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QuonNet Connecting the World - A Learning SNS from Waseda

On October 21st 2008, Waseda University started a learning-oriented SNS (social networking service) called "QuonNet" at http://www.quon.asia/. Although Waseda University established it, the users consist of not only students and faculty from Waseda University, but also students from other universities, as well as members of the workforce. The wide variety of people participating in the site also includes corporations, local governments and NPOs. The contents are roughly divided into "Get together", "Learn and Explore", and "Read. Know". Members can use the e-Learning system to study English conversation, writing skills and facilitation seminars. They can also participate in original user communities such as the "Tokyo Gourmet Club", the "Collection of Real Meeting Facilitation Know-how" and the "philosophy and sociology study group". There is also a wealth of blogs by specialists, and with user numbers already over 1500, this "Circle of Learning" created by Waseda is starting to show real growth.

"Nissan's V-shaped Recovery" Know-how

Announcement in front of Miyazaki Prefectural Governor Higashikokubaru. Many media representatives gathered, and it became a matter of interest locally.

October 2008 at the Miyazaki prefectural government office. 14 young employees of Miyazaki prefecture and the municipalities within the prefecture split into 4 teams and made presentations in front of governor Hideo Higashikokubaru, an alumnus of Waseda University. The theme was "A V-shaped Recovery for Miyazaki Tourism - Aiming to Create a Boom with Love Tourism". These employees hadn't had many opportunities to work together before, but as cross-departmental teams, they did around 2 months of field work including interview of tourists at airports and examining tourist attractions within the prefecture, then presented their proposals directly to the governor in a revolutionary event.

This project was the result of incorporating a research program jointly developed by a related company Waseda University is invested in, Waseda Research Institute International, and Nissan Motor, combining their know-how from the "Nissan V-shaped recovery". By using both group research and internet communication tools, it was done in a manner that didn't impede normal duties. The various popular courses on "QuonNet" about English conversation, writing lessons, and presentations were developed using as a base the e-Learning know-how cultivated from projects like the above and the "Waseda University School of Human Sciences e-School", which has an extraordinary graduation ratio for a correspondence course curriculum.

"The training courses and various communities are the most active", says Mr. Nemoto, the director of Waseda University Development of University-Local Relations Liaison Office which is supervising QuonNet. "Waseda Research Institute International, who actually planned and operate QuonNet, were involved in Waseda University's e-Learning system as a related company of the university. Education coaches are assigned as part of Waseda's e-Learning program. With the presence of the coach and classes, the benefits of group learning and specific individual instruction are included, which is a unique feature. Including this operations know-how in a SNS is how QuonNet was made".

Learning Courses and Communities

"Literary Classroom for Gaining Writing Skill", the 4 week online course aimed at acquiring basic writing skills was supervised by Professor Chiharu Kogo of the School of Human Sciences. (1) From plot map to non-stop writing, (2) make it into paragraphs, (3) use 5 point dramatic structure, (4) peer revue and rewriting. Each step follows the pattern of listening to video lectures, handing in homework, and having work marked. Right now it is possible to take lectures for free, and within 20 days of starting QuonNet all available spots were filled. Some lectures with room for 20 people had more than 100 applications, with many of them being members of the workforce and students who would be job-hunting soon. There are communities for lecture students, where they can present the literature they wrote and pieces they finished in classes and have them be read and critiqued by other students.

Online English instructors in the Philippines

Over 200 people have signed up for "Online English (Business Course)", a course for learning business English one-on-one, and free sign-up is still open. The instructors chosen through interviews and essays are in the Philippines, standing by from 7 p.m. on weekdays and during the morning and from 7 p.m. on weekends to make it convenient for people with jobs to take the course. Students decide what they want to learn based on their business needs, and can have a one-on-one lesson with the instructor at a time convenient for them. This course will become pay from March of next year. There are English related communities as well as accesses from overseas. "Just English!" is a community for discussing various things in English, with over 1600 post per month. The community is accessed from places such as America, China, Korea, Australia and England.

Seminars such as "Next Generation Leader Development School" being put on jointly by the Development of University-Local Relations Liaison Office and Nakano ward based around the theme of "Creating Businesspeople Who Develop Human Resources" are using QuonNet. In this seminar which will be held a total of 4 times from this November to next February, instead of just group learning, there is learning support being done using QuonNet. QuonNet is used for the exchange of opinions, and creating communities to deal with the assignments given from the instructor, both techniques borrowed from e-Learning.

The Ideal of Quon

QuonNet has only just started, but depending on the users its possibilities can grow. A project currently being prepared targeted for January 2009 is a creative support service. It has the capability to combine things such as writings, pictures and movies and present them as a work. The QuonNet head office describes the possibilities as follows. "For example, regional dialects are in danger of becoming extinct when the seniors speaking those dialects are gone. In order to preserve the dialectical culture for future generations, we can make video and audio recordings of the dialect being spoken, and create a place on QuonNet to upload these files from regions all across the country, creating and preserving a precious database. As it is a cultural database that everyone will make together, new expressions may be created".

Seminars being run jointly by Waseda University and Nakano ward. QuonNet is being used well.

In order for the community to spread throughout the world instead of remaining stuck in Japan, the "asia" domain was acquired. Access from overseas is increasing, and there is focus on developing into a global site. Waseda University plans to increase the number of international students from the current 2800 studying there, mainly from Asia, to 8000 students in the future. With alumni spreading their wings throughout the world, international exchange will become even livelier. The president of Waseda Research Institute International, Masayuki Shinkawa, spoke of his ideal for QuonNet, of which they handle operations. "I would like Asian universities, and Asian people, organizations and businesses to use QuonNet freely. If communication becomes more active, this will help Asia advance, and lead to the power to change the world for the better. With this desire in mind, we operate QuonNet". Finally, Director Nemoto had the following words. " 'Quon' means 'infinite' which derives from the lyrics 'Remember the present, infinite eternal aim' in Waseda University's alma mater. Just like the name, while doing our best day to day in reality, we will head towards the true ideal in the future, trying to never stop our progress".