Something that has always been a passion of mine in all of my various career incarnations is open-source information sharing. I see this as the concept that sharing awareness, ideas, creativity and results with colleagues in your field, helps them to not reinvent the wheel, but alter the wheel to help them be more successful. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that people should be paid for their services, skills and expertise, but something that I’ve seen in recently in the field of student affairs and higher education is the integration of this open-sharing mentality. From my perspective, I think it could be an amazing driving force for pushing the envelope in terms of student development and holistic education.
Open-sourcing comes in a variety of forms. Likely, since the initial origins of student affairs, networking and group dialogues have been a great source for getting ideas and information. As you move through time you see that journal articles and publications have sparked a collective consciousness of robust ideas and program development. Now, as we are working our way through the second decade of the 21st century, we are seeing a third movement, one driven by the digital universe that surrounds us. We’re able to share ideas in their infancy through blogging, while they are in process through things like twitter and Facebook, and post assessment via the various #SAshare platforms that are popping up across the internet.
This revolution, and the ability to “open-source” our student affairs know-how provides us a unique set of advantages that are just now hitting the field in a meaningful way.
1. Program development doesn’t require us to start with a blank slate. Instead, we are now able to take a program that has been initiated and tweak it to suit the needs of our population better.
2. We don’t need to learn only from our own failures, but can benefit from the failures of our colleagues. Although we may learn the most from our own failures, this allows us to be more efficient in our efforts without necessarily having to experience the downfalls associated with “failure.”
3. Broadening assessment ability by seeing how programs work in a “real world” laboratory. By proposing ideas and getting comments, criticisms, and real feedback as to how such ideas have worked for others, others can help assess the feasibility and ROI of a program or idea.
4. Alternative professional development opportunities that inherently arise when you learn from the experiences of others. Although you might not have a chance to go to a conference and listen to an expert speak, you can see the work they are accomplishing and utilize what you learn in your own niche.
In reality, the advantages to the increasing number of platforms showing up in Student Affairs is an exciting transformation and evolution. So share what you see, do, think, desire, and as you’re growing and thriving as a professional in the field, leave a crumb trail for your colleagues. Hashtag articles, tweets, and interesting tidbits with #SAshare, send out interesting projects to your small and national list-servs, post things on the multitude of LinkedIn groups and Facebook pages that exist, and as things progress, do your part to participate in and add to our online communities of higher educations open-sourcers. We may have gone through the golden age of student affairs integration, but we are now truly entrenched in the new age of student affairs.