Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Study finds lack of social connect on varsity websites

May 09 2016 : The Times of India (Pune)
Study finds lack of social connect on varsity websites

As many as 19 state-run universities in Maharashtra have failed miserable to tap the growing power of social media through their websites, a recent study has revealed.The study , undertaken by communication researchers Kiran Thakur and Ashwini Kamble, was carried out between April 2012, April 2013 and April 2016 where the data related to 12 important attributes of these websites was compared with the portals of three top world universities.
Thakur is the retired head of the Department of Communication and Journalism, Savitribai Phule Pune University, while Kamble is the assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Amaravati.
Findings of the study have been compiled in a book -“Websites of State Universities in Maharashtra: A study of Attributes and attitudes towards Contents and Responses“. The book will be released in the city on Monday by Devi Singh, vice-chancellor of FLAME University .

From left to right: Co-author Ashwini Kamble, Author Kiran Thakur, FLAME University Vice Chancellor Dr. Devi Singh, Dr. Arun Nigavekar, for UGC Chairman, EduSanchar Publisher Dr.Mangesh Karandikar, and Ekvira Publications Bhalchandra Kulkarni
Thakur said, “Websites are important for the universities to interact with students, parents and other stakeholders. Indian universities have provided computers and internet services to their staff, including teachers, top executives and non-teaching staff, so that they can use e-mail services to interact with the stakeholders.“
This research was carried out in phases where the first stage focussed on the interactivity of the university websites with the interests of admission-seeking students and parents. The second stage was to find out if the teachers and top executives responded to emails sent by parents.
Kamble said, “Some staff members wrote grammatically incorrect English or used SMS script. They did not even run spellcheck before responding to the mails. Also, most links like alumni, feedback and social networking sites were not visible at the first glace.“
The study found that a high number of academic staff did not exploit interactivity features of the internet, which prompted the researchers to suggest that similar studies should be undertaken for websites of deemed-to-be and central universities, colleges and other academic institutes.
The researchers observed that the website designers limited their skills to only the look of their websites and not so much about the essential attributes that are useful for the stakeholders. “The university staff should be trained in etiquettes for email responses.They should be made aware that these etiquettes can make or mar the reputation of any university ,“ they suggested.
Sanjay Ranade, head of the department of communication and journalism, University of Mumbai, said, “It is credible that the researchers have identified the communication and accessibility aspect of this scenario and an attempt to study it has been made. The methodology adopted for this exploratory venture is sound within the limitations of the researchers and findings are significant.“
The 19 state universities which were part of the study included Savitribai Phule Pune University , Mumbai University , Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University , Mahatma Phule Agricultural University , Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University , Maharashtra University of Health Sciences among others.
In their study , the researchers observed that the Pune varsity website does not have some links active on top of its homepage, including Geoinformatics, management studies, alumni, commerce and research among others. As many as 92 emails were sent to the varsity in May 2012 of which 10 bounced, 18 responses were received and 74 of them were not responded at all.

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