Collaboration: University of Manchester and Ragged University By Steve McIndoe

The University of Manchester Library has been running a credit-bearing course unit called The Digital Society for the past two years as part of the University College programme.


University of Manchester

This is an innovative attempt by the University to offer students a wider range of learning experiences and opportunities outside of their main programme of study. University College courses are open to all undergraduate students for all disciplines and the Digital Society course unit runs in the second semester of the academic year (broadly speaking, from January to May).


The Digital Society course encourages students to explore some of the major issues caused by the rapid advance of digital technology, social media and the internet into all aspects of our lives. Over the period of the course, students consider:


  • how their digital footprint can impact on their social and professional lives (both good and bad)
  • how communities can use the power of social networking to organise and harvest social capital
  • how businesses are having to adapt to new ways of managing their reputations and relationships with customers
  • the skills required to thrive in a networked, ‘always online’ world
  • the ethical implications of an information environment where content can readily be reused and repurposed without attribution
  • the implications for those excluded – the ‘digitally disenfranchised’
  • the potential developments on the horizon, such as Web 3.0 and the ‘internet of things’


One of the most beneficial elements of the course is the opportunity the students have to engage with others already tackling or thinking about these issues out in the real world. Students are required to engage in a group project where a client presents a project brief outlining a problem to explore or an area to develop, and students are required to fulfil the requirements of the brief and present their findings as part of their assessed work.


Over the past two years clients have included charities, businesses and voluntary groups and it was a great pleasure to work with the Ragged University on a collaborative project in which students were asked to identify events suitable for promotion under the Ragged umbrella and to contribute to the content of the Ragged University website and events calendar.


All of the students involved with the project opted to work with Ragged, having read through the aims and activities of the organisation and being excited by the ambitions Ragged has for free, open to all education and community activity. The Digital Society course is still a relatively new undertaking for the University of Manchester Library so it was a fantastic opportunity to collaborate and cooperate with the Ragged University as one of our clients this year and one that the students found highly informative and enjoyable.