Online Communities and Professional Networking
Build Online Communities that Thrive
To accomplish your goals, LearningTimes seeks out or develops “best-of-breed” tools to enhance the online experience of your community members. LearningTimes selects the features best suited for each community, collaboration environment, workshop or event.
LearningTimes offers training for community leaders, as well as complete marketing, outreach, e-commerce registration and communication services to support the development of your online community.
The Tools and Team to Build Your Community
Each community offers the ability to organize and access a wide range of media and materials, host live webcasts and virtual meetings, post and review webcast recordings, facilitate anytime discussions, create and maintain shared data repositories, and collect and sort media and other resources.
From interactive timelines, to online galleries, age-appropriate games for members, widgets for performing important work-related tasks, rubric-generators, activity creators, or narrated and animated pieces that guide members through important or complex material – our project team is available to make it all happen.
User-Centered Community Design and Development
When it comes to online community, we know that you need to make it easy for lurkers to lurk and consumers to consume – for most people will initially explore a site and ask themselves, “What is here that I can take to make my life easier or to enrich what I am doing?”
Fewer people initially seek out a site looking for how they can give or contribute. Yet it is the ease with which one can add resources and contributions to the community that ultimately leads to rapid content generation, pleasing the lurkers, and ultimately yielding more consumers who become contributors.
LearningTimes’ expertise in usability, information architecture, and community building ensures an intuitive and engaging online user experience. Information Architecture, in concert with Visual Design and Design Technology is an integral part of LearningTimes’ user-centered design philosophy, which rests on three principles:
- Focus on specific users
- Identify those users’ key goals
- Design scenarios to facilitate those goals
This philosophy addresses business objectives by producing interactive systems that respond first and foremost to real user goals. It ensures that the users – the real people who will be using these systems day-to-day and who determine their success or failure – are not left behind in the development process.
During the initial phase of our relationship, we will combine our own expertise and ideas with your desired approach to the overall community interface and user experience. The result will be a design path that creates an effective collaboration community.
We work with you to develop strategies for information management, including maintaining the integrity of content throughout the process, organizing and storing information and respecting image or document copyrights, etc. Code and software used in developing LearningTimes communities are often open-source and free of copyright. We find most free, reliable, portable, flexible and open source back-end development technologies are extremely well documented and supported worldwide.
Evaluation and Testing
Beta testing and user testing helps to ensure that your community is functioning as it should, and is meeting the needs of all your members. We recommend that in addition to the Beta testing phase, there be focus group testing with typical users using the site and providing feedback. We have helped partners conduct these studies in the past, and would be happy to help with this important phase.
Our evaluation of the system includes robust unit testing that tests back-end functionality in conjunction with finalization of requirements and prior to code development.
Maintenance and Support
LearningTimes is committed to creating applications that will be easily maintained and updated throughout the lifecycle of the site. We offer ongoing support during the deployment phase to ensure successful launches. We also provide a suite of community support services to take effect after the completion of the implementation phase.
LearningTimes understands first-hand the importance of upfront support, guidance and mentoring when getting new communities up and running. LearningTimes is pleased to provide community-building, content development, marketing and outreach services to aid in the growth and development of the your community.
LearningTimes staff act as an adjunct “Mayor” of the site, working with your staff and content specialists to recruit and communicate with members, to promote contributions, online activities, to create a community culture, and to foster regular usage of the site.
To ensure the long-term success of the initiative, we often propose annual plans based on a fixed number of Mayoral Service hours per month. Mayoral Service plans available upon request, and can be custom-crafted based on your specific needs.
Third-Party Tool Integration
The LearningTimes suite of community-building services is enhanced by our deep knowledge of the online collaboration and learning marketplace. We not only use many best-of-breed online collaboration tools, but we have contributed to the development of many.
During planning or after initial deployment, LearningTimes can review or recommend third-party tools to add value to the Community. We can also configure these tools, integrate them into the community, host them and train your staff to use them effectively. From webcast tools, to synchronous meeting rooms, to voice-based discussion forums or enhanced multimedia integration, our technical and creative teams will ensure that you can add new functionality to your own standards-based Community platform through our integration services.
Rich Media Content and Widget Design
Well-designed, immersive and engaging multimedia modules and “widgets” (discrete and functional tools) can act as anchor points and valuable resources to online community members. Original multimedia pieces or tools can act as indispensable educator resources or job aids and give community members a concrete reason to invite colleagues to join the site, growing your Community membership base.