Teaching Web 2.0 Skills: 23 Things Oxford


See the video case study on Oxford Podcasts or the LTG YouTube Channel.

Inspired by the 23 Things Oxford team, IT Services will be running a 23 Things for Research course as part of the forthcoming “EngageSocial Media Michaelmas” programme. Sign up here, or follow the programme on Facebook.

Web 2.0 skills are becoming essential in any organisation, but providing effective training for members of busy academic systems can be difficult. Blogging can be a perfect medium for time-efficient training programmes. 23 Things Oxford  used a blog to deliver skill-development in Web 2.0 technologies for Oxford librarians. The programme ran for 12 weeks from 18th January to 9th April, 2010 and was open to all staff in Oxford libraries. For each of the 12 weeks there were 12 themes and 23 Things to complete. These themes included: wikis, widgets, Office 2.0, Twitter, social networking, podcasting and YouTube, RSS feeds and blogs. 23 Things Oxford is based on the original 23 Things program at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, USA in 2006. The 23 Things Oxford team are: Laura Wilkinson, St Hugh’s College Library, who led the innovation; Penny Schenk, Bodleian Law Library; Jane Rawson, Vere Harmsworth Library; Emma Cragg, University of Warwick; and Angela Carritt, Bodleian Libraries.

The Challenge

With such a range of tools introduced in a comparatively short amount of time, a balance needed to be struck in order to allow participants to focus on a different area each week without feeling overwhelmed.

Furthermore, an environment that encouraged participants to work together and share with each other their discoveries, techniques and tips was required. 23 Things Oxford was based the principle of encouraging self-directed learning and co-operative sharing, in order to use the large group of simultaneous participants as a learning resource.

The Innovation

The aim was that, by having an average of 2 Things to do per week, this challenge would be wide-ranging but at the same time realistic for the time available. The 23 Things itinerary appeared on the 23 Things Oxford blog, but the release of exercises was staggered.  Each week the blog was updated with full details about the discovery exercises for that week. There were also 3 drop-in sessions offered to support this programme.

An incentive was provided for both the prompt completion of the programme. Each participant was required to keep a blog to track their progress. Staff who completed and blogged about all 23 Things by the 9th April received a completion certificate and a prize.  They were also entered into a draw to win an iPod Nano.

The 23 Things Oxford blog was Creative Commons-licensed, so the programme could provide an ongoing teaching resource after its finish.


138 members of library staff at Oxford registered to take part in the programme and set up blogs to record their progress. Of these, 82 participants successfully completed the programme.  Since the programme at Oxford, 23 Things has been run by other UK universities including Cambridge and Warwick, and 23 Things for Continuing Professional Development is now underway.

In the post-programme survey, 93% of respondents said they would recommend the programme to their colleagues. The majority of respondents felt the ratio of tasks to time was appropriate, but for the 23% of respondents who did not complete the programme, the main reason given was a lack of time. There were also concerns over privacy and controlling online presence.

In addition to the majority of survey responses, feedback from the e-mails and blog posts of the participants was positive.

Top Tips for Success

  1. Use a blog as the teaching platform so that timing is flexible and inclusive and the program is not tied to a specific location.
  2. Have clear instructions and specific outcomes for each task. Use reflective weeks and open-ended topics sparingly.
  3. Differentiate tasks for novice, intermediate and advanced level for each topic, so that all participants increase their knowledge, but the outcomes are slightly different.
  4. Encourage people to comment on each other’s blogs, to develop conversations and build a sense of community.

Further Information

Go to the 23 Things Blog

You can read more about 23 Things Oxford in this paper.

And in Laura Wilkinson’s blogposts

If you have any questions, contact the Web 2.0 team via 23things@bodleian.ox.ac.uk or through the team’s Twitter pages.

Sign up to IT Services courses:

23 Things for Research course as part of the forthcoming “EngageSocial Media Michaelmas” programme. Sign up here, or follow the programme on Facebook.

Twitter for academia
Online Presence: A workshop 
Online Presence: An overview
Online Presence: Tools, skills and resources
Copyright in the digital world 

Poster used with kind permission of Laura Wilkinson.

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One Response to “Teaching Web 2.0 Skills: 23 Things Oxford”

  1. […] the programme for Oxford librarians a couple of years ago. They were lovely enough to come and do a podcast for us about it (shameless plug but it is my blog after all). When I was told that it was running […]

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