Collaborative Learning

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->OOptions for collaborative software beyond e-mail have exploded. It is estimated that more than 1,000 software packages offer collaborative functions: whether for asynchronous collaboration, such as discussion databases or bulletin boards; or synchronous (real time) collaboration, such as Web conferencing tools. Students at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania use Web Café, a virtual collaboration space that lets students collaborate more easily.

“Courses at Wharton are becoming group-project intensive. It’s seen as good practice for the business world,” says R. Ditto, senior project leader in Wharton’s Computing and Information Technology group.

Examples of collaborative efforts have increased exponentially, primarily due to increased federal funding for such activity. Many efforts were discussed at the annual conference of the Society for Applied Learning Technology Conference (SALT), held July 24-26 in Arlington, Va. Dr. E. Friedman, Stevens Institute of Technology, described the Alliance + project, a Technology Innovation Grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education. It provides professional development for 10,000 teachers in the metropolitan areas of Cleveland, Ph'enix and Miami. This model for national in-service training is being implemented by Stevens Institute of Technology in collaboration with Cuyahoga Community College, Maricopa Community College and Miami-Dade Community College through a grant to the Polaris Career Center in Middleburg, Ohio.

Dr. G. Abramson, Nova Southeastern University, mentioned a number of virtual collaborative high school programs. One such effort is Florida Virtual High School, the first funded statewide collaborative school. Its goal is to provide a complete online high school curriculum by the year 2001. In the spring of 2000, more than 1900 students registered from 65 districts and alternate schools. A model that utilizes a Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) collaboration with a university seems profitable and successful.

In Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies (IIT) benefits from monetary gifts and time donation by employers, as well as hardware and software products. The corporations benefit from having a connection to talented students’ access to leading-edge research, and the sharing of knowledge developed at the University. According to K. Kapp, assistant director for the Institute, the five steps of the model include: “building a strong sense of community with existing students, building a strong sense of community with alumni, actively listening to the CAC, adding value to the CAC members, and finally seeking funding outside of the existing corporate partners.”

Whether we think about collaboration between partners or about collaboration on the desktop, activities will expand. However, creating an effective collective environment is not easy. It depends on the motivation of the individuals and their willingness to work together for a common goal.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.