ACTWAN Collaborative Tools Resources - More Info

Collaborative Technologies

Collaborative technologies facilitate group work both face to face and online. Here are a few tools, technologies, and concepts to be aware of.


A wiki is a collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access to it ( Wikis use a simplifed language to allow collaborators to easily create and edit static webpages. Wikipedia, for example, is an online encyclopedia where individuals from around the world collaborate to create entries and keep them accurate.


A blog is an easy way to create an online journal with chronological postings. Many blogs also allow for comments and means to connect to other blogs. Blogs can be individually authored, but are often are the collaborative efforts of multiple authors. Lots of blogs on a variety of topics are hosted on Google's Blogger.

Social Networking

Social networking sites offer users a closed webpage on which to post personal information like interests and "favorites," and frequently center on personal connections with "friends." Two popular sites are Facebook and MySpace, while Scholar and ELGG are more academically focused.

Discussion Boards

Discussion boards operate much like e-mail, but in a localized place where everyone can see all messages and who replied to whom (threads). Conversation on discussion boards happens asynchronously, or over time. Here at UW-Madison, our course management system Learn@UW offers instructors discussion boards for their classes.

Chat or Instant Messaging

Chat and instant messaging are synchronous technologies, meaning that conversation happens in real-time. Typically, conversation happens quickly and informally: short phrases and typos are the norm. Here at UW-Madison, our course management system Learn@UW offers instructors a chat space, but many use commercial programs offered by AOL, Yahoo, or MSN.

Teleconferencing & Videoconferencing

Conferencing systems are another means of real-time communication where participants can hear and sometimes see each other. Here at the University of Wisconsin, Instructional Communication Systems (Extension) offers both tele- and video- conferencing systems. Skype is another popular conferencing solution.

Course Management Systems

Course or content management systems offer easy ways to create a website to share information--largely without requiring users to know any html code. Many also have means to add a number of tools to a site, such as discussion boards and frequently asked question (FAQ) lists. Here at UW-Madison, our course management system is Learn@UW; demos of other content management systems can be found at OpenSourceCMS.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is a term credited to Tim O'Reilly that refers to recent movements in website design including greater interactivity, simplicity of design, extensibility, and greater use of and connections between data and people. Two technologies that embrace "Web 2.0" are wikis and blogs. Popular "Web 2.0" websites include Netvibes (news reading), Flickr (photo sharing), Digg (story rating), and (music sharing).


Vendors & Services

Here are a few vendors and services that the ACTWAN group specifically examined.


A free version of Elluminate Live, which allows web confrencing among up to three users. It offers a large array of functions to allow users to work together in real time, as well as share documents and multimedia.


Elgg - social network software for education. Elgg provides each user with their own weblog, file repository (with podcasting capabilities), an online profile and an RSS reader. Additionally, all of a user's content can be tagged with keywords - so they can connect with other users with similar interests and create their own personal learning network. However, where Elgg differs from a regular weblog or a commercial social network (such as MySpace) is the degree of control each user is given over who can access their content. Each profile item, blog post, or uploaded file can be assigned its own access restrictions - from fully public, to only readable by a particular group or individual.


DrupalEd is an offshoot of the content management system Drupal which has features geared towards education.