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Collaboration Technology and it’s Applications

August 6, 2012

By Elucido

Introduction

“Books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye”Said Thomas Edison in 1913

Sure enough, there’s been an exponential growth in teaching & learning technology over the past few decades all the way from the simple Blackboard to Digital Classrooms to connected classrooms and mixed collaboration environments.

Applications of these technologies are not just exclusively in schools and colleges but across a broad spectrum of industries and also among individuals and groups wanting to interact and collaborate.

Need for Collaboration Technology  

Across Education Institutes and Enterprises, collaboration solutions can significantly reduce operational expenditure, improve teacher / instructor productivity and enhance student / employee learning.

Several variants of collaboration technology exists, enabling simple to complex interactivity between individuals and groups of people participating from classrooms, conference or training rooms and from remote locations using personal devices like Laptops, PCs, Smart Phones and Tablets.

These solutions provide significant value to establishments across market segments (detailed in the table below)

Table 1

Collaboration solutions address various needs among establishments across these market segments (See Table 1). They can be broadly clubbed under two categories. “Business Centric” and “Teacher & Student Centric” as depicted in the following graphic.  

Figure 1

Available Technologies for Remote Collaboration

There are several available technologies for enabling remote collaboration between individuals and groups of people. For ease of comparison, we have classified available solutions under the following:

1) Collaboration Solutions (Web Conferencing, Video Conferencing, VSAT)

Most products in this category allow people to collaborate from remote locations by supporting simple levels of audio, video and content based interactivity.

2) Collaboration & Management Solutions (Emerging)

In addition to supporting complex interactivity between participants, solutions in this category also support the management of content and users, scheduling of collaboration sessions, post session analysis and review and in certain cases, allows integration of third party tools and applications.

These solutions support both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration by enabling real-time audio, video and content based interactivity between participants AND by providing later access to content repositories for post session reviews and self pace learning.

These are very powerful solutions that help people achieve collaboration objectives much faster with quantifiable process and operational improvements when used consistently over a period of time.

Solution Comparison

The comparison grid below shows the capabilities of each type of solution.

Each solution category is assessed across five performance attributes. The colour green indicates availability, Red indicates non availability and orange indicates that this feature is emerging among recently launched solutions within that category.

Figure 2

The five performance attributes are explained below:

1) Device Based: Supports collaboration on Laptops, Tablets, Smart Phones & PCs

2) Room Based: Collaboration between groups of people in multiple conference rooms, classrooms and training rooms

3) HD Video: Supports HD video of the participants across the network (Large screen displays in Classrooms, Conference and Training rooms and on personal devices – Tablets, Laptops & PCs)

4) Content Sharing: Digital content (Presentations, Videos, Animations, Documents, Etc) used during collaboration is visible across the network on large screen  displays, PCs, Laptops, Tablets and Smart Phones

5) Enhanced Interaction:

  • Annotation on content across the network of connected Class Rooms (Interactive Whiteboards, Large Screen Touch Displays) and users with devices (Tablets, Laptops, PCs, Smart Phones)
  • Audio & video interactivity between every participant in the network (Teacher to student & student to student)
  • Instant tests and assessment across the network
  • Contextual note taking using personal devices during the collaboration session
  • Session Scheduling
  • Lesson Planning
  • Content Management
  • Lecture and interactivity recording
  • Integration of third party solutions, tools and applications
  • Analytics & Reporting (Built in and integration support)

 Deployment & Usability

The “Cloud” is the latest technology that is changing the way solutions are being deployed and consumed. Solutions are cost-effective and deployments are instantaneous and simple.

In the Collaboration environment as depicted in figure 2;  new, agile solutions are fast replacing conventional solutions that require expensive proprietary hardware and multiple software components at each location. MCU based videoconferencing is a prime example of a dinosaur that is soon going to be extinct.

Collaboration needs of establishments and individuals across segments (see Table 1) are changing at a rapid pace and current solutions MUST enable collaboration independent of location or devices used.

Content for collaboration sessions should be available at any point within the network and remote participants should be able to interact and collaborate with each other with the same ease and convenience of being in a single physical location.

The “Cloud” is making all this possible and cloud based solutions have the potential to significantly change the way individuals and groups interact and collaborate, world over.

Impact of Collaboration & Management Solutions

Market Validation

The eLearning Guild (http://www.elearningguild.com) published a survey report on Synchronous Learning Systems (SLS). The 2008 survey covered 1,200 participants representing over 1,000 organizations. Following are their key findings:

  • 63.7% use Synchronous Learning Systems (SLS), and 71.1% of organizations with more than 5,000 workers use an SLS.
  • They are resoundingly positive in giving synchronous learning very high marks for its impact on their organizations. Specifically, 94.7% are convinced that a SLS is essential to their organization.
  • Synchronous learning is poised for growth with 51.3% indicating they plan to do more sessions, 49.9% planning to add more learners, and 16.9% planning to invest in a new system in the next 12 months.
  • 30% that use a SLS use more than one tool in their organizations.
  • The median costs to acquire, install, and customize a SLS for all industries and organization sizes is $33.65 per learner.
  • The median cost to maintain the SLS is $20.83 per learner.
  • Key areas taught for corporates are Technical Skills, Desktop Training, Product Knowledge Training and Business Skills

Key benefits of collaborative teaching and learning solutions

  • Enhance teacher productivity & student learning
  • Enrich the teaching and learning experience by using engaging and interactive digital content
  • Provide expert teacher access to more students by ensuring that a single teacher can teach students in multiple locations
  • Enable on time remedial action by identifying students that need special attention
  • Enable peer supported learning among students by providing an environment for collaboration outside the classroom
  • Enable self paced learning by providing anytime access to recorded classroom content to students from outside the classroom
  • Optimize the teaching and learning environment by replicating the physical classroom model across the network
  • Reduce operations expenditure
  • Leverage limited teaching resources

Conclusion

Collaboration technology is evolving at a rapid pace and ensures that teachers can teach from anywhere and students can learn from anywhere without any sense of disconnect or alienation.

Participants can experience teaching and learning in these virtual environments as comfortably as being in a single physical classroom.

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From → Education, Enterprise

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