Collaborate Online: December 5 - 16, 2007

Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Janet Salmons -
Number of replies: 12

So far we’ve discussed a variety of issues and perspectives about the levels of the Taxonomy called Dialogue and Peer Review. Both of these levels of collaboration describe activities and tasks—getting acquainted, exchanging ideas, making plans, reviewing and discussing increments of a project-- related to communication. Communication is essential throughout the collaborative process.

Researchers who study communication in collaboration describe a "deliberative dialogue" which is distinct from other kinds of discourse, " because the objective is not so much to talk together as to think together" . The potential for thinking together collaboratively builds from a discursively constructed collective identity (Hardy et al., 2005). A collective identity “names” the group and allows participants to “construct themselves, the problem and the solution as part of the collaborative framework in which the potential for joint action is both significant and beneficial” (p. 63).

Moving from individual to collective thinking, individuals balance the common constructions negotiated and agreed upon with c ollaborative partners; and private constructions that allow each one to make sense of and express issues in their own terms (p. 66-67).

In practical terms--we’ve discussed the importance of building personal trust between collaborative partners, and strategic trust that process will be fair as well as beneficial. So and one way we can observe progress is by seeing the way the collaborative partners name “our” way of doing things, our project—instead of my project. The level of complexity in the composiiton of the group, the entry of new members or change in desired outcomes may mean this kind of communication is not completed with the formation of the group.

Moving on to discuss other levels of the Taxonomy; these levels describe ways people organize their work together.

  • Parallel collaboration. When a project is completed using a Parallel structure, components are allocated among collaborative partners. Parallel collaboration typically involves individual work and through a process of Dialogue and Peer Review contributions are integrated into the final product.
  • Sequential collaboration. When a project is completed using a Sequential structure, components of the assignment are organized into a series of progressive steps and results are combined into one collective product. Each component is dependent on successful completion of another in the series of steps. Each step typically involves individual work, and through a process of Dialogue and Peer Review contributions are integrated into the final product.
  • Synergistic collaboration. When collaborative partners use a Synergistic structure, they work together through all steps and synthesize their ideas to plan, organize and complete the assignment together. Their contributions are fully meshed into collective final product.

When you work collaboratively, how do you organize your work? What tools do you use? If you teach or lead collaborative teams, how do you guide others and how much structure do you provide? What electronic tools do you use?

I look forward to hearing about your experiences-- and we'll also discuss ways to match electronic tools to collaborative process in this week's live webinar.

Janet

Hardy, C., Lawrence, T. B., & Grant, D. (2005). Discourse and collaboration: The role of conversations and collective identity. Academy of Management Review, 30(1), 58-77.

London, S. (2005). Thinking together: The power of deliberative dialogue. In R. J. Kingston (Ed.), Public Thought and Foreign Policy. Dayton: Kettering Foundation Press.

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

I find myself more and more drawn to wikis for collaborative work. Previously I have used wikis as information storage, but I was inspired by this video

. I recently became involved with two private wikis for committees I belong to and am building a wiki for a graduate class that starts in January. Both committees involve people interacting at a distance and conference calls just don't cut it. At the very least, wikis provide members with a place where minutes, contact details, reports, action items are all in one place, when they need them. Just dialoguing about how to organize the wiki can be a worthwhile jumping in place.

On the other hand, wikis have all the implications of other new technology: fear, frustration with expectations and a learning curve.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Janet Salmons -

Deirdre,

When you think about the collaborative work you are doing/planning in wikis-- what level(s), as outlined by the Taxonomy, do you think best describe the collaboration?

We've been discussing issues related to building trust-- both personal and strategic. Given your comments about new technology fears, what steps do you use (or would you suggest) to build confidence in participating in a new technology? What will help these participants build trust in the process so they can meaningfully contribute?

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
As I mentioned the wikis are very new, and we are still in the fear and trepidation vs enthusiasts stage.big grin The committees are both planning on taking some time at the next meeting to get everyone signed in (filling in their personal contact information) and discussing who will take responsibility for what part of the wiki (its divided into project areas), so at that point we will probably be more Parallel. Both committees primarily work that way now.

I'm hoping the grad class wiki will be more Synergistic. It's a small group and each week they have to discuss a different piece of public health legislation (available in the wiki). By course end, they have to have agreed on a set of recommendations they would make to the government and have a plan for how they would present the recommendations (written up in the wiki). I will be spending time at the beginning of the course teaching them how to use wiki pedagogy and technology.

As for building trust in a technological environment. Learning the technology in a safe and supported way is extremely important because you have to have participation before you can have collaboration. I've been to too many IT sessions where instruction consists of "Look at all the wonderful things I can do", flurry of incomprehensible activity, "Now go and do that yourself". I'm left going wow and then, never use the tool. angry

I always start with a simple task that gets people using the technology successfully immediately, thus the "type in your contact info" wiki start where they learn the key new page, edit and save commands. When they are ready for the next level of commands, they can ask someone, take a course or figure it out depending on their own learning style/needs.

Modeling how I use the technology is part of the process of building enthusiasm for using the tool, so for all the committee wikis I started with a shell of linked pages for current projects, minutes repository and a membership list. Then added some content to each area. I, then approached individuals about what else needed to be included, thus demonstrating the technology and involving people at the same time. Everyone now feels some ownership and that might not have happened in a brief group discussion. For participants at a distance this could be done using Skype or an Elluminate V-room.






In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Brenda Hallowes -

Thanks for the link to the video Deidre. I have been trying to get my family to participate in a wiki as a practice. I've now sent them all a link to the video. I enjoyed some of the others in the series too - particularly the one on deli.cio.us

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Nicki Dabner -

When you work collaboratively, how do you organize your work? What tools do you use? If you teach or lead collaborative teams, how do you guide others and how much structure do you provide? What electronic tools do you use?

Hi everybody, thought I'd be brave and share a model I developed and use within one of my online GDipTchLn (pre-service teacher education) visual art course.Students can choose to complete an assessment task individually or collaboratively within the final 3 weeks of the 10 week course. By this time, they have developed into a 'community' ( I put a lot of emphasis upon relationship/ trust building early on).Students choose their own groups (max size 6)- each group creating a long term visual art plan for a different age group.The model is provided as a suggested way of working- I do not police it's use- just believe it's good to have a scaffold available.

Each group has their own 'workspace' within my course site and has full admin rights- site includes WIKI, threaded discussion, real time chat space- but they can customise this to suit.Some also use skype. I join each site as a member and act as a resource if required as they work.Timeframes are set within the main course site, and within my bi-weekly updates I reflect upon what is happening across the groups. Exemplars are available to all groups prior to the task being started.Groups can also chat within the main course site

Finally, groups can elect to 'dropbox' their completed plans within a central sharing space- these are then put onto a CD for all those who participated in the sharing and sent when the course has concluded.

When I first developed this scaffold, I conducted a research project with my first group of participants ( what are the +ve's and -ves of working collaboratively online)- I now share these findings with my new groups before the task begins, as this will hopefully help them choose which way to work. Interestingly, although they can work independently, the vast majority choose to work collaboratively!! ...The quality of the work produced by my online groups for this task is actually higher than within our F2F groups .

Feedback from students has been extremely positive!See this as a parallel/ sequential way of working.

Nicki :o)


In reply to Nicki Dabner

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Lawrence Wasserman PhD -

I am working on a knowledge sharing project that includes developing a taxonomy and collaboration tools. Any good references would be appreciative. KS refers to sharing informstion, data and best practices around trade and commercialization success stories of funded projects in African countries. Any good KS models etc. again appreciative.

In reply to Lawrence Wasserman PhD

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Janet Salmons -

Lawrence- I'd be happy to talk with you about developing taxonomies, if you want to contact me at jsalmons@vision2lead.com.

Janet

In reply to Lawrence Wasserman PhD

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Elizabeth Wallace -

Hi Lawrence:

I'd like to throw out one idea for you (and others) to consider, and that is the concept of knowledge in the plural. Spell check hates it when I refer to knowledges, but from a critical perspective I'd suggest that we should always think that way.

I'm sure I don't have to explain the rationale behind the concept. Each of us possesses an unique set of understandings/experiences/cultural biases that we call knowledge (not that I'm daring to provide a definitive definition of knowledge!) I would suggest that the aggregation of that individual knowledge should lead us naturally to thinking of knowledges in the plural, and to the idea of sharing and exchanging them. 

Many of us in this forum are educators who are comfortable talking about the need for learners to acquire skills (in the plural) and attitudes (in the plural). There are a few souls who have published on knowledges in the plural, but not many. My neglected blog at http://knowledgesexchange.wordpress.com/ references some of them.

Lawrence, you could be one in a million if your model embraces the pluralistic dimension of KS!

Liz

In reply to Nicki Dabner

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by George Kurtz -

Hi Nicki,

You present an interesting question.  One we at The VIT World Group, in Second Life, are spending a lot of time on researching that very question.  As many of you are aware, we have developed a very large 2D Mind Map of Virtual Information Technologies.  Recently, we have brought it in world and now have it functional in Second Life's 3D space.  We are in the process of planning the next step and would like to know how we could make it a useful collaboration tool.  Your input would be helpful.  Our plans include:

  • Convert the currently 2D Mind Map to function on a wiki.
  • Allow users to build their own mind map and collaborate on it in a group.
  • Add tagging so users can build a mind map and display it in a list format, based on their area(s) of interest.
  • Allow updating and displaying of the mind map from either the web or in world and eventually from the desktop.

The current 2D & 3D mind maps can be seen in Second Life at LM Quiricosta (226-90-108).  Also, there are articles on VIT World and its work in the November and December issues of www.theseventhsun.com.

Please let me know your thoughts and ideas.

George Kurtz

In reply to Nicki Dabner

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Janet Salmons -

Great example, Nicki! Thanks for posting it.

In reply to Janet Salmons

Re: Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning: Working with Parallel, Sequential and/or Synergistic Collaboration

by Janet Salmons -
I am posting an example I put together for another workshop-- thought it might be of interest, especially to people who are thinking about ways to structure assignments to support more collaboration.