Example 1: Collaborative Training Environment
A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.
In the scenario described above, an organization that is separated geographically and temporally is challenged with sharing documents and collaboration for the roll out of a new staff information system (SIS). Like Beldarrain (2006) said, “today’s workplace requires that individuals create and collaborate within the constraints of time and place. These needs have given way to technological advancements that allow for real-time communication among peers and co-workers who stay connected over the Internet.” (p. 12). While real-time communication and collaboration is important over distance, in a global world it is equally important asynchronously. Therefore, creating a collaborative asynchronous working environment must be carefully considered along the needs of the organization. As these are regional and/or national offices, cultural, linguistic, and social factors should be minimal (Germain-Rutherford and Kerr, 2008), and a fairly uniform knowledge of technology can be assumed. The “lowest common technology” of the organization and employees should be determined in order to “maximize efficiency” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek, 2012, p. 116). Discussion technology such as chat, conferencing, and forums are fundamental to collaboration (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). While chat and conferencing facilitate collaboration, these two particular tools would not be the most helpful as the dialogue and sharing between staff members would be asynchronous. Forum-style discussion technology would, however, be appropriate for an asynchronous situation as seen in the scenario. Consideration would be needed for the organization of such a forum as Wade, Bentley, and Waters (in Simonson et al., 2012) describe 20 guidelines for threaded discussions, and highlighting the need to group members into smaller units (Simonson et al., 2012). While this scenario does not include staff numbers, possible group collaboration settings could include the geographic regions as individual units, as well as regional counterpart groups to share information on the same issues across the organization. Thus, the criteria of an asynchronous collaborative file sharing environment needed, alongside the organization’s available technologies, can be imposed on actual tools. The two I have chosen that meet these conditions are closely related: Google Drive and Google Docs.
The application known as Google Drive is a collective online file repository capable of storing the organization’s documents and screen shots needed for staff information system implementation. Depending on the administrative set up, all documents by default can shared with all stakeholders or allow individual or group level access. There would be no special software to install as Google Drive is a cloud-based solution where data is stored on an off-site server owned and maintained by Google (Google, n.d.). The only technology needed to access the Google product would be a technology common to every modern computer, tablet, and smartphone, a web browser. Simonson et al. (2012) refereed to this as the “lowest common technology” that would “maximize efficiency” (p. 116). Such an interface would require little training if any at all. Group level organization would also fulfill certain guidelines described by Wade et. al. (in Simonson et al., 2012) for discussion forums. But on a practical level, the forum discussion is built within the file viewer (whether a document or screen shot as described in the scenario) as seen in the images below.
Image Source: Creative Commons
Comments or visual elements added by users are differentiated with colors and mouse-over effects, and show time-stamps for when it was made. A comment can even specifically be directed at others through the use the “@” symbol as is common in other social media platforms. Users have access independent of geography and time, and can even benefit from mobile access as iOS, Android, and Mobile Web apps are universally available with similar functionality (Google, n.d.).
Image Source: Creative Commons
But most importantly, these two tools fulfill the requirements of an asynchronous file sharing and collaborative environment that is needed for the SIS roll out. It also requires little to no financial investment for the use of the tool. If concern over the effectiveness of the tool was prevalent, there are numerous examples to examine.
Such apps from Google have been widely adopted in education as well as the business world. Ferenstein (2010) reported that “it saves schools money; 2) It boosts academic performance and motivation, and; 3) It prepares students for digital communication in the real world”. Essentially Ferenstein (2010) suggests that these tools are financially viable, increase performance, and fosters communication. This true for education as Google offers the suite free of charge, but offers the same productivity potential and streamlined communication to businesses among other resources. If the entire public school system in Oregon is embracing these tools for those reasons (Ferenstein, 2010), then the organization should feel there is compelling evidence that they can expect similar a experience.
Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2),139–153.
Ferenstein, G. (2010, April 28). Why schools are turning to google apps. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/04/28/schools-google-apps/
Germain-Rutherford, A., & Kerr, B. (2008). An inclusive approach to online learning environments: Models and resources. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education TOJDE, 9(2). Retrieved from http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde30/pdf/article_2.pdf
Google. (n.d.). Google apps for business. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/products.html
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). The technology of distance education. [Multimedia]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3396926_1%26url%3D
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.