Collaborative Online Spaces in Writing, Education, and the 360 Program

Posted January 22nd, 2016 at 10:42 am.

Project Team

Anne Dalke, Jody Cohen, Ann Dixon, Emily Maroni (student intern), and Rebecca Cook (student intern)

Courses Involved

EMLYoo1: Doing Justice: Nature and Culture (two linked sections)
EDUC 270: Identity, Access, and Innovation in Education
Identity Matters 360°: Being, Belonging, Becoming (includes 3 classes: ENGL 293 Critical Feminist Studies; ICPR 207 Disability, Identity, Culture; and SOWK 556 Adult Development and Aging).


Platform development: Summer-Fall 2014
Piloted in courses: AY 2014-2015

Goals and Description

This project, Collaborative Online Spaces, responds to the need for more inviting and usable spaces for online discussion. In-class conversations develop organically, branching off in multiple directions, looping back, moving sideways, and so on. Online, however, the tools we use struggle to capture the complexity of face-to-face discussion. The innovation of conversation threading made it easier to visualize the organization of online conversations, those conversations are still largely linear, chronological and hierarchical discussions. With this project, Anne Dalke, Jody Cohen and Ann Dixon ask, “how might we envision a non-linear, non-hierarchical conversation space, which can capture elements other than chronology in displaying responses?” and “how might such a conversation tool open up new problem spaces or sites of inquiry within a course?”

Over the summer they will work with Mellon summer interns to develop and test the tools for the Drupal-based collaborative space, Serendip Studio to support non-linear, branching conversations, tags for indicating the nature of a response (e.g., support, rebuttal, complication, expansion, etc.), and support for collaborative authorship and feedback. They will then pilot these new tools in their courses, challenging students to grow, challenge, and collaborate in new ways outside of the classroom. Students will be invited not only to analyze the impact of the new collaborative spaces created by these tools, but also to compare them to other writing spaces on Serendip Studio, and to other collaborative online tools such as Moodle, GoogleDocs, or WordPress, to identify which systems work best for them as individuals and to help us improve and better use these systems for future learners.

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