Tweaking Your Group


Groups on the Commons come in many flavors, and members join them for a variety of reasons, including to stay informed, get help, collaborate with peers, bounce around ideas, share links, publicize events, manage committees, plan initiatives, and manage graduate classes. Groups can be public, private, or hidden. For more information about how groups can use the Commons, follow this link.

Initial Setup – for Group Admins

Admins are the primary organizers of a group, and are responsible for setting it up and getting members to join. Listed below are some suggestions that might help you get your group up and running.

  • Join the Group for Group Admins, a meta-group for group administrators and moderators to meet and discuss group management, share tips on different tools, and stay up to date with the Commons team on current and future changes on the site.
  • Find an avatar for your group.
  • Write a succint statement of purpose.
  • Decide whether your group will be public, private or hidden. Click here to understand the implications.
  • Swamped? Delegate… Add additional admins to your group.  Or add some group moderators.  Admins will have the same permissions as you.  Group moderators will be able to do a subset of the things you are allowed to do, including the ability to send announcements to the rest of the group.  Click here for more information about group permission levels.
  • Understand your tool options. Groups automatically come with forums, files, and announcements, but admins can optionally turn on BP Docs and create a Group Blog to provide additional ways for members to interact.
  • If you decide to have a group blog, determine its visibility.  For example, a private group could have a public blog. Click here for more information on how to adjust blog privacy levels.
  • If you decide to have a group blog, determine what permission members should have.  If they are assigned to be contributors, they can write posts, but these posts will only be published upon your approval. If they assigned editors or authors, your approval is not needed.  Consider including some explanation on the blog, so members understand what they can do.  You might want to invite members to post on certain topics.  Click here for more information on adding new users to a blog.
  • If appropriate, consider creating a Twitter account for your group. If you have a group blog, consider using a plugin such as Twitter Tools to automatically tweet group blog posts.
  • Think about ways to attract members.  Do you want to invite people to join? You might want to check out who belongs to a related group, or who is on the same campus, etc.

Using Groups on the Commons

What can you do to make a group work for you? The following list provides some ideas about how you use available tools to communicate with other members of the group, and how you can customize your groups to mesh with your work style.

Collaborative Tools

  • Group Forums – probably the most used and easiest to understand.  Any member can start a forum thread.  On public groups, non-group members may comment on a thread.  Files and images may be attached to either the thread, or the comment.
  • Files – a convenient way to upload files so that the rest of the group can access them. Uploading Files
  • Announcements – a group’s admins and moderators can use the functionality to publish announcements to the group, and optionally, notify members via email.
  • Invite others – know someone who would be interested in your group and is a member of the Commons?  It’s easy to invite that person to join.
  • BP Docs (if activated) – Think of Docs at your group’s private wiki.
  • Group Blog (if activated) –

Managing Notifications

Getting your voice heard

So with all the tools available, there’s probably no one “best way” to get your point across, but here are some things to consider when you stack related functionality up against each other in search of the magic bullet.

  • Forum posts vs. Group Blog posts.  Forum posts are perhaps better at soliciting member feedback.  Posts on blogs have more embedded functionality, and you can style and revise them better.
  • Upload Files vs. BP Docs.  Files are static.  BP Docs are collaborative, living documents that change.  Both are extremely useful, but their functionality doesn’t really overlap.
  • Announcements vs. Forum Post.  If you are a moderator or admin of a group, announcements are a great way to contact your group.  You decide how your message should reach members.  Forum posts are based on a user’s notification settings, and you are not ensured that your message will immediately reach your membership.
  • Submit an idea for a “hero” slide – Want to promote your group on the Commons Home page?  The CUNY Academic Commons team would be happy to give your group front page placement in our rotating header slides. Please contact community facilitators Sarah Morgano, or Scott Voth with proposals and submissions.

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