SI 529: Online communities

If you would like to obtain a free, high-quality assessment or a proposal for your online community, you can submit a proposal to be a course client. If a student group chooses your project, they will study your organization and provide you with a recommendation report on your existing online community or how to develop a new one.

What is SI 529?

SI 529 is a master's-level course taught in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. Students will learn to analyze online interaction environments with an eye toward design.

The course is based around a semester-long project in which individuals or groups of 2 students select an organization to study and then proceed to conduct a series of evaluations and other analyses on existing online communities, or to provide recommendations to develop an online community.

Why should I suggest a project?

The main reason to suggest a 529 project is to receive objective, thorough, and detailed feedback on your existing online community or to receive guidance for the development of one. UMSI students are extremely talented, motivated, and hardworking, and will work hard to produce information of high value to your organization. There are some potential side benefits as well. UMSI students make great employees! This is true whether you are interested in hiring part time help during the school year, interns over the summer, or full time employees after graduation. By having students do course projects with you, you are able to let UMSI students become aware of your organization and what you do while also getting a sneak peak at particular students you might want to recruit.

Ideal projects/clients

For the purpose of this course, a community is defined as a group of people who engage in sustained interaction. The group may be held together by a common identity, a collective purpose, or merely by the individual utility gained from the interactions. An online interaction environment is an electronic forum, accessed through computers or other electronic devices, in which community members can conduct some or all of their interactions. We will use the terms ‘e-community’ or ‘online community’ as shorthand for groups of individuals that conduct all of their interactions online and for collectives that use online interaction to supplement face-to-face interactions. Although “community” is not well-defined in the research literature, we will explore different dimensions of what constitutes a community and how mediated interactions can support or hinder their development.

We are seeking organizations of any type that has an existing online community or would like to develop one.  

Students in SI 529 need to have access to information that will help guide their study. This will include access to interview current organization members, ability to interact with an existing online community, and access to talk with community members. Password-protected communities are possible candidates, provided that adequate student access can be provided during for the duration of the course. 

Organizations are signing up to work with 529 students to analysis and recommend changes to the online engagement strategies they currently use. An example organization could be a local public radio station, which would work with a student team to analyze how they currently use social media to engage with their listeners.

Project proposal submission

Interested organizations can fill out this form to apply to participate in the class.

Contact information

Cliff Lampe
University of Michigan School of Information
Associate Professor