Northwestern's MSLOC Program: Mastering Higher Ed Communities with Jive

Christina Pedulla

Northwestern University's Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) program trains business leaders in strategic change management. Much of the training takes place outside the classroom, in an online community called The Hive, powered by Jive-n. It's a place where students, faculty, staff and alumni connect for ongoing learning, career and student services, and professional networking. The Hive greatly enhances the value of the MSLOC program, allowing rapid on boarding, informal learning and ongoing engagement.


In 2008 MSLOC recognized that the program needed a way to extend learning and interaction beyond the physical classroom and campus, enabling geographically dispersed students, faculty, staff and alumni to meet and collaborate from anywhere, both inside and outside of formal class groups. After experimenting with different pieces of technology to create a community, MSLOC adopted Jive in the 2012-13 academic year as part of an ongoing effort to support a strong cohort experience for students. A major priority for MSLOC is building a deeply connected network as a learning community.


"If we can maintain that [self-generated and self-directed] engagement above the class group, making connections and have folks really learning, that goes directly to the value that we provide as a masters program," says Jeff Merrell, Associate Director, MSLOC.


The program selected Jive as their platform given its enhanced user experience. Also, it was important that a private community could be established with strong blogging and discussion functionality. MSLOC successfully leverages Jive's robust capabilities to support these needs in the following ways:

  • Personal Blogs: All students have personal blogs, and some assignments during courses require public blogging in the Hive or outside on the web. In this way, blogs are used not only for classes but also for personal development/sharing. As a student, the ability to experiment with blogging in a safe and trusting environment was key in developing a personal skill while also affording me the opportunity to reflect, share expertise and engage with my colleagues in a very meaningful way.
  • Secret Groups: Secret groups are used for classes and any interaction for that course occurs in the secret group. Registered students and instructors for a particular course are invited into the secret group. Secret groups are also created for staff collaboration on numerous program topics.
  • Public Groups: The Water Cooler is an open group for the whole community and serves as the hub and heart of the Hive. The group uses a simple design and encourages sharing and discussions of anything outside of classes between alumni, students and faculty. The Student Work Archive is another public group in the community that features student generated content that has been moved from secret groups to this public space so others can access and view. Lastly, a variety of interest groups (e.g., Work/Life/Well Being) live in the community and are generated as different topics of interest arise across the alumni, student and faculty population.


"That mixed use is tremendously important to the success of the community - the Water Cooler is a mish mash of different things, but it's people being social and sharing things that they like to geek out about. The multiple use, rather than just being an elegantly designed discussion board, really helped to build the overall community," says Merrell.


As a graduate of MSLOC, I can personally attest to The Hive's value in supplementing my student experience both inside and outside the classroom, as both a student and an alum. Using Jive as a student with MSLOC transformed the way I look at work and showed me the true power of a community. All the content I created in Jive during my time as a student, discussions shared with colleagues, and resources leveraged during my studies have persisted well beyond my graduation date.


I'm also able to continually make new connections and remain engaged with the community at large, something I will continue to value as my career and developmental goals evolve. It is energizing for me to log into the Hive and see what is being discussed; it's like having an alumni event every time I log in. I can instantly make connections, catch up on recent events within the community or learn something new. It's also a go to resource for me when I am seeking expertise or feedback on any number of topics.


According to Merrell, "Jive has allowed us to have these permeable lines, things can go between these spaces and can change over time...[something that] was not possible with other technologies that we've seen."


Having a dedicated space to connect, share, and collaborate with students, alums, and faculty enriched my learning experience. The Hive allowed me to develop meaningful relationships with students around the globe, and as an alum, has allowed me to continue to feel connected to the community.


Interested in learning more about how to encourage individual contribution to your community? Click here to read Christina's research on the topic.