Indexed on: 02 Dec '11Published on: 02 Dec '11Published in: Journal of veterinary medical education
An online professional network for veterinarians, veterinary students, veterinary educationalists, and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) educationalists is being developed under the EU (European Union) Lifelong Learning Programme. The network uses Web 2.0, a term used to describe the new, more interactive version of the Internet, and includes tools such as wikis, blogs, and discussion boards. Focus groups conducted with qualified and student veterinarians within the project's five founding countries (The Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Hungary, Romania) demonstrated that online professional communities can be valuable for accessing information and establishing contacts. Online networks have the potential to overcome common challenges to face-to-face communities-such as distance, cost, and timing-but they have their own drawbacks, such as security and professionalism issues. The Network Of Veterinary ICt in Education (NOVICE) was developed using Elgg, an open-source, free social networking platform, after several software options had been considered. NOVICE aims to promote the understanding of Web 2.0, confidence to use social software tools, and participation in an online community. Therefore, the Web site contains help sections, Frequently Asked Questions, and access to support from ICT experts. Five months after the network's launch (and just over one year into the project) 515 members from 28 countries had registered. Further research will include analysis of a core group's activities, which will inform ongoing support for and development of informal, lifelong learning in a veterinary context.