Mod8: Collaboration Technologies

8.1 Market Opportunity Statement:

Online collaboration or workgroup environments are hardly “new”, but in recent years they have undergone a dramatic diversification enabled by the sheer population of people online and by a variety of drivers, such as globalization, that are pressuring organizations and individuals to collaborate more effectively across traditional geographical, temporal, cultural, linguistic, and disciplinary boundaries. 

As one example, the standards for training of professional engineers now require that all engineers have demonstrable skills (and by inference, tools) with which to collaborate within challenging global and social working environments. As another example, a primary focus within healthcare is new tools and programs with which an expanding variety of professionals (e.g. nurses, doctors, specialists, administrators, etc) can communicate and collaborate in the “interprofessional” provision of care. Every sector of society is similarly dealing with issues of rapid change and increasing complexity for which the only conceivable resolution will be extraordinary forms of collaboration. 

Within education the respective challenge is twofold: 1) learning itself is more complex and therefore requires collaborative solutions; and 2) learning processes need to increasingly model the collaborative behaviours and skillsets that learners can take with them into the other productive dimensions of their lives. The emerging market for collaboration environments is therefore dynamic and important. 

One interesting facet of this market is that nobody has yet successfully integrated all of the separate aspects of collaboration into a dominant solution. The “killer app” is elusive. Within WebCT-VISTA for example, the quest to make it a comprehensive collaboration environment for learning has broadened its functionality at the expense of its usability. The simple collaborative features of emerging applications such as Skype, Basecamp and even FaceBook easily seduce us, yet we don’t tend to stick to them very long relative to other productivity tools like email and word processors. Does this suggest that the nature of collaboration is also evolving quickly, or that there is an element of fashion that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs?