DEHub; Dr Ros James
Recent reviews of the literature by Dr Ros James and Professor Tynan accepted for presentation and publication at ALT-C, (UK) in September has revealed that overall, in Australia, adoption of virtual collaboration tools has been lower than expected. Even under current connectivity conditions without the new National Broadband Network, access does not seem to be a major problem—it seems even in rural areas, >90% of students can access dialup, broadband or satellite internet (Chan and McLoughlin 2008). Since many Web2.0 tools are free and user-friendly, availability and accessibility cannot be a major deterrent to their use: that leaves appropriation as the culprit.
Significantly higher numbers of students (Kennedy et al. 2006) and professionals (CCH 2008) use blogging, instant messaging and other Web 2.0 tools for socialising rather than for work/study, suggesting that these primarily social devices and tools have not yet been recognised for their beneficial work applications. With blogs, instant messaging, social networking, texting, RSS feeds and downloading MP3s, more frequent use leads to greater awareness of their potential in study contexts (Kennedy et al. 2008). Therefore, we need to provide training and use testimonials to clearly illustrate to students, researchers and professionals the usefulness of the new Web 2.0 tools, when their use is appropriate relative to specific tasks and projects and how they can be integrated into work processes. Not surprisingly, simply making ICTs available does not lead to their use (Montoya et al. 2009). Adoption of ICT is also not a determinant of productivity, unless to save time and cut costs, collaborators focus more on technology utilization and business process redesign (Wang and Tadisina 2007).
HE traditionally favours competition over collaboration. In preparing our graduates for globalizing labour markets, the central challenge is re-orienting our educational systems so as to encourage more people to create, collaborate, contribute and participate. We need to develop guidelines for engaging with Web 2.0 technologies to develop a skill-set that matches to appropriate 21st-century learning skills and employability skills–namely, communication, collaboration, creativity, leadership and technology proficiency. Information literacies (searching, retrieving, critically evaluating and attributing information from a range of appropriate sources) represent significant and growing deficit areas that should be urgently addressed.
Australian researchers have barely scratched the surface of e-collaboration research. A number of authors (e.g. Jirotka et al. 2006; Munkvold and Zigurs 2007) have stressed the need for further research worldwide. Our review suggests that in an Australian context, we need to research and develop
- methodologies for the formative evaluation of e-collaborations;
- case studies of e-collaboration projects, including failures and successes;
- evaluation of technologies and tools for supporting small and large scale collaborations across time and distance;
- better understanding of user acceptance and choice of technologies and interpersonal trust, accountability and ethics within distributed, technology-mediated communities;
- strategies, policies and tools for ownership, management and sharing of resources across virtual organisations;
- guidelines for best practice in organisational implementation and integration of emerging e-collaboration technologies into existing infrastructure and work practices;
- user training and procedural guidance for embedding ICTs; and
- demonstrated applications of Web 2.0 tools.
It is obvious there are major gaps in our research and that the field of e-collaboration offers fertile ground for future research into a broad range of challenges. For the moment, e-collaboration in higher education is just so much talk, with the participatory potential of ICTs yet to be fully realised.
For more information of this research and the reference list do not hesitate to contact Dr Rosalind James firstname.lastname@example.org