Sunday, May 14, 2006

Collaborative Learning in My Client Environments

I learned a piece of information today that several of you more technically oriented people may already be familiar with. We may even have discussed it and it just didn't connect for me. I was speaking to a colleague today about our course and my homework task for the day. She is a well connected ASTD member and past president or our local chapter and told me that her company uses Microsoft SharePoint. When I read some of the information on the Microsoft site, it looked very similar to what we are doing with our Web 2.0 tools. She is in the banking industry and they use it to inform field personnel, update new pricing, and collaborate on various topics amongst the regions in the country. From what I could gather it was more like a wiki, but she told me that Microsoft is planning to introduce a combination of SharePoint, Outlook and other Microsoft programs in a more dynamic collaborative platform next year. It is in beta now.
My point to sharing this is - even my non-technical friends are beginning to venture into this world that has been introduced to me recently and are in fact using them.
I see several possibilities for use of the tools by my clients of which 80% are in the franchise industry. Thus, the scenario that Team 3 presented pretty accurately reflects some of the challenges a franchisor (owner of the franchise) is presented with in order to successfully replicate their business. The franchisees are not part of a corporate entity, therefore, the franchisor cannot "push" certain absolutes to them. However, the franchisees must work within stated framework adhering to the processes and procedures laid out by the franchisor. One of the secrets of a successful franchise is to communicate, inform, and build a collaborative environment with their franchisees. The use of a Franchisee Form is an example. A wiki can be created to enable them to work together to share their thoughts, concerns, challenges to the franchisor. A wiki/discussion board can house all of the documents involved in their discussion along with links to additional information.
Example uses for the tools:
RSS Reader/Social Bookmarking: a team is tasked with researching a new product, service, or way of doing business, etc. and must come up with a presentation to their manager within 2 weeks. Perhaps they are competing with an off-shore company and need to find out more about how things are done in that country.
RSS Reader/Blogs: Blogs can be used as communication vehicles for regional representatives from a company or functional representatives of a company to communicate recent wins or overviews of quarterly progress toward common goals. The RSS reader would inform users when the blogs have been updated.
Wikis: Would provide a "home base" for any kind of collaborative summary of activities or knowledge library of links to resources used. If the users are connected via a discussion group, they can learn when changes have been made to the wiki. Like Steve's metaphor, I see the wiki as a "white board" or for those familiar with "mapping", it would house the "map" for the project as the various "links to other maps" were created during their work on the wiki.

The article Tony referred us to "An Overview of Cooperative Learning" by Roger T. and David W. Johnson lists many of the requirements I feel are necessary for collaborative learning to be effective. For example:
1. Clearly perceived interdependence. (They sink or swim together and the work benefits each of them. I think Greg or Elmer or someone mentioned this. )
2. Considerable promotive (face to face) interaction. Whether this is done via Webinar or regular face to face meetings, I personally feel this is essential. My experience in our course was hindered in some ways because we never came together for a face to face time. As part of a blended learning experience, I suggest the class/team meets face to face to hammer out the specifics of the project/task. If it is a collaborative project, the group needs to be familiar with each other to begin with.
3. Clearly perceived individual accountability and personal responsibility to achieve the group's goals. Our experience was hampered in that it was comprised of volunteers and there was no way to insure that everyone would be held accountable and take personal responsibility in the tasks. For a collaboration or blending learning event to be successful, this is the most important point along with #2 in my opinion.
4. Frequent use of relevant interpersonal and small-group skills. (This is where I saw the benefit of the conference call and discussion group to develop our team project.)
5. Frequent and regular group processing of current functioning. (Roles and Group Norms really need to be revisited over the long haul to insure that everyone is getting something positive from the collaborative experience.)


Blogger Tony Karrer said...

I'm curious Paula if you believe that this would actually work with the Franchises. This seems like it really has potential, but all of the challenges you mentioned in your summary of the class experience points to challenges in making it successful.

8:44 AM  

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