Monday, May 15, 2006

Reflection on Collaborative Learning

Collab201 Delivered
This course delivered everything I expected it to. I now have a good grasp of the basic concepts of many of the newer and previously existing online collaboration tools. Although for a decade or more I have participated in groups, list serves, and bulletin boards, it’s nice to be up-to-date.

Graduate School
In the Instructional Systems Technology graduate program at Indiana University, almost all my course work involved projects with teams that required close collaboration. We used e-mails and FirstClass for online collaboration. This model worked well for preparing me with the group dynamics skills that I need in the business world. I also had the time to devote to the program because I was only working part-time.

No Time Now
From my experience in this course, I know that I do not have the time to devote to taking collaborative learning courses. My job consumes too much of my time to devote to assignments. Collaborating with others outside my job takes more effort and time that I am willing to give.

Collaborative Learning at The Standard

Why I Enrolled in Collab201
I enrolled in Collab201 to see what value the newer online collaboration tools might have in the corporate setting where I work, The Standard. The Standard is a growing company that provides group insurance, individual insurance, and retirement and annuity products. Training for a variety of subjects from new employee orientation to software skills is provided online and in-class depending on the needs to be learned.

Wikis and Groups
Of all the tools we looked at in Collab201, wikis and the groups are the only ones I see as having possible use at The Standard today. Could they be used for collaborative learning? I do not think our company is ready to venture into online tools that require so much individual effort to be effective. Although some departments tend to be more people oriented like marketing or public relations, the time and technology involved in participating in a wiki or group as part of a class, would be barriers preventing success.

Trial Basis Introduction
Wikis or groups might be introduced for project collaboration on a trial basis. In this case, a person would have to be assigned ownership of the technical aspects. Most employees do not want to spend time learning a new technology that is not vital to their job. Even if someone is responsible for the technical aspects, what incentives do employees have to participate? Why not use group e-mails and conference calls when they are readily available and no learning is involved?

More Software in the System
Another aspect to consider is bringing new software into the IT system. The IT department would probably be resistant spending time investigating firewalls, licensing, and so on. What value would they see in more software to maintain?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fourth Week Experience

I participated in the team 2 project. The directions were good and I completed the tasks in a reasonable period of time. It did not seem to be a good project for online collaboration because it left the collaboration method up to the participants to decide. On the other hand, if the collaboration was specified, participants may have ignored it and found their own way to collaborate or not collaborate at all.

Other than answering a few e-mails from one of my team partners, I did very little to facilitate our team 1 project after it was launched. Most of my time has been consumed by my job. One of the conclusions I have reached about online collaboration is that it is difficult to collaborate with more that one person, especially when other team members also have full time jobs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Second Week Experience

What Went Well

The Assignment
Stage 1 of the assignment, signing up on Yahoo 360 and Yahoo My Web, went well. Both applications were easy to use, and with a little exploration, I was able to adjust the content and pages to suit my tastes. I found that links are easy to add to My Web using the Save to My Web feature in the Links menu.

Sharing links with My Web is a lot easier than e-mailing them to friends, co-workers, and sometimes myself. Yahoo 360 seemed easier to use than LinkedIn. Maybe it's because I'm so familiar with using Yahoo e-mail and groups.

As an aside, I find that the Yahoo toolbar is one of the most useful tools I've encountered on the web in a long time. Even if you are not signed up to My Web, Yahoo Bookmarks allows you to see your bookmarks from home or office as long as you are connected to the Internet.

Stage 2 of the assignment, inviting class members to Yahoo 360 and My Web, and the blog posts, also went well.

The Project
Yahoo groups worked well for exchanging information with team members.

What Could Have Been Better
The assignments were fine, but the project work could have been more productive. Team collaboration might have been better if we had assigned roles soon after Tuesday's meeting. Perhaps if each team member could match themself to a team role, they would feel more comfortable participating. First, however, the roles have to be defined.

Monday, April 24, 2006

List of Links: Wikis and Social Bookmarking

Question:
What are the differences in practice between social bookmarking and using a wiki to create a list of links? What would you use in what case?

Answer:
If there were a need to list links in context then a wiki would be the best choice. A wiki allows the user to add text to a wiki page that can give purpose and meaning to the links. In social bookmarking, the link is simply listed without an explanation of its pupose. If context were not an issue, then a social bookmarking tool is a quicker way to add bookmarks for sharing, especially with the bookmark adding features found in My Web.

Monday, April 17, 2006

First Week Experience

What Went Well

My experience this week reminds of the instructional learning theory “constructivism.” Essentially the instructor assigns learning objectives, points the learner to the tools, and then lets them accomplish the objectives on their own with minimal guidance. I enjoy learning new web technology and I like the challenge of learning on my own, so the experience was a little frustrating but also rewarding.

What Did Not Go Well

Although I had some time available while at work to complete the assignment, it was much more time consuming than I thought it would be. If I were on task to meet a strict deadline last week, I probably would not have made more that one post.

Doing research on the web is time consuming. Even though there is a large quantity of information, finding the right information from credible sources is not as easy as it seems.

Make Teams Diverse and Small

There seems to be a consensus that teams for the class Collab201 should be diverse. This could be accomplished through:
  • geographical distance
  • mixing skill levels and skill sets
  • not allowing co-workers to be on the same team

A few posts also suggested making teams no larger than four paricipants.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Team Formation for Collaborative Learning

How should the teams be formed in this course for the larger group project?

Teams should be formed with people who do not work at the same company. Skill levels and skills should be diverse to efficiently achieve the project goal.

Diversity is beneficial not only to the individuals on the team but also to achieving the project goal. With a mix of team members from different companies, individuals will have a chance to meet like professionals and hone their collaboration skills with people they have never met. Most likely, there will be an exchange of information relating to work practices that they could take with them after the course.

Darwyn Linder discusses the benefits of diversity on the teams in an academic setting but the principles can also be applied to forming teams for online courses. Because all students are not equally skilled, they bring a new perspective that the skilled student might overlook. Students who are not as far advanced to learn the tasks are helped by the more advanced students.

The Foundation Coalition, in
Decisions in Forming Teams, also supports heterogeneous skills, “…matching students with different skill levels increases team's productivity by having a well-distributed set of tasks and equalizing participation.”

Friday, April 14, 2006

Informal? Workflow?

This is a review of the post by Jay Cross Informal? Workflow?

In the first half of the article, Jay mentions how companies have used informal learning to serve customers better, increase sales, and so on. He also lists several reasons why learning professionals should be interested in informal learning. I am curious how informal learning can be efficient because on the surface it seems disorganized and therefore more time consuming than structured learning.

The second half of the article is devoted to workflow learning. It’s a catchy phrase but it doesn't mean much to me without an explanation. I guess I'll have to read his new book.