By Sandy Magnus, AIAA fellow|November 2017
AIAA's New Online Community Platform
It is an exciting time at AIAA. The Institute is becoming more agile, better able to respond to new ways of communicating and collaborating. One of the ways we are doing so is by introducing a comprehensive online community system — AIAA Engage — from a company called Higher Logic. It is currently in beta testing, but I am excited by the potential of this new platform, and want to give you a sneak peek before its official debut in January.
We all know the value of teamwork and understand the practical benefits of having a collaborative space for information sharing, idea exchange and discussion. To date this has been accomplished via AIAA forums, events, publications, and email. But many of you have told us that you want a better “virtual” way to connect, more than static online committee listings and calendars of upcoming events. And so, after much research, we are introducing AIAA Engage — to further improve your member experience.
What is it?
If you are familiar with Reddit, LinkedIn bulletin boards, or chat rooms, you understand the idea of online communities. AIAA Engage will be our moderated, limited-access version with similar discussion formats to these other platforms — but with far more robust functionality, and focused specifically on the global aerospace community.
What can you do with it?
Of course, we will use it to manage the basic, yet important, administrative tasks surrounding existing committees and sections such as maintaining files and rosters, but the exciting part concerns what the platform will do beyond that.
- Share individual member profiles with as much — or as little — as members like about themselves and their work.
- Establish a feature “Ask Me Anything” consisting of online Q/A sessions with forum speakers, notable authors, and other experts in the field.
- Host continuing education seminars and have follow-up discussions based on what members are learning.
- Highlight breaking news items, linking photos, videos, and files.
- Host discussions of the latest research coming out of the forums as specific as a certain paper, or as broad as a new vision.
- Allow collaboration on design competitions and sharing of those experiences.
- Enable connection between job seekers, mentors, and mentees.
- Allow for search and connect with other members based on location, alma mater, or employer.
When is it happening?
Our phased rollout started a few months ago with selective, but representative, test groups: a technical committee, young professional committee, and our section leadership. We all learned how to use the platform as we went, improving our processes along the way.
We also stood up a new Community of Interest (CoI) that had emerged organically from conversations based on the programming at the 2017 AIAA AVIATION Forum. AIAA Fellow Rich Wahls and a dozen others agreed to test the Higher Logic platform as a collaboration tool. Their working group is exploring the safe efficiencies that may be captured if aircraft certification moves from ground testing to adaptive modeling. The members of this group span a wide range of technical disciplines and perspectives. This collaboration would have been difficult to fit into our previous organizational configuration, so it is exciting to think that their work is being supported by AIAA Engage. For the first time, we have been able to provide a platform for interest groups within a matter of months, rather than years. As Rich Wahls said himself, “This is the beginning of something big. I feel it.”
It is indeed just the beginning. We anticipate launching the platform to our full membership in January after the 2018 AIAA SciTech Forum.
What does it mean?
We envision that AIAA Engage will become the place where our community comes to collaborate and connect. We will explore the new frontiers of innovation and find the connections that will catapult us into the future. Members will have control about what information is shared and frequency of engagement. For those already familiar with social media the learning curve will be gentle.
We are excited about the potential of this platform, and we invite all AIAA members to Engage with us and with each other.
Details to follow. ★