Case Study: A Collaborative of Content Designers and Developers

Case Study: A Collaborative of Content Designers and Developers

Beth Brunk-Chavez (The University of Texas at El Paso, USA) and Sunay Palsole (The University of Texas at El Paso, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-994-6.ch006
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This chapter features a case study of a collaborative project among a team of writers and a team of multimedia designers and examines their intersections. The chapter’s central question is: What does it take to enable collective collaboration in a virtual writing environment? The chapter is based in part on a study that found that building and strengthening social presence is integral to effective collaboration. The spoken and unspoken social contracts of working toward a common goal in a respectful environment are important. It also found that the technologies must be adoptable, adaptable, and they must enable anywhere/anytime collaboration. Therefore, collaboration using technologies is a complex process involving social presence, availability, and adaption/adoption of technologies with the changing needs of the collaborative team.
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This chapter draws on and exemplifies the three models of collaboration introduced in Chapter 1:

  • Serial collaboration occurs when writers work on a product one after another. Each person works separately on a piece of the writing or the whole document. In turn, each writer performs a distinct function in the creation of the finished work, possibly in a distinct chronological or hierarchical order.

  • Parallel collaboration occurs when writers work on different pieces of the same project simultaneously. Each writer works on one piece of the whole, usually based on a set of negotiated standards or requirements.

  • Collective collaboration occurs when writers all work on the same piece of writing at the same time. Everyone works together on one piece of the work, or the whole work, with no segregation of ownership

Additionally, this chapter illustrates the need for adhering to Principles 1 and 4 that ground this book (Chapter 1). First, it is necessary to develop a culture of collaboration for writing teams to work. Second, Principle 4 indicates that it is important to select and use the right tools and any of the three discussed models of collaboration in ways that serve both the project at hand and the people who undertake it.

The first two models listed above, serial and parallel collaboration, can be equated with cooperative work: something a little quicker and a little less messy than collective collaboration. In these collaborative settings, team members complete the project by dividing it into discrete parts and then splicing those parts into the agreed-upon framework. There are many contexts in which such features as the nature of project, time, personalities, and relationships make serial and parallel collaboration appropriate. However, collective collaboration, the focus of this chapter, can be more challenging to achieve. In collective collaboration writing projects, writers work simultaneously to create, revise, and edit the same text or project with the goal of creating a seamless, univocal product. Such collaboration may be difficult to embrace in business settings where the culture promotes and rewards competition among individuals and may recognize individual writers separately from the team. However, we believe that collective collaboration is desirable in virtual writing contexts because it can lead to more cohesive and higher quality products than other forms of collaboration.

Using the case study of a collaborative grant project to build interactive teaching modules, this chapter considers the following questions:

  • What does it take to enable collective collaboration in a virtual writing environment?

  • What are the characteristics of the collaborative team that enable strong collective collaborations?

  • What are the characteristics of the technology that enable effective collective collaboration?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mind mapping: A diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central keyword or idea. Used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, and decision making. It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.

Open Educational Resources: Term first adopted at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Open educational resources are educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone to use, and under some licenses remix, improve, and redistribute. Open educational resources include: learning content: full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals; tools: software to support the creation, delivery, use, and improvement of open learning content including searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and online learning communities; and implementation resources: intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localization of content.

Argument Mapping: A visual representation of the structure of an argument in informal logic. It includes the components of an argument such as a main contention, premises, co-premises, objections, rebuttals, and lemmas. Argument maps are often used in the teaching of reasoning and critical thinking, and can support the analysis of pros and cons when deliberating over wicked problems.

Concept Mapping: A technique for visualizing the relationships between different concepts. A concept map is a diagram showing the relationships between concepts. Concepts are connected with labeled arrows, in a downward-branching hierarchical structure. The relationship between concepts is articulated in linking phrases, for example, “gives rise to,” “results in,” “is required by,” or “contributes to.”

Open Language Learning: A teaching method for language acquisition based on open educational resources, open source technologies, and online communities. Open learning was founded on the work of Célestin Freinet and Maria Montessori. Open learning aims to allow pupils self-determined, independent, and interest-guided learning. More recent work on open learning has been conducted by pedagogues Hans Brügelmann, Falko Peschel, Jörg Ramseger, and Wulf Wallrabenstein. Due to the rapid development of information and communication technologies, open learning has been associated with free learning resources, collaborative study, and open communities.

Knowledge Mapping: A technique for knowledge visualization that aims to facilitate the creation and communication of knowledge through the use of computer and non-computer-based, complementary, graphic representation techniques. Examples of such visual formats are information graphics, sketches, diagrams, images, maps, interactive visualizations, dynamic visuals (animations), imaginary visualizations, storyboards, or even physical objects for inspection. While information visualization concentrates on the use of computer-supported tools to explore a large amount of abstract data, knowledge visualization focuses on the transfer or creation of knowledge among people. Beyond the mere transfer of facts, knowledge visualization aims to further create or transfer insights, experiences, attitudes, values, expectations, perspectives, opinions, and predictions by using various complementary visualizations. Dynamic forms of visualization such as educational animation have the potential to enhance understandings of systems that change over time.

Dialogue Mapping: A structural augmentation of group communication. As the conversation unfolds and the map grows, each person can see a summary of the discussion so far. The map serves as a “group memory,” virtually eliminating the need for participants to repeat themselves to get their points made. Other benefits of dialogue mapping include: the group sees where they are, where they have come from, and where they are going to, and is thus self-correcting if they get “off topic.” The shared display map shifts the dynamic of the group into a collaborative mode: “What can we think and learn together?” The map focuses the group on a kind of “lightly logical” perspective as they work on the issues at hand. The map increases the group’s shared understanding about the problem at hand, possible solutions, meaning issues, roles and responsibilities—all of the key elements of a successful project.

Web Mapping: The process of designing, implementing, generating, and delivering maps on the World Wide Web. While Web mapping primarily deals with technological issues, Web cartography additionally studies theoretic aspects: the use of Web maps, the evaluation and optimization of techniques and workflows, the usability of Web maps, social aspects, and more.

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