What are Collaborative Environments?

Collaborative environments are online spaces — often cloud-based — where the focus is on making it easy to collaborate and work 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 nonetheless collaborate on projects. Joint classroom-based projects with students at other schools or in other countries are more and more common strategies used to expose learners to a variety of perspectives. The essential attribute of the technologies in this set is that they make it easy for people to share interests and ideas, to easily monitor their collective progress, and to see how ideas have evolved throughout the process. These tools are compelling and widely adopted because they are not only easy to use, but they are also either very low cost or free, and often accessible with a simple 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?

  • This technology already plays an important role in many contexts - a banal, but not a wrong statement. And it will be even more important for HE in the years to come - I find that this is a within 2 years-topic. - ole ole Oct 9, 2013
  • This technology will continue to become more important as online learning expands in public 4-year institutions. Collaborative environments will afford teachers with the ability to design group project work into their online curricula and will give students the experience of improved engagement and sense of community in online learning environments. - Jolie Jolie Oct 16, 2013
  • Our program is available at two campuses. We are working hard to forge a collaborative relationship between students at each location. Myself and another colleague are teaching the same class. We’re currently using a Facebook group to establish a Community of Practice (CoP - http://wenger-trayner.com/theory/) where students are encouraged to share work and deliver constructive feedback among peers. Our goal is to eventually expand this practice to group projects but we’d like to differentiate this process from current distant learning technologies like Blackboard or Moodle. Utilizing social media continues to be our preference and we look forward to learning more about innovative strategies in this area. I think the technology exists and so this topic is current, but I’m still in the process of identifying the best use of the technology in order to suit our needs. Applications like http://home.lagoa.com/ where students can collaborate in the design and development of digital media projects are of significant interest. [- matthew.worwood matthew.worwood Oct 17, 2013]
  • I remember effectively working in collaborative environments to complete projects in master's-level programs with colleagues across the United States and in Canada in 2008 and 2009, so agree with Ole that they are already in place in many contexts. They create incredible levels of engagement among learners when those learners are adequately prepared to function effectively within them. I also, having been a participant in MOOCs this year, believe that connectivist MOOCs may draw many more learners into collaborative environments in short- and long-term ways very soon.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 18, 2013

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

  • One problem - a a huge problem - is the vast range of technologies available. More than once I myself have felt drowned in platforms and forums and after a while I have had so give up. Also the features of the environments often differ. So altogether I find some standardization needed. - ole ole Oct 9, 2013 I completely agree, if you look at my response above you can see that I'm still in the process of identifying the best uses of the technology to suit our needs [- matthew.worwood matthew.worwood Oct 17, 2013] - helga helga Oct 20, 2013
  • An additional area in which collaborative environments can impact public 4-year institutions, is by facilitating spaces for collaborative research, discussion, community, and engagement -- within and across university research groups.- Jolie Jolie Oct 16, 2013
  • Even though these environments can be easy to use, there still is a need to be sure that learners are properly prepared to operate effectively within them. The report on "Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas" in community colleges, prepared through Teachers College, Columbia University, provides a first-rate overview of some of those challenges--and how the challenges can be overcome in any setting:http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/adaptability-to-online-learning.pdf - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 18, 2013

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • I know that I repeat myself ad nauseam, but anyway: democratization. - ole ole Oct 9, 2013
  • Collaborative environments will grow in popularity as more online courses are offered and as more online teachers discover the potential this technology affords for group work and engagement. - Jolie Jolie Oct 16, 2013 Agreed, I think a lot of the potential impact resides in distant learning but I think this conversation has two parts. The collaborative environments that exist today which utilize current technology, and those that will be created or adapted for devices that include wearable technology. [- matthew.worwood matthew.worwood Oct 17, 2013] Excellent point! I think collaborative environments will also be significantly impacted by online and mobile video technologies that will continually improve with increases in bandwidth and computing power. - Jolie Jolie Oct 20, 2013
  • Collaborative environments tremendously increase access to the resources (people and material) available to learners and further connect learning in higher education to contemporary workplace needs and practices since the ability to engage in online collaboration is becoming increasingly important in many industries.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 18, 2013

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

  • Many platforms exist and continue to surface. Google wins, in my opinion, particularly Google Hangout Party. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Oct 15, 2013 Yes, Google Hangouts are providing plenty of learning opportunities for learners of all ages.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 18, 2013 Agreed, last year I made opted to mandate the use of Google in a high school curriculum. This was the first time I'd mandated the use of a specific application (usually I strongly encourage its use). [- matthew.worwood matthew.worwood Oct 27, 2013]
  • I personally have used GH frequently for collaborative group work as supplemental to my own classroom-based learning and also while teaching in online learning environments. I use the GH collaborative environment for 1-1 meetings with students (akin to office hours) and also to facilitate small group synchronous discussions. - Jolie Jolie Oct 16, 2013
  • Online collaborative communities nurtured through MOOCs are great examples. There are Google+ communities for many, including #etmooc (the Educational Technology & Media MOOC at https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/116116451882856472187) and #xplrpln, the Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC at https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101772655735624667329).- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 18, 2013
  • Here's a link to Alec Couros's "Developing Personal Learning Networks for Open and Social Learning," a fabulous chapter from the Emerging Technologies in Distance Education anthology; it documents a wonderfully successful experiment in choosing and using a collaborative environment in a semester-long course in 2008 and reads like a roadmap for #etmooc, the MOOC that produced a sustainable community of learning earlier this year: http://tinyurl.com/mv9qfys. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 18, 2013