Summary of Desktop User Research – With Implications for the Development of Features

The application should enable matching between student and supervisor. This includes:

  • Identification of expertise (e.g. qualifications and publications) and mutual academic interests through the building of a profile, bibliography, and membership of particular research interest groups. This would also need to be supported by search options, so that users could easily find one another.
  • Options for posting materials about, and in support of, the PhD proposal. This could be kept on a private setting that would then only become visible to those tutors that the student approached to be their supervisor.
  • Private messaging and chats between student and supervisor, and between students and PhD students under a particular supervisor.
  • An algorithm supporting the creation of stable supervisory relationships (the Gale-Shapley algorithm ).
  • Templates and guidance matched to different stages of the supervisory relationship/PhD journey, for both supervisors and students. 

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User Research: The Relationship Between Online and Offline Social Networks

When designing an online social network it is important to consider whether this is likely to result in the creation of a ‘new network’, or reflects existing real world contacts.

In the 1990s, Dunbar  proposed a neurocognitive limit on the number of people that a person can have in their social network of around 150 stable relationships.   Research on undergraduate use of Facebook found that although the median number of contacts in the sample was 300 Facebook friends, the actual number of people participants considered friends was around 75.   Recently Dunbar (2015)  found that the number of online friends in a Facebook network that are actual friends is  similar to that of friendships.  (Parsons 2017).

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Privacy and Age Online

The Need for Nuanced Research

Many existing studies (often focused on adolescent or student samples) try to make general assumptions about how humans regard privacy and what actions they take, or fail to take, to protect their own privacy.

But Blank, Bolsover, and Dubois (2014) found that only three peer-reviewed papers that addressed questions of privacy using a sample that could be generalized to a population. Continue reading “Privacy and Age Online”

The Social, Legal and Ethical Context of ‘MeetingofMinds’

We live in a time where online social networks and the higher educational systems are facing major challenges.  In both cases, they are facing major new political and regulatory pressures.

The global social media giants are being regularly criticised in the press for data breaches, fake news, and a number of other perceived social ‘ills’. Even advocates of the Web, such as Tim Berners-Lee is publicly stating that these corporate giants have too much power, and this is potentially distorting the Web.

Most recently, the publicity around Cambridge Analytics use of Facebook data, has further reduced public trust in social networks, and both companies are facing class actions.

9 November 2017; Alexander Nix, CEO, Cambridge Analytica, on Centre Stage during day three of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon. Photo by Sam Barnes/Web Summit via Sportsfile.  Taken from ,

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User Research: Students Use of Social Media For Academic Purposes

Students Use of Social Media in Academia

Students use a variety of social networks both generally, and to support their academic work. In the past some universities have set up social networks for students, but many universities now just connect into mainstream platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Social media is being used broadly across higher education, and some applications are specifically designed for education.

Much of the literature on social media and higher education focuses on the integration of social media websites into the classroom, but social networks in education can have a wider reach and impact than this.

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User Research: PhD Students Looking for Supervisors

Supervision is key to a PHD students’ success.

The Web is full stories of students finding it difficult to locate and work with PhD supervisors, this includes stories about PhD supervision that has ended up being a negative experience.

Across universities and disciplines, many students seem to have been poorly briefed on how they to develop their research proposal and then find the right match.

Fuller (2015) reported that 70–87% of full-time PhD candidates across 30 institutions in the UK completed in 7 years, but doctoral attrition rates are high in North America: an estimated 40% to 50% of candidates never finish.  This level of non completion alongside a rise in the number of students enrolling in PhDs.

Lecture Classroom Education Student University

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Analysis of Existing Websites/User Research: Findings on Academic Social Networking Sites

Academic Social Networking Sites (ASNS)

There are a large range of social networks used by academics, this includes Academic Social Networking sites.

Four of the most popular ASNS are, Researchgate, Mendeley, and Zotero

These sites are used by academics to: organize, create profiles, display research work and connect with peers with similar research interests.    Continue reading “Analysis of Existing Websites/User Research: Findings on Academic Social Networking Sites”

User Research: How Academics View Social Media

Social Media Use Among Academics

Academia relies on the generation, transmission and sharing of knowledge, and there are already many social networks that exist to support such dynamics between academics, and professional researchers.  Unsuprisingly social media usage has been growing rapidly amongst academics.

Jordan and Weller (2018) have undertaken an up-to-date and comprehensive review of current findings of views academics have of social media.

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