Inspiring story of how online helped the University of Canterbury in New Zealand get back on its feet after the earthquake in February 2011:

With the library still unsafe – and half a million books to be reshelved – major education publishing houses helped out by temporarily allowing access to their online resources for free. Much greater use was made of Canterbury’s online learning system: today it remains twice as well used as before the quake. But the senior management team knew it had to think about more than the physical environment.

“You start thinking it’s about the buildings, but it’s not,” says Carr. “It’s about the student body. We always knew it would be important to maintain student engagement or we’d get substantial student flight.”

The quake struck on the second day of teaching in the new academic year, making freshers particularly susceptible to being scared off.

With communication a priority, social media became a key tool, and the university set up “UC” accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

“The purpose was to disseminate information, but the real impact was that students were able to feel connected,” says Ekant Veer, senior lecturer in marketing at Canterbury, who is researching post-quake online expression.

“It also allowed them to vent their frustrations… the more social aspects of social media meant that students were able to feel their voices were being heard and their thoughts valued. Without it, many of them may well have struggled far more.”

Read full story. See also this story about creating a digital archive.

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