What are Collaborative Environments?


Collaborative environments are online spaces — often cloud-based — where the focus is making it easy to collaborate and working in groups, no matter where the participants may be. As the typical educator’s network of contacts has grown to include colleagues who might live and work across the country, or indeed anywhere on the globe, it has become common for people who are not physically located near each other to collaborate on projects. In classrooms as well, joint projects with students at other schools or in other countries are more and more commonplace as strategies to expose learners to a variety of perspectives.

Wikis, which allow many authors to add content to a web site, were one of the first technologies in this category, and it is increasingly rare to find a collaboration that does not use a wiki in one form or another. The largest example is Wikipedia, which through the efforts of thousands of contributors, has become the world’s de facto encyclopedia. One of the largest examples of an online environment built expressly to enable collaboration is Google Apps, which includes a set of commonly used productivity tools, but configured in a way to make it easy to work in teams.

The essential attribute of the technologies in this set is that they make it easy for people to share interests and ideas, work on joint projects, and easily monitor collective progress. All of these are needs common to student work, research, collaborative teaching, writing and authoring, development of grant proposals, and more. The bar for widespread participation is very low, since the software to support virtual collaboration is low cost or free, and available via a web browser.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - alan alan Jan 27, 2010

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • See responses to New Scholarship - themes closely linked for me - kelly.smith kelly.smith May 15, 2011
  • I think this has as much potential for learning as research. Good collaborative environments for students will allow for a much more interesting, and hopefully successful, means of knowledge creation within a constructivist framework. - zoe.rose zoe.rose May 16, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Sustainability and reliability of service - risk of investing time/effort in a system that may change ethos, disappear, or move to a business model that becomes too expensive in the future - kelly.smith kelly.smith May 15, 2011
  • How educators can monitor the development of student attainment by checking student collaboration environments - much faster and more effective than eavesdropping a group conversation, for example. This technology has a lot of potential for improving the educator's understanding of their own effectiveness. - zoe.rose zoe.rose May 16, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, research or information management within the next five years?

  • Enhanced ability of educators to collaborate on shared presentations, reading lists, learning materials etc. - kelly.smith kelly.smith May 15, 2011
  • Better student understanding of the quality of their work in relation to their peers, better self-assessment by educators, better educator assessment on the part of the institution - zoe.rose zoe.rose May 16, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


As a matter of fact, I do! For a while now, I've been working on notecake.com, a collaborative note-taking application for university students to use in lectures. - zoe.rose zoe.rose May 16, 2011

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