Landing : Athabascau University

Getting to know the Landing: Revision

Last updated May 9, 2013 - 5:42pm by Jon Dron

The Landing offers a huge range of tools and facilties for you to share things with others, make connections with people, communicate, and form communities. This is a very brief overview of some of the main features found on the menu, but is very far from being comprehensive. Do feel free to explore the site and discover its many facilities, and read the help files for individual tools and features.

The Landing is similar in some ways to systems like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, Hi5, Ning and other social networking systems, mixed in with other social things like blogs, Flickr, del.icio.us, wikis and Twitter (microblogging). Unlike such sites, you are not the product - you own what you create and we will not bombard you with advertisements and unwanted spam (and, if you do get too many messages as a result of using the site, you can easily turn them off). Also, everyone here is known: this is a closed community with windows to the outside world, not a free-for-all. That makes it much easier to trust that people are who they say they are and that they will behave respectfully. It's an all-purpose social toolkit for creating things to share, building connections, communicating with others, and doing things in groups. It's a virtual learning commons where you are in control. It's a space to create stuff and share it with others.

Among its most distinctive features is the control that it gives to you over who can view (and sometimes even edit, if you wish) content you contribute to the Landing. Almost everything you do or add here can be as private or as public as you wish. For example, if you want the world to see your blog post or photo, you can make it public. If you want it to only be seen by a specific group or even an individual, you can very easily do so by selecting them from a list. If you want it to be completely private (say, if it is a work in progress or you just want a place to store your photos) that's fine too. Google + does this too, now, but the Landing got there first!

The default setting (that, like most things, you can change) is that anyone logged into this site can see what you post - in other words, only members of the AU extended community, including students, alumni, faculty and other staff will be able to see what you share, except in groups, where the default permission is that only other group members can see it. This makes it a much safer space than typical social networking sites, with the reassurance that anything that people share here can be reliably attributed to an individual. The only exception to this is comments made on things that have been shared with the public: anyone can comment on such posts, but the owner of that content has to approve any comments they make, so you can simply ignore or delete any that you don't want. We also have a measure of spam prevention on such posts that should prevent most robot spammers from interrupting your day.

The top bar menu

the main Landing menu

The top toolbar gives you quick access to many of the site tools and facilities, including the following options:

Explore the Landing

You can use this menu to look at the site home page, the latest posts you are allowed to see, the tags used on the site (classifications of posts by our members) and to search for people, as well as to browse the different kinds of content such as blogs, files, photos and calendar events. If you are new to the site, this is a good place to start browsing to discover the kinds of things people are posting.

You

Once you start using the Landing you will likely want to organize things the way you want them, to reveal yourself to different people in different ways, to configure how the site interacts with you and so on. The 'You' menu includes:

  • Your own profile page: where you can change what others see about you and the layout and content of your profile page. This is rather like your home page on the site. You can choose how much or how little different people and groups can see, from the whole world down to a single individual. You can configure how it looks to other people and what it contains using a very simple drag and drop interface. Note that your image and name are the only things that you cannot set permissions on and that these are visible to the whole world - if you don't want that, simply choose a different image (or none if you prefer) and make your name less identifiable (configured in your settings).
  • Your Dashboard: this is your private space on the site that you can configure how you wish to contain the things that you want to pay attention to or that you use most often. Like the Profile, it has an easy drag and drop interface. You are the only one who can see your dashboard: it is a space for you to organise things on the Landing the way you want. Widgets, many of them highly configurable, can be used to display particular groups, people, content tagged with things that interest you, and so on.
  • Your settings: this option lets you change how the system behaves, such as whether you receive notification emails or the user name and password it uses to get or send information to or from elsewhere (such as Twitter) as well as some interface tweaks.
  • Your messages:  lets you see messages others have sent to you and send messages to others that you know (people you are following and groups). You can adjust your settings to choose whether you receive notifications in the first place and, if so, who from and in what format (only through the Landing and/or via email)
  • Your activity: what you have posted to the site
  • Individual tools showing your blog posts, events, files and so on. Note that these mostly do not show things you have posted in different groups

Your network

The Landing has social networking tools, though it is not intended as a social network like Facebook. You can follow people's activity on the Landing and they can follow you. Optionally, you can choose to receive notifications when they post things. You can group people you follow into circles, which are subsets of those you follow. You can use circles to limit who can see your posts, as well as to manage your notifications (e.g. you might only want to receive alerts when your friends, your students or your teachers post things). There's a tool for finding people you may know but note that it can only make recommendations if you are already following people and/or have joined a group or two.

Groups

You can access groups that you own, groups that you belong to, group notifications and creating new groups from this menu. Groups can be used for many purposes, from supporting traditional courses and committees to creating a portfolio of things that interest you and that others may contribute to. Groups have all the tools available to you as an individual plus a discussion forum, and can be as private or as public as you wish.

Create & Share

This menu gives you one-click access to create blogs, upload files, share photos, create wikis, events in the calendar and a whole lot more. Note that this is all to do with you sharing things as an individual. Groups have their own separate tools for creating posts within them.

Search

Does what it says! It shows results grouped according to the tools etc that relate to them (e.g. photos, blog posts, groups, etc) so you can narrow your search to specific people, groups or kinds of post. The search is not very sophisticated - it will find posts that contain any of the words you enter in the search term.

Getting more out of the Landing

When you are looking at the Landing for the first time, you will only get to see a relatively small amount of the content that is posted, and it is set up with a few defaults that might not suit your needs very well. The Landing has a diverse community posting on a wide variety of topics and it can feel like a bit of a tangled mess at first. To get the most out of the Landing and start customizing it to your needs and interests, it is useful to start adding people to your network (by 'following' them - not in a creepy way!) and joining some groups. In most groups, until you are a member, you only get to see a small proportion of what is actually there. Membership has privileges. Following someone on the Landing means that you can get alerts when they post something, assuming they have allowed you to see it, and you can also configure your dashboard to show what people have been doing.

As you start to get used to the site, you will probably find some things that interest you more than others. That's where your dashboard can come in handy, because it lets you add widgets that you can configure to show you the things you want to see and to provide shortcuts to them. Your dashboard is your personal space that no one else can see. You can add tabs to it so that it has multiple pages, each of which can serve a different purpose. For instance, you might have one tab for one course, one for another, one to track people you know, etc. You can even embed other pages on a tab so, for instance, you could include your Facebook or LinkedIn page in the same space.

Being a social site, the greatest value of all comes when you share things with others, comment on what they have shared or simply just send messages to communicate. The Landing has a wealth of tools to help you do that. If you don't have anything to share just yet, you can still make a difference to your own and others' experience of the site: for example, you can click the thumbs-up symbol if you find a post interesting or useful. That makes it easier for you to find in future (there's a widget you can add to your dashboard to show the things you have recommended) and it can help others to find things that might be interesting, and it only takes a second or two to do. The more the site is used, the better it gets!

This is a public page. Please note that any comments you add to the page will also be visible to the world.

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