What are Collaborative Environments?

Collaborative environments are online spaces — often cloud-based — where the focus is on making it easy to collaborate and work in groups, no matter where the participants may be. As the typical educator’s network of contacts has grown to include colleagues who might live and work across the country, or indeed anywhere on the globe, it has become common for people who are not physically located near each other to nonetheless collaborate on projects. Joint classroom-based projects with students at other schools or in other countries are more and more common strategies used to expose learners to a variety of perspectives. The essential attribute of the technologies in this set is that they make it easy for people to share interests and ideas, to easily monitor their collective progress, and to see how ideas have evolved throughout the process. These tools are compelling and widely adopted because they are not only easy to use, but they are also either very low cost or free, and often accessible with a simple web browser.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to academic and research libraries?

  • supporting research in the university: for example collaborative environments for scientists like bioRxiv (a free online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences) allow engagement from other researchers, who may have a different set of skills (see this example) which potentially improves the quality of the research output - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph May 1, 2014 academic libraries may host these types of eprint environments
  • supporting teaching in the university: eg. collaborating on the development of a course syllabus with colleagues from various institutions and industry - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph May 1, 2014
  • supporting learning: forums and collaborative work spaces are used in both distance ed and on campus modes to foster interaction and growth of ideas - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph May 1, 2014
  • I also agree that supporting teaching an learning are the key here. As students take more and more online or blended courses that use collaborative environment, these are places that libraries need to be. - jdupuis jdupuis May 8, 2014
  • Collaborative environments can leverage crowdsourcing and reduce duplication of efforts. For example, many universities create silo'ed subject guides and finding aids. What if these were hosted on Wikipedia and collaboratively curated. Such a practice would reduce effort and create a locus for academic library students, researchers, and professionals to spread their influence. Where collaborative environments overlap with open licensing, there is greater potential for adoption, adaptation, and dissemination of content. - jorlowitz jorlowitz May 11, 2014

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • MOOCs may drive greater adoption of collaborative environments that can scale and are supported by several universities and research libraries (eg. FutureLearn in the UK https://www.futurelearn.com/ ) - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph May 1, 2014
  • I would agree with Mylee here - MOOCs and the potential for PLEs as "platforms" for learning are tied closely to this one. - mstephens7 mstephens7 May 9, 2014
  • As the ubiquitous, canonical collaborative environment, I'd like to give some mention to Wikipedia and the wiki-technology which is often used to advance collaborative environments. It's interesting that Wikipedia has been particularly successful in fostering collaboration and I think there's a lot to learn about why that is the case and where other collab environments have been less fruitful.

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

  • determining appropriate exit strategies when a community is no longer receiving sufficient engagement - particularly when the community feels a sense of 'ownership' over the content they have contributed or curated in the collaborative space (eg. see the community responses to Brooklyn Museum withdrawing content from Flickr Commons http://inkdroid.org/journal/2014/04/07/glass-houses/ ) - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph May 2, 2014
  • Collaborative research environments have to focus an research groups or disciplines. Libraries should not try to build a non specific environment for all of their users but cooperate with libraries, IT departments and researchers in order to develop or adopt a specific service witch fits to the needs of a research group or a smaller community. - rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler May 7, 2014- digicmb digicmb May 8, 2014 - piguet piguet May 8, 2014
  • There exist tools that are trying to implement parts of this vision -- like mendeley or figshare or researchgate -- so perhaps part of the answer is for libraries to build on those technologies, try to encourage students and researchers to join, help with training. - jdupuis jdupuis May 8, 2014
  • Part of the guidance for academic and research libraries should be to join existing collaborative environments rather than starting their own. The importance of 'critical mass of participation' means that more widespread collaborations will tend to be more successful. This also argues for very localized collaborative environments to be combined or moved to areas where broader network effects are possible. - jorlowitz jorlowitz May 11, 2014

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • research libraries often collaborate via contributing content into digital archive projects (eg. in Australia PANDORA Web Archive http://pandora.nla.gov.au/) and also on workspaces like the Europeana Professional and Europeana Cloud projects http://pro.europeana.eu/web/europeana-cloud/home - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph May 2, 2014
  • Library labs (eg. NYPL, British Library Labs) using Github as a collaborative environment, making code and datasets available for developers to use - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph May 2, 2014
  • The Wikipedia Library tries to connect academic research professionals with Wikipedia editors, so the editors can share content with the public. - jorlowitz jorlowitz May 11, 2014