Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tools you can use to set up professional websites and online communities

This is the second post in response to questions that I have recently received about how to set up professional websites and networking sites for midwives. Here are a few suggestions for platforms that you may wish to explore which will allows you to disseminate information and resources, collaborate and network with professional colleagues.

My first choice is usually Facebook because most people are familiar with its look and functionality. The down side of Facebook is that it is often blocked in hospitals and education institutes. And there is a lot of concern about the professional use of Facebook. But you have to remember that it is usually not the tool that is the problem but rather the way people use it. So, maybe a closed group with strict rules about security may do the job you want.

Here's a great example of a profession Facebook page that belongs to the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Ning and Grouply
If you do not like the idea of Facebook for whatever reason, choose or develop a site that has a similar feel to Facebook. A lot of people used to swear by Ning, which is a platform that is like Facebook but can be customised to suit your own needs. It used to be free but now you have to pay for it.

Here's an example of how Ning has been used to develop an online community of people interested in health informatics.

If you'd prefer a free platform, you may wish to have a look at Grouply. I haven't spent much time looking at Grouply, but I have heard good feedback about its look and functionality.

When I 'googled' midwives and Grouply, this is one group I found for people who are aspiring to become midwives.

Blogger and Wordpress
If what you want to do is disseminate news and information, I don't think you can do better than use a blog. The beauty of a blog is that it is interactive as opposed to a static website which is a one way mode of communication. With a blog, readers can leave comments and questions. But you will need to make sure that someone takes responsibility for monitoring the blog, answering comments and keeping the blog updated.

Here is a couple of examples of midwifery blogs: The Australian College of Midwives WA Branch uses Blogger, and here is a personal midwifery blog belonging to Midwife Thinking who is using Wordpress.

Wetpaint and Wikispaces
If you want a collaborative website that people can add material and edit content, then I would recommend a wiki of some sort. The two wiki platforms that come to mind that are relatively easy to use for newbies is Wetpaint and Wikispaces. Whilst these platforms are free, I do think it is worth paying for the version that comes free of adverts, especially if you are using it for professional purposes.

Here is an example of a Wetpaint wiki set up for midwives interested in sustainability. And here is the Wikispaces wiki I use for planning and facilitating the Virtual International Day of the Midwife.

Google Sites, PBworks and Weebly
I have some friends who are occupational therapists and they are currently using PBworks and Weebly to develop a online community for OTs, and organise events and disseminate information. I must to admit I have not used either of these websites, but I really like the look of the work the OTs have done. For more information, please contact Merrolee Penman who is one of the OTs who set up these websites.

I have not had much experience of using Google Sites but I can tell you it is a free tool for developing a website and wiki. Here is the website developed by the Kelowna Community Midwives to tell their clients about their services.

What platform have you used to set up professional websites for online communities and networks? What would you recommend and why?

Image: 'Reflections'


Alexandre said...

As you surely know, BuddyPress is a way to build a free Facebook/Ning on top of Wordprwss in a few clicks. I'm using it in my classes, now.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you,, I have never heard of thanks for that :)

InfoMidwife said...

thanks Sarah as always great information, thanks for the use of the ACM WA blog....I had a look at the NMC FB you posted, looks great got some ideas I might use for the college FB....thanks

Sarah Stewart said...

@Infomidwife How useful has your FB page been for developing an online community of midwives?

JJCustodio said...

A very interesting and useful post,¿Where is the first post?

Sarah Stewart said...

Sorry JJ, here is the first post. Thank you for your interest.