Browse the group’s Activity Stream to stay current with your groups news. (If your group subscribes to any external RSS feeds, that content will appear here as well.)
  • The Announcements page lists all the announcements posted by the group’s admins and moderators.
  • If your group has a group blog, you can access it via the Blog tab.  Read and post to the Group Blog.  (This option will not appear if your group does not have a blog.)  For more info, see Groups and Groups Blogs.
  • The Files page lets you upload and share files.  Members can upload files to the group site, and make them available to everyone.  By default, group members are notified when a file is uploaded, but you can choose “Silent Upload” and not disturb your colleagues if you are making some small changes to a file or if it is not ready to be reviewed by the whole group.  For more info, see Working with Group Files.
  • Read and contribute to the forum.  As a member, you can start new topics and comment on existing threads.  By default, you are notified by email when other members post to the forum, and you can either reply by email to the thread, or click on the link embedded in the email, and log into the Commons to reply.  These two options make it extremely easy to participate in a discussion.
  • Collaborate with other members using Docs.  You can think of Docs as your group’s private wiki.  It has granular privacy settings which allow subgroups to work together and collaborate confidentially, and keeps a record of changes.  Docs can be tagged and grouped hierarchically.  (Docs can be enabled or disabled by your group admin – if you want this functionality and don’t see it, ask your group admin to enable it.)
  • Find out who is in your group by clicking the Members tab.
  • Send Invites to your colleagues to join your group.    (Invited members need to be members of the Commons.)
  • Configure your email notifications with Email Options page.  tab provides access to your notification settings.  For more see Managing Privacy on the Commons.

Additional Resources

How Groups can use the Commons

 

Groups on the Commons

The Academic Commons is a great place for CUNY groups, so we thought we’d pull together a list of some of the ways that groups can use this space to collaborate. Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything. And please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments, too.

Type of Groups

Any member of the Academic Commons can create a group (here’s how). If you’d like to create a group, there are three types to choose from:

Public Groups

With a public group everything the group creates is visible on the Commons: the group page, member list, announcements, and forum posts. No permission is required to join a public group. Public groups can also enable group blogs and set different roles for members.

Private Groups

In a private group certain elements of the group are not visible to those who are not members. Only members can see the member list, announcements, and forum posts. The group does appear in the list on the Commons Groups page, but non-members can only view a simplified version of the group page. You must request membership to join a private group.

Hidden Groups

A hidden group is invisible on the Commons to everyone except for group members. The group page, member list, wire, and forum posts are all hidden from the public.

Once you’ve created your group, here are some ways your group can use the Commons:

Communicating between group members

To communicate to all members of a group, administrators and moderators can post group announcements and check the box beneath the text field to email the update to all members. Members can reply to group updates. In a public group, the activity on the group’s page will also be visible to anyone; in a private or hidden group, group activity will only be visible to group members. *Please note- If a group changes from private to public, prior annoucements will no longer be accessible to group members.

The forum enables all members of a group to start and engage in conversations on any given subject. Members can attach files and subscribe to specific topics.

Groups may also wish to create a blog and use blog posts and comments for group communication. By default Commons blogs are visible to all, though you can adjust the blog’s privacy settings. Individual posts may also be so that only those who know the password can view them.

Host a blog or website to share information about the group’s work

All Commons members can create a blog on the site, and any group member can be added to the blog as a content contributor. The Commons runs on the WordPress blogging system which is easy to update and customize. Groups and members can also create static pages on their WordPress blog, just as on a standard website.

Posting meeting minutes and other documents

Groups may wish to use their Commons space to archive meeting minutes or other pertinent documents. One way to accomplish this is to use the group’s forum. Minutes can be uploaded as a forum post or attached as a file. Commons forums accept most common file types as attachments, for example, Word docs or PDFs.

To learn how to add documents to blog posts, click here.

Collaborative editing

Group members may wish to collaborate on documents, resources, etc., and the Academic Commons wiki is a great space for that kind of collaboration. Groups can create as many pages on the wiki as they’d like.

All wiki pages are currently visible to all Commons visitors. If you’ve created a wiki page and would like to have it linked from the main wiki page, please let us know.

With the Commons 1.2 release, group admins can now enable “Docs,” a powerful new tool that allows groups to collaboratively write and edit documents. Docs is a simple way for groups to work together on creating documents and store them within the group. The collaborative documents can be tagged, commented on, and and searched through by keywords. To learn more about this new feature, please click here.

The Academic Commons is designed to be flexible, so you can tailor your use of Groups to meet your members’ unique needs. If you come up with creative uses that we didn’t mention here, please write to us at support@cunycommons.zendesk.com.

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