Collaborative technologies provide various tools such as video or web conferencing, instant messaging, wikis, blogs, internet protocol telephony and so on which have changed the way companies do business. It also helped them to become more efficient and consequently more productive. These new technologies have also began to influence the way people learn in organizations as they are now spoilt for choice with a deluge of new and convenient methods of seeking information, sharing ideas and exchanging notes.
Thanks to these collaborative technologies, it is now possible for someone sitting in Milwaukee, US to seek help or exchange ideas with someone who is physically located in, say Baltimore without having to travel out of his office. Similarly, if the person in Milwaukee would like to consult another colleague across the globe in Tokyo, Japan regarding a project , all he has to do, perhaps, is have video conferencing set up, or have a meeting set up virtually through internet telephony or through web conferencing. The colleagues then can collaborate and co-create the project without having to leave their individual offices. The manner in which information is accessed and managed today has led to a new learning paradigm.
Effort initiated by learners:
Learning is initiated by the learners and is largely influenced by their own likes and dislikes, individual preferences and priorities. They seek information based on their need and the value it provides to their work. It means that learning is an on-going process and not just a one-time effort that becomes active with a requirement. If I have a problem, I go online to seek a solution – this has become a natural and instinctive reflex action for the learner.
Platform for social computing:
Learning takes place through a network of like-minded individuals driven by a common objective or background. If you have purchased a software program and need help in using the same, you can join an online forum set up for the users of the software. You can get guidance and tips on using the software and troubleshoot when you run into a problem. Yet another example is an online community of translators who work collectively towards building a directory of terminologies in the languages of their choices.
Learning as a collaborative effort:
Collaborative technologies have enabled learning to become a collaborative effort. Social network sites such as Wikis, blogs, podcasts and videos have enabled individuals to share their achievements or efforts online which in turn are beneficial to others who are looking at such information. Just the other day, I wanted to find out how to create a drop down menu in forms using Microsoft word and I got the necessary information with all the required screen shots posted on YouTube. It took me all of 10 mins to get the information which would have been unthinkable in the pre-Google days. Earlier, a learner was merely a receiver of information – taking what was given to him. But now he is an active seeker of information with the ability to co-create, evaluate, modify or add value to the information.
Collaborative learning has changed the way we learn. It has shifted the focus from information providers to the information seekers – learners. It gives learners, control over the information they seek, how they seek and also provides them with options of sharing the same with their peers.