ACTWAN - Next Steps and Recommendations

Near-Term Suggestions

We offer the following near-term suggestions to continue the momentum of interest in examining collaborative tools:

Evaluate existing face-to-face collaborative spaces

Evaluating collaborative spaces includes identifying spaces both on and off campus, talking with students about their use of these spaces, and how we can enhance these environments for collaboration.

Continue to strengthen partnerships with campus stakeholders

Strengthening relations with other campus organizations who oversee learning spaces where collaborative activities take place. This would include the Campus Libraries, Facilities Planning and Management (especially the Classroom Media Specialists) and Residence Halls.

Formation of focus groups

In these groups, TAs and lecturers should be included as a specific audience in order to address the changing demographic of the faculty community. Freshmen should be targeted with specific surveys and/or focus groups since that demographic group will be driving future demands for academic technology. A focus group targeting UW staff supporting or implementing instructional technology could reveal faculty technology requests and challenges. It is possible that ComETS (Community of Educational Technology Support) could act as a vehicle for the latter.

ACTWAN - Interpretation

1. Face-to-Face Collaboration is Highly Valued.

“I think face to face skills are important, even if they are less convenient. I know a lot of people that talk all day online to people, but when they are in (face-to-face) social situations they freeze up. This inability to interact with people will hurt them in their future career.”

-- Student Response

“I feel that having the ability to meet online is a useful tool, but face-to-face contact should still be the norm.”

-- Student Response

A majority of faculty respondents to our survey agree that collaboration is essential to learning. It is unsurprising then to see that 73% of faculty members surveyed asked their students to engage each other in some kind of collaborative activities. Our research shows that both faculty and students find significant value in face-to-face collaboration.

Although additional similar comments by both students and faculty indicate a preference for collaborating face-to-face, the survey does indicate that they are open to learning and exploring how online tools can assist in collaboration.

ACTWAN - Methodology

  • Faculty Survey, 1500 faculty and teaching staff, 85 respondents
  • Student Survey, 1200 students, 197 respondents
  • Review of Literature
  • Review of Collaborative Tools
  • Review of IT Surveys
  • Guest Speakers

Student Survey

A 12-question survey was sent to 1200 students, of which 192 responded (see results). The student sample included 45 Freshmen, 198 Sophomores, 127 Juniors, 326 Seniors, 270 Graduate, 86 Professional and 58 Special.

The survey questions were developed after review of literature and other campus instructional technology surveys and results (see Review of Literature, Other Surveys and Reports below). Students received an email invitation with a link to the online survey just before spring break and a second email on their return. Entry into drawing for an iPod Nano or one of three iTunes gift cards was an incentive for completing the survey. On the advice of Mary Evenson, DoIT Communications, we kept the survey short and used multiple-choice questions for easier analysis, with one open-ended question at the end.

ACTWAN - Key Findings

  • Face-to-Face environments hold the highest value to instructors and students when collaborating.
  • 90% of instructors state that learning is aided when collaborating face-to-face, while only 41% of instructors indicate that student learning is aided by online collaboration.
  • The top three most valuable collaborative activities for learning chosen by students and instructors are discussion, study groups and group problem solving (see chart below).

Chart of what instructors and students selected as the most valuable collaborative activites for learning.

ACTWAN - Summary

UW-Madison, Division of Information Technology (DoIT), 2007.

The ACTWAN study looked at the value of collaborative activities, the current use of collaborative technologies and the need for various collaborative technologies on the UW-Madison campus.

ACTWAN working definition of collaboration:

"Collaboration gives people the opportunity to communicate, to collectively author, edit and review materials and to develop a community of learners who are working toward a shared outcome. To this end, there are many collaborative activities such as peer review, sharing experiences, and lab work which can enable this process."

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