NEACUHO ResLife 2.0: This “Issuu” in Tech

As someone who lives and breathes tech I sometimes forget that there is a language in the technology world does not always translate to the average consumer.  I felt this acutely during RA training this August when I was leading a RA training session on how to use the new Res Life wiki.  At the beginning of my presentation I asked the group “Does anyone know what Web 2.0 is?”  Complete Silence.  I then told them that they were all Web 2.0 experts.  I asked how many people blogged or uploaded pictures to a sharing site like Flickr.  Several hands flew up.  I asked how many people used Facebook.  Everyone in the room raised their hands.  Web 2.0 is a term coined by the media and used by many to describe the new way that we use the internet.  Web 1.0 was about receiving information.  Web 2.0 is about interacting with content and contributing in some way to the online world.  As described by Wikipedia (a Web 2.0 technology), Web 2.0 include[s] social-networking sites, blogs, wikis, video-sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, and mashups.

This summer I worked with my college-age brother to jazz up his resume.  For anyone else who has suffered through the creation of a resume with a student who does not have the richness of student activities or office jobs, I know you feel my pain.  In the end I talked to him about the things he could speak to potential employers about that were not learned from past job experiences.  I told him to market his Web 2.0 savvy.  Another blank face.  Even after explaining what the term means, students do not seem to understand the value of their hours spent on Facebook, uploading pictures from their phone, or tweeting.  They don’t realize how much the business world, or even the Student Affairs world really values the comfortable relationship this generation has with technology.  They grew up with it, so they don’t see it as a big deal.

According to collection of studies put together by the Student Technology Ownership Profile (2008)Affairs Advisory Council (2010), 93% of teens are online, spending an average of 25 hours on the Internet per month.  They also send and receive an average of 2899 texts per month.  My fingers hurt just thinking about that number.  As shown in a 2008 NASPA study, these “digitally native” college students come to our institutions already active participants on the Web, and ready to use technology to navigate their college experience.  I invite you to see the embedded chart showing the profile of today’s college students. I marvel on how much things have changed in only a few years.  It is important to note that this study is from 2008 and the growth feels exponential.  After reflecting on the statistics, the question remains, are we as student affairs practitioners ready to use emerging technologies to engage the students on their own turf?  Do we take the time necessary to learn how to use the new methods of communication available to us?  If you hesitated even a little bit, you are recognizing that you still have a lot to learn.  And I know what you are thinking, “But I just delegate that stuff to my work-study students.”  Yes, it is important to capitalize on your student workers various skills, and yes, I did just talk about how important Web 2.0 can be to a student’s resume, but remember, if you don’t know what is out there, you don’t know how to push your department forward and truly engage this new digital generation.

I know for some of you I am “preaching to the choir.”  You are already using new technologies on your campus and having amazing successes.  I want to know about those innovations!  Not only do I want to steal your ideas and use them on my own campus, but also I want to share them with our NEACUHO readership so they can use them to!  Did you revolutionize how you process Room Condition Reports?  Start a twitter revolution?  Help an idea go “viral” online?  Through this regular tech column I would both like to spotlight ideas coming from all of your campuses, and share some of my own pearls of wisdom.

This issue’s Pearl?  Issuu.  Does this email message seem familiar to any of you? “Your e-mail storage quota has been exceeded. Please save your e-mail to your computer and remove it from the server or new mail may not be received. This message is auto-generated, please do not reply.”  If you are anything like me, you spend much of your week battling the Quota-Monster, trying to attack just enough large emails so as to make the message go away for another week.  The culprit? Large attachments.  As offices around your college and their tech savvy student workers start to create fancy image-heavy flyers and newsletters your inbox will end up being the recipient of multiple megabyte (MB) files.  As a way to cut down on these large attachments I have actually enacted an informal process of not forwarding anything with an attachment.  In the process of rejecting the attachment, I talk the owner through all of the ways in which they can get their message (and their attachment) to the community without forwarding large flyers.  One of these fantastic innovations is the FREE online PDF publication site Issuu.

Issue in actionIssuu offers a space for publishing those multiple megabyte newsletters, flyers, and PowerPoint presentations in a beautiful, easy to access format.  Students who access the documents can see it in a quick view, click on it to view in full flip-page mode, and turn pages, just like a magazine.  You can track how many unique views you receive, even graph which days the most people are viewing it.  You can ask students to comment on the document/newsletter to create discussion, and make your links live, so you audience can follow your newsletter links to the website of that new campus activity you are trying to promote, or the website on your open leadership positions.   Want to create something private only your staff can view?  No problem, Issuu can do that too.  Personally I also use it for graphic design inspiration since there are thousands of public publications to peruse.

Issuu isn’t the only PDF publisher out there.  Other websites include Scribd, YUDU, flipviewer.  Find the format that works for you, and give it a whirl.  If you do decide to give Issuu a try, please use the words “college housing” as your keywords so that we can all find each other’s publications!  Want to see an Issuu publication in action?  Visit this month’s Simmons College Res Campus Newsletter to see a sample newsletter. Click on the new student link to see an opening of the halls newsletter.

Remember, to take a few minutes of your week and challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone.  Learn a new technology, and become a part of the Residence Life 2.0 revolution!

Contact me with your innovations, Ideas, questions, or comments at or via twitter at

Sources: Student Affairs Leadership Council, Managing IT in Student Affairs Organizations (2010):
•    “Profile of Today’s College Students,” NASPA. 2008. (accessed January 7, 2010); Salaway, Gail, Judith Borrenson Caruso, and Mark R. Nelson.
•    “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Student and Information Technology, 2008.” EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 8 (2008);
•    “Voices and Views of Today’s Tech-Savvy Students: National Report on NetDay Speak Up for Students, 2003.” NetDay, (March 2004). (accessed August 11, 2009).
•    Finn, Megan. “Report on Freshquest.” Draft Report, Berkley: University of California Berkeley, July 24, 2006. (accessed September 16, 2009);
•    “How Teens Use Media.” The Nielson Company (June 2009). (accessed August 13, 2009);
•    Salaway, Gail, Judith Borrenson Caruso, and Mark R. Nelson. “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Student and Information Technology, 2008.” EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 8 (2008); Advisory Board Interviews and analysis.


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