Collaborate Online: December 5 - 16, 2007

Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -
Number of replies: 41

I'd like to start by discussing the foundational steps of collaboration as presented in the Taxonomy: Dialoge and Peer Review.

1. Dialogue: Through in respectful, constructive discussion, collaborative partners find shared purpose and coherence in the plans and/or tactics
needed to coordinate their efforts.

What strategies do you recommend for supporting effective use of Dialogue?

2. Peer Review: By exchanging work for mutual critique collaborative partners determine which contributions should be utilized or revised for inclusion in a collective outcome.

What strategies do you recommend for supporting effective use of Peer Review?

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Nalin Abeysekera -
I like to mention about peer reveiw.It should be continous process.If your peer is your senior then it is much important.Then you can share his knowledge.If we can have stuctured questionnaire or something like that it might be useful for the consistent of reveiw.
In reply to Nalin Abeysekera

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

Nalin,

You made two good points. If the goal is knowledge exchange (see handout) then the review should be ongoing. By providing a checklist, rubric or questionnaire, you can ensure more specific content focus. If the goal is development of peer review skills, then it might be worthwhile to scaffold from a more structured review at first, toward situations where learners develop criteria to guide the review.

Janet

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Marsha West -
Janet asks, "What strategies do you recommend for supporting effective use of Dialogue?"

Some of the strategies I find most useful are very simple.

  • Avoid one-to-one conversations in online discussions - keep the orientation to the group as a whole. To do this use third person address. Don't say, "Mary, I agree with you . . . " Instead, say "I agree with what Mary has to say about . . . " (And of course build on those ideas as you respond.)
  • Gather ideas together from two or three different colleagues, and hold them up for comparison and consideration . . . weaving them together to extend the ideas.
  • Ask inquiry level questions - open-ended ones that encourage further exploration of a topic. Avoid making summarizing statements - they tend to be showstoppers.
  • Always use bits and pieces from the post to which you are responding, so that context is provided for pushing the discussion forward.

~~marsha

In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Brenda Kaulback -
Marsha - These are such good suggestions. I shared them with the team of facilitators in one of the communities I work with - (I credited you). In reference to summarizing, I agree with you that summarizing in the middle of a conversation can be show stopping. I also find that in pauses in the online conversation, summarizing what came before for folks tuning in late can help them to orient themselves and jump into the conversation. With asynchronous collaboration, it can be tricky to keep folks in the loop.
In reply to Brenda Kaulback

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Brenda Kaulback -
OK I just did what Marsha suggested NOT doing - so let me say - "I agree with Marsha's great ideas and want to add a comment..." would have been a much more inclusive way of adding my last posting. (I hope you all learn through examples of what NOT to do!)
In reply to Brenda Kaulback

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Marsha West -
COOL! You acknowledged my idea, gave me attribution, but turned and spoke to the group!

Ooops! I just did what *I* recommended we not do! What I "meant to say," ahem, was that BRENDA acknowledged my idea . . . It sounds SIMPLE, but actually, it's a little tricky.

I try to think of myself at a party where I'm trying to generate conversation in a group of somewhat reluctant conversationalists - I want everyone to feel included, so I use a lot of body language, eye contact, and inclusive language to make sure everyone feels they are welcome to join in.

Now I need to give attribution to my own source -- In the work I do, I try to use the
**methodology put forth in the Concord eLearning Model: http://www.concord.org/courses/cc_e-learning_model.html,
**the style of facilitation demonstrated in their course: http://www.concord.org/courses/facilitating/ , and
**the book it is based on: http://www.concord.org/publications/detail/facilitating-online-learning.html .

This style of indirect discourse is something I learned from watching and working with Sarah Haavind, one of the authors of the book noted above . . . and I think it's very effective. We teach it in the Online Facilitator Training course in PBS TeacherLine.

Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in new technologies, etc., that we forget that the bottom line is to make online conversations "feel" and "sound" like face-to-face ones. We just need to translate our daily social skills and leadership skills to a written medium.

Any other ideas/insights out there about how to accomplish that sense of verisimilitude in the online world?? Any tips on how to make our written voices "sound" real???

~~marsha
In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Robin Yap -

Hi Marsha ~

My facial expressions are part and parcel to my face-to-face training and since most of my consulting includes a blended approach, by the time learners reach the online discussion part, they would have seen the instructors live. As such using emoticons, though forboden to some, have been quite useful in my case (and those of my instructors).

In reply to Robin Yap

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

In this week's webinar we'll be discussing ways to match technology tools to the levels and needs of the collaborative process. As multi-media tools become more widely available-- with audio (podcasts) and video or webcam visuals-- we'll have more options available to integrate personal connections across the internet.

In reply to Robin Yap

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Marsha West -
Robin mentions
My facial expressions are part and parcel to my face-to-face training and since most of my consulting includes a blended approach, by the time learners reach the online discussion part, they would have seen the instructors live. As such using emoticons, though forboden to some, have been quite useful in my case (and those of my instructors).

Facial expressions, vocal inflection, and body language are all important parts of f2f communication and for those using a blended approach, they are a natural. But there are some simple strategies that can help make online voices sound natural and "real," by substituting for visual or aural clues.

For instance:

  • Emphasis can be provided by using color, boldface, and even judicious (and very sparing) use of capital letters (OOPS!).
  • Manipulation of font size can suggest variation of vocal volume, and use of italics can indicate a whisper - or a personal aside.
    For example,
    "Hmmm . . . I'd need to think about that . . . " or
    "That's a very interesting possibility!"
And traditional writing techniques for manipulating tone can be employed, i.e. use of contractions to "sound" informal, conversational sentence structure (including deliberate use of sentence fragments, etc.), and careful choice of diction to affect the "sound" of our voices can all help our written messages to have authenticity.

My goal is to try to encourage online voices that will make us almost forget that we're reading/writing instead of speaking/listening. So I think about how to communicate shifts in rate, volume, and tone.

I'm sure we all experience that natural and real "sound" of voices in the SCoPE discussions - and I think it's partly because the moderators and participants unconsciously employ such methods. It's just kind of interesting to think more consciously about the process . . . and I think that online voice can have a lot to do with generating successful online dialogue.

~~marsha

In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Jeffrey Keefer -

Marsha, these are great ideas.

I know I would find them helpful IF the technology to create these were easy enough to manipulate the font changes during the discussion or posting. I know that I have stared at some applications trying to adjust formatting to the point that I lost what I was trying to say.

I also know that, for various reasons, some people can not or will not work with some technologies to make these things work well in a group. I think about one group I worked with where we used a discussion board with email listserv. One person could or would not remember the password, and simply did not use the tool. This made inclusivity a challenge on an entire different level.

In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Jeffrey Keefer -

Marsha, these are great ideas.

I know I would find them helpful IF the technology to create these were easy enough to manipulate the font changes during the discussion or posting. I know that I have stared at some applications trying to adjust formatting to the point that I lost what I was trying to say.

I also know that, for various reasons, some people can not or will not work with some technologies to make these things work well in a group. I think about one group I worked with where we used a discussion board with email listserv. One person could or would not remember the password, and simply did not use the tool. This made inclusivity a challenge on an entire different level.

In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Marsha West -
Jeffrey Keefer writes, I know I would find them helpful IF the technology to create these were easy enough to manipulate the font changes during the discussion. . .

Jeffrey's right - not everyone will want to use these text enhancement strategies. I find that if the moderator models them, others may pick up the technique. But, bottom-line, manipulating tone through writing strategies is the simplest and most important way to craft an effective online voice.

~~marsha
In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

Not everyone can or will participate fully in online collaboration. The digital divide is alive and well, sometimes within the same team or group. Some people have the ICT literacy skills, equipment, broadband and others do not. In a classroom or work team situation, one of the foundational steps of a collaborative process involves determining what tools will work with the participants of that group. In this week's webinars we'll look at examples and discuss ways to match collaborative task with electronic tools. As teachers/designers/team leaders we each have to decide when to use what. And as Marsha points out...by modeling various strategies we can help to move things forward.

In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Nicki Dabner -
I agree wholehearedly with Marsha's comment- modelling is extremely powerful. I also describe the form of online communication we will use as 'written speak' and what we are aiming for is 'quality conversations'......hmmm...
Nicki
In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Cristina Costa -
peer review is definitely very important.
I don't have a very defined strategy but I would say: share what you know, ask what you don't yet know.
Provide a constructive critique of others' projects, be supportive and stimulate the flow of the conversation.
What is important is that people engage in a interesting, involving debate of ideas from which many other thoughts will develop.

Juts my 2 cheap cents...as usual!
In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Jeffrey Keefer -

Janet, what types of pre-steps do you envision before dialogue occurs?

In other words, it seems that issues of power, intentionality, assumptions, personal goals, and experience will be brought to the e-learning and exist in the background before, during, and after the dialogue. Often, these issues are not acknowledged, though greatly influencing the direction of the collaboration.

In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -
See comment below about chartering-- also, in classes I teach, I suggest that collaborative partners start by discussing their own styles, strengths, weaknesses and areas where they want to develop skills during the project they are working on together. I think this does help them acknowledge issues you mention, before they get to the content of the assignment.
In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Jeffrey Keefer -

Janet, as you stated:

I suggest that collaborative partners start by discussing their own styles, strengths, weaknesses and areas where they want to develop skills during the project they are working on together. I think this does help them acknowledge issues you mention, before they get to the content of the assignment.

you are quite right. In my experience, it is this team building and norming that is the part that is often skipped, with students (in my case undergraduates) wanting to get right to the assignment.

Any suggestions on how to promote this collaborative preparation instead?

In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Robin Yap -
Maybe a rubric or a checklist to guide the discussion would be helpful Jeffrey. 
In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -
Make the preparation part of the assignment-- with deliverables and a grade. Integrate the charter throughout the assignment-- with checkpoints and reflection aligned to the charter. This may help to convey the point that in collaboration and teamwork, process and outcomes are inter-related.
In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Jeffrey Keefer -
For peer review, it seems all parties in the learning are already aligned to accomplishing a single goal or producing a product. Where does the trust come from; or rather, what happens if trust is absent?
In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

Good to see your ideas posted here...and your questions. One more question for you-- as you think about Dialogue and Peer Review in the context of building collaborative process-- are there different steps, skills, processes that should be emphasized? What distinguishes a collaborative process from a general discussion or online community activity?

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Jeffrey Keefer -
Janet, this is partly where my questions were coming from. For your model in collaborative process, I think the key is that there is a deliverable that is required at the end, whether it is an internally selected one or an externally expected one. It seems necessary to address some of the pre-work for the project, as that will try to access the expectations and levels of commitment of the members. So, for example, if there is a class and a collaborative team of students has an assignment and a deliverable, some of them may be more focused on the learning, while some on the grade, while some on the time commitment (etc.). They may describe their work as collaborative, while the majority of the work is really done by one or two of the members.
In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Niki Lambropoulos -
hello Jeffrey,
nice to see you here :-)
I actually told Janet I don't have time to get involved in the discussions but this is a very interesting one.
I agree with Janet. In order to achieve collaborative learning, which a socio-cultural learning trend it is apparent that social interactions are crucial to build trust and a supporting environments for the e-learners. However, how do we do this with the 99% of lurkers?

This is where I used the newly discovered mirror neurons and vicarious learning > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neurons One way is to be the example of interactions as the e-tutor. another is to build full the profiles as they feed the mirror neurons with info so the e-learners know their co-e-learners. The e-tutors need to do this first, to know their learners in order to attract similar behaviour from their students. They need to have a full profile with some personal info and a photo.
I need to stress that I didn't search for direct corellations between the info to the mirror neurons and social interactions as I was interested in collaborative learning as such, so it is good area for research as it worked -at least to this one research.
In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

Jeffrey,

About deliverables-- In the Taxonomy model, arrows represent process and stars represent outcomes/deliverables. When I started my research, I thought about deliverables for each level-- but my study showed that more often the work from one level lead to another level. The instructors I interviewed used project-based learning or linked assignments through a term that integrated a variety of activities at different levels. In the webinar I shared one example of a multi-step collaborative project.

(As a related point-- I have a whole another area of work on assessment, which is beyond the scope of this webinar discussion series...perhaps a future event.)

To your other point: "if there is a class and a collaborative team of students has an assignment and a deliverable, some of them may be more focused on the learning, while some on the grade, while some on the time commitment (etc.). They may describe their work as collaborative, while the majority of the work is really done by one or two of the members." Niki made a related point about lurkers... To address this issue I strongly recommend that the first stage of any collaboration is the development of an agreement/charter. That is the first deliverable-- and it shows who will do what, when and how. In terms of skills-building, in a situation where people come into it with mixed levels of commitment, I suggest that more structure and clear accountability is useful.

In the class I teach called "Leading Teams," the expectation spelled out loud and clear is that each person must contribute to each team assignment. Learners first complete the charter, then each week they present one deliverable (steps in a case analysis) and report on how they completed the assignment. Did their work follow the charter, if not how did things work out? It is readily apparent if someone is trying to get a free ride, and lurking is not an option. You can use a 360 degree style of assessment to get each person's view of the participation of team members.As an instructor you can choose to use grading, coaching or other strategies with missing in action learners.

Right now I am interviewing a sample of learners who took this class as a continuation of my collaborative e-learning research. These are working adult MBA learners . One of my questions probes whether they have you used knowledge or skills they would attribute to the team experience in the Leading Teams course. So far, everyone has pointed to the chartering process and discussed how they use charters in their worklife to lay foundations for collaborative team work.

Janet

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Jeffrey Keefer -
Janet, it is great you have shown your students the value of using a team charter. I have not had the same experiences, with the students claiming they see the value of it but not seeming to be able to integrate it into their lives (especially lives outside "school").
In reply to Jeffrey Keefer

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -
We live in a just do it, short-attention span culture where planning is not always honored. It may take more than one experience like the one they have in your class to build the skills and insight needed to integrate these skills into professional life.
In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Robin Yap -

I've found charters to be useful for project based work teams that dissolve at the end of the project. In permanent teams, I found it difficult to enforce midway through managing the group. It worked when I came in as a new manager to the team and therefore had the ability to start a fresh direction for the group and charters were a nice framework before starting a conversation.

In reply to Robin Yap

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

In the situation you describe, what alternatives to the charter would you suggest, to ensure that the ongoing team is clear on the purpose, style and expectations of the collaborative process?

Janet

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Robin Yap -

My perception of a charter is like a contract between the members of the team. Implementing a contract when the team is already in place and a new team member (not the manager) joins in has not always been effective for me because some of the existing team members have felt an unfair relationship. A discussion of how the team works and the use of peer pressure seems to be a useful technique; outlining what would look like a framework of work but not specifically formalizing it. 

In reply to Robin Yap

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

Can you expand on your point about perceptions of "an unfair relationship" with a charter? It would seem that an updated charter that allocates responsibilities to the new person would be more fair all around than having the new person guess about expectations and protocols-- and others guess about how that person would contribute.

In many professional situations these steps are accomplished with the help of the project manager, whose job it is to create and maintain checkpoints and timelines for the project at hand. In such cases, the process of integrating a new member can focus on building the relationships-- and let the project manager determine the logistics.

None of the ideas presented here are meant as one size fits all-- the idea is to expand our toolkits so we can determine which strategy fits in which situation. Perhaps another webinar/discussion could focus on ways to diagnose and address issues in virtual teams/collaborations??

Janet

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Robin Yap -

What I meant with "unfair relationship" is when the understanding of a charter-as-contract is static and the inclusion of new members is not factored into the charter. I agree with you that project managers do need to be clear in adding processes in place to ensure that as new members come in, there is a procedure that will get them into the system fast and run alongside the rest of the team.

I've mentioned the imbalance as a reflection of a previous experience when there was no process in place for new members to come in which stifled the relationship as transition and change management procedures have not been implemented. Concurrent to this thought is the idea of updating a charter unilaterally with balancing this decision with team involvement. My experience is that project teams work best when they know procedural changes and may even have a thought or two about it prior to the implementation of the new process. I have indicated in the past that the charter is a "living document" and thus can change as the project team's configuration, responsibilities, expectations changes.

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Nick Kearney -
Hi Janet, and everyone,
I am late, I was stuck in the middle of a river in (very) rural Mexico while you were having the session, so I will have to catch up first. I was visiting rural multi-grade schools exploring ways they use and/or could use technologies. Collaboration is part of the furniture in this context, and there's a great potential, if the infrastructure challenge can be sorted out (a big if).
I live and work mostly in Europe, based in Valencia, Spain, where I work in a education cooperative, integrating technology and learning in a wide range of sectors. I have been working with a colleague recently on dialogue in online learning, I am interested to see the use of the term here, how it is used and how it is understood in different contexts. But I need to catch up first, so I will be lurking for a little while yet.
Best
Nick Kearney
In reply to Nick Kearney

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

Hi Nick! Great to see you here and I look forward to hearing more about collaboration as part of the furniture!

Janet

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Marsha West -
Janet asks for strategies for supporting effective dialogue in discussions.

I'd like to build on that question with one of my own.

I find threaded discussions such as we are having here in SCoPE tend to lend themselves to the most depth. I really don't enjoy listserve type discussions myself though I participate in a couple.

But I am most curious about how others feel about the current "blog-style" discussions. I've been asked to moderate at a site where this is the format. Anyone can create a new topic, and there are hundreds being added to the content by the administrators as they set up the site, which has to do with health information.

Is it possible to generate meaningful discussions when all the responses are just posted in a single column to individual posts that are added to the site by either administrators or participants? I'm concerned that there will be dozens of fragmentary conversations going on simultaneously with little opportunity for deepening the level of the dialogue.

I'm wondering if there are any strategies for moderating meaningful discussions in this sort of space, or is the work of a "moderator" really that of a gate-keeper (just keeping up with a multitude of unrelated "lines," and possibly removing offensive ones that show up??)

How can a moderator get folks to the level of talking to each other and collaborating instead of merely responding to whatever prompts them at the moment?

Can a collaborative spirit be built in such a space?

I'm trying to discern just what my role would be in this position. I'm very interested in what the owners are trying to accomplish, but question whether this set-up can work very well.

Any advice for me??
~~marsha
In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Inge Ignatia de Waard -
hi Marsha

While trying to set up an blog to exchange ideas on movies, I had the same experience that discussions were not really getting any depth. Because of this, the next time we will use this type of collaborative working we will include a very clear rubric which goes into detail about what we expect learners to do.
We have not tried this approach yet, so I cannot guarantee success, but at least the learners will already know what is expected of them. We also plan a short online videoconference (we are looking at some low setting ones like tokbox.com and skype) before giving them the blog floor. The idea of the videoconference is to give them some sort of a community spirit so the learners will hopefully be more concerned about their knowledge additions.

btw thanks for all your comments in this seminar, I really enjoyed reading them.
In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Brenda Kaulback -

Interesting question that Martha poses about moderating blogs. I am not sure how one moderates a blog. We work with one client who, in turn, works with a number of schools around the country. They are considering having each school have a blog space and the intention is that the blogs would be connected to the dialogue space. Hopefully, when people post to the blogs, it would bring them into the dialogue space. I'd appreciate any further information on facilitating related to blogs as well.

In reply to Brenda Kaulback

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Cynthia Alvarado -
I am required by my district to moderate student blogs. We are forced to use district blogging servers and software. It requires that student blogs be sponsered by a teacher, who must moderate the posts. We are emailed the posts automatically and they do not appear until we give them approval. I am in a K-12 school system, so understand why the powers that be are afraid of liability and other problems like bullying. That said, I wish we were allowed to watch things more informally, by just subscribing to the blogs and reading the posts. Little freedom to make mistakes means little freedom to learn.
In reply to Cynthia Alvarado

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by not real -
Chances are that quite a few of them have blogs of a sort already, and know how to make them using outside tools (myspace, nexopia, wordpress.com etc) and can share the how-to with their classmates. Those blogs aren't sponsored by anyone. I'd be tempted to leverage that, somehow. It would make evaluation a little more difficult with the having to go to different sites for each student, but it does bypass the district's enforced ignorance of where the Web is headed.
In reply to Marsha West

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Foundations

by Janet Salmons -

Martha,

To answer I'd like to go back to some points and questions made earlier:

First, Dialogue as it relates to formation, planning and organizing collaborative projects is different from a general online dialogue. Collaborative dialogue is directed toward finding shared purpose, and then discussing ideas as they pertain to achievement of that purpose. More depth is needed-- including more focus and commitment on the collaborative process and project. This kind of Dialogue would be very different from conversations on a site/community such as the one you mentioned.

How to use such a site to aim toward a "collaborative spirit"-- can you offer short-term conversations with a specific focus-- such as the one here? I would suggest finding some kind of common issue or problem and ask questions that would encourage participants to share solutions or resources.

Second, as mentioned in the second session-- tools should be selected that are appropriate to the communication task, and to the people involved-- including ease of use, access, hardware/software, etc.  It is the old form follows function point. What function should the communication play and what tools will enable it to happen as needed to serve the purpose?

Is it the threaded discussion that leads to the deeper discussions here-- or the fact that people come to SCoPE with a common set of interests and needs?

Thanks for participating in this discussion!

Janet