Tech Tips: Concourse Offers One-Click Collaboration

New platform allows Duke users to connect, communicate online

Mark McCahill, system architect for the Office of Information Technology, far left, demonstrates how to use Concourse during a recent "Learn IT@ Lunch" seminar. Photo by Leanora Minai.

For Laurie Harris, collaboration with colleagues across the university is just one click away, using Duke's new Concourse service.

Harris, students and other faculty and staff can use Concourse to interact online; to create or join online communities based on their interests; and to follow the activities of colleagues similar to other social media platforms. 

"Concourse is a great resource for university faculty, staff and students to connect and work together," said Harris, a project manager in Duke's Office of Information Technology. "Using Concourse, I can share my activities with other users across Duke and connect with individuals and communities using video, instant messaging and other communication tools."

Duke was involved in building the Concourse platform, which is powered by Cisco's WebEx Social software. Cisco also worked with Case Western University, North Carolina State University and the University of Chicago on the platform, which is being used by several major corporations.

Here are tips to get started using Concourse:

Fill out your personal profile. Add a photo of yourself, your job title, alternate contact information, work hours, areas of expertise and interests. The more information you provide about yourself, the easier it will be for others to find you. In your bio, you can create a welcome message or introduction that others will see when they view your profile. To access Concourse, visit http://concourse.duke.edu.

Set up your home page. Your home page provides a central place for posting updates and tracking activities from people and communities in Concourse. You can add applications to include photos, RSS feeds or websites you access frequently (such as Duke Today). Concourse can be set up to integrate with your Duke calendar. The page layout can be customized in several different ways.

Find people to follow. Explore Concourse's suggestions for people to follow. Choosing to follow another user means that you will be able to see all of their activity: posts, questions, comments, and uploads. If you search for someone who isn't currently in Concourse, you will see an envelope by his or her name. You can invite them to join Concourse by clicking that envelope.

Set up click-to-conference functionality to hold instant meetings. Concourse includes a free video-conferencing service called WebEx Meeting Lite, which can be used either for one-on-one conversations or for a conference including up to eight participants. New users must configure some simple settings.

Join a community, or create your own. To access all public Concourse communities, click on the Communities tab. One of the first communities you can join is the Concourse help community, which offers tips and tricks from other users about configuring and using Concourse. Any Concourse user also can create a community of his or her own. Once you're part of a community, whether as a member or an owner, you can post something for all members to see, view all community events, join discussion forums and more.

Concourse provides a valuable tool for staff, faculty and students who need to work together, whether as part of a class or for departmental groups, Harris said.

"As we move to other locations, we want to maintain a sense of community across Duke," she said. "Concourse can help us to do that."

To access Concourse, visit http://concourse.duke.edu.