Monday, August 15, 2011

EduMOOC; Collaboratives, Collectives and Clouds

Hi friends,

Topic for the seventh week at EduMOOC was “Collaboratives, Collectives and Clouds”. Giving simple and easily understandable definition to all the three words in the topic name seems to be  very important to approach the subject from the right angle.

A collaborative means working together to achieve a common objective (s), whereas collective means collective works in a domain with individual goals. Now what is a cloud? In simple terms, cloud computing is a comprehensive online store of various digital services, that include operating systems, application programs, hardware (like server) and various related services that will be made available online (just-in-time) on demand. Clouds also  let the end user free from all the technical complexities of Information and Communication Technology systems like configuring, customizing etc.

I think it will be rather easy to explain collaborative and collective efforts in a corporate context. For example, corporates have managing partners,  line managers and work force in its organization structure. The managing partners constitute the policy making body for the organization. The managing partners set the objectives of their business and they work for the declared objectives. Therefore their work is collaborative in nature. Whereas the line managers have their own individual roles and targets to achieve. They work for their individual targets. Therefore, for the organization, the works of the line managers are collective in nature.

While replicating the same in the e-learning process, let us consider the scenario wherein a group of academics decide to run an online course, sets the objectives of the course, actively engages in planning and developing the course and runs the same. In the said context, their work is collaborative in nature because they work for common objectives. These collaborators during the course of their course development may seek the assistance of their colleagues or assistants to develop content on specific topics or sub topics, design a quiz, some graphics works, assist with online tutoring and evaluation process etc. Thus these people who provide assistance/help to the collaborators together presents a collective work.

Okay, the above scenario is chiefly related to teaches or course developers. Now what about the learners? In the learners’ context collaboration mostly happens during researches and project preparations. A group of learners can select a common research topic, set its objectives and go through the remaining procedures of research. So we can call the group members as collaborators of the given research. The same approach is applicable in the case of preparation of projects/assignments as part of a study.

Now when does collective learning happen? I think EduMOOC is an ideal example for collective learning. People can join the learning activities  at their convenience and receive information or add information and navigate away to other sources of information they get through such interactions, of course with frequent or infrequent revisits.

We can conclude from all the above contexts that, ideal collaboration happens when two or more people engage in shared thoughts, decide to work together, define objectives of their work, agree on the objectives  and work together to achieve such objectives. In short they work together from the inception to realization of the shared objectives.

Coming to the cloud, we know that modern networking technologies provide us with limitless possibilities for learning and working in cloud environments. Paid or free online LMS services being availed by academic institutions are best examples. Now with the advent of open technologies, open educational resources and free network services, with some planning, any learner or teacher can create a cloud. For example, you can use google bookmarks to map resources, google docs for storing/developing documents, google sites or blogger to link them all together. You can also use Picasa and Youtube to create amazing multimedia content for your learning/teaching cloud. You can also use social media and podcast services to make it very much live!

The most important aspect is that, collectives, collaboratives and clouds together break the institutional barriers in teaching and learning. You are getting tremendous opportunities  to have experts from any part of the world as your academic collaborator or collective supporter. Similarly, as a learner you will be able to find enthusiastic learners as your learning partner. However, as  a HR man I see policy barriers ahead during our efforts to break institutional barriers :) Still we have sufficient reason to be optimistic. In this era of transborder education, how long our academic institutions can keep policy barriers working?

License: CC-BY

1 comment:

  1. I was not so sure about the collective/collaborative distinction until I reread your with particular attention to your examples. Adding examples from other areas (teaching practices, community networking) might be helpful. My perspective is teaching, academic labor and community networking, but, like you, I see information silos created by (imo unnecessary) policy barriers as major obstacles. Sometimes too I think departments speak different languages without being aware of it.

    At this moment I am trying to explain to colleagues that an either/or mentality that refuses to even think rationally about change is not realistic.