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Driving the collaboration cycle


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The Adobe Captivate Blog: eLearning this week Archives


Last week’s post raised the question: Why would the author of a content be willing to share the authorship with someone who has provided a comment or criticism to his content? 

There are three sets of people whose interests needs to be satisfied. The first is the consumer of the content, second is the author, and the third the collaborator. It would be useful to maintain an eLearning context in the following discussions.

The author is sharing his knowledge with the consumer with an eye on self-promotion, monetary benefits or pure goodness of heart.

The consumer is primarily interested in the accuracy and quality (aesthetics, engagement, style, layout etc. )of the content and the author would like to ensure that the content is delivering an engaging experience. The name of the author is interesting, but not central to the consumer. In fact, most times people remember the author when the content WOWs (or shocks) them or falls well below expectation.

If the collaborator is able to significantly add value to a content, which introduces WOW elements in an otherwise average content, it is interesting for the author to consider sharing the “glory of authorship” with this collaborator. On this question of incremental value, it will not be surprising to find differing opinions between the author and collaborator. And without transparency into this process, collaboration will not be worth the effort.

So the challenge is to have a rendering platform which allows discoverability and linking of collaborative elements, without disrupting the overall experience of consumption. It should also allow for community ranking of collaborative elements, whereby level of acknowledgement is determined by the consumers and not ONLY by the author.

How does a blog, deliver on these requirements?  The separation of comments from the post ensure unchanged user experience vis-a-vis the main post. The comments are easily discovered, but these elements are not contextual, sometimes linking back to the context in the main post is a trying process. One way to solve the problem as a lot of us realized (and possibly not learnt by this author!) is to have a small post. But there is no ranking facility, and the collaborator gains no recognition. While operationally commenting is simple, the effort is simply not worth for most readers.

A Wiki does a good job of providing collaboration in context, but the original authors contribution can be mercilessly edited or modified. The success of wikipedia does seem to indicate that there are people who are willing to take that “abuse” – but for most this is not their day job. In a day-job environment, most people have too much riding on the authorship to survive an environment where their “authorship” is designed to be eroded.

I like a Wikis inherent ability to “correct” itself, ensuring content fidelity, though the fresness quotient of a Wiki is directly related to the participation of its members. Wikis have gained traction within smaller groups and is an important eLearning tool, but they have worked where establishing authorship was not very important or authorship was clearly assumed – e.g. product design wikis, program tracking wikis etc.

Emails, of all things does address some of the issues – contextual, clear acknowledgement of authors and collaborators. But the problem of email is their inability to aggregate multiple threads of the same conversation. Gmail did that, and it as great selling point – but the aggregation is not without bugs. Of course, you do not vote on each others emails. Thank God for small mercies!

Social commenting tools are just that – commenting tools not collaboration platforms.

If we throw in the added dimension of increasing use of rich media in eLearning, we have added technological as well as UX (user experience) barriers. Came across this article on video-wikis, but appears that this maybe a few years from maturity. For now, video content or Flash content seems to be static – not amenable to storage of comment or ranking.

eLearning used to mean online, now there is an increasing offline-online trend to content delivery. eLearning used to mean LMS and formal assessment, now there is a huge growth in non-formal learning. In the absence of the perpetual network, or the background server how do we collaborate? Can platforms like Adobe AIR provide the technology answers, if not also the UX ones?

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