Collaborating Online 8 Years Later

I clicked on a post here that I wrote in 2008 while I was directing the Writing Initiative at Passaic County Community College. We were using etutoring for writing and were part of a consortium of colleges in the northeast. (eTutorng.org - part of the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium) We supplied tutors to support the service based on the amount of usage our students put into the platform and our students used it a lot. 

As part of our writing-intensive courses in the Writing Initiative, students could submit their work up to three times and received a reading and comments from one of the consortium writing tutors (generally higher ed instructors with at least a Masters degree).

PCCC does have labs and tutors for the ESL students and for students entering at a Basic Skills level (pre-college) but did not have a center for college-level students. That is how eTutoring was introduced. We did build a writing center as part of the Initiative, but this online collaboration was an important part of the project.

Some students and teachers still don't trust online courses, but those courses, etutoring and online collaboration are almost a necessity at this point for many schools to supplement face-to-face experiences. 

We saw many similarities between what we do on the ground, and what we do with writers in the computing cloud, and another aspect of this was online collaboration with students and with colleagues. 

Back in 2006, we were trying out Writeboard http://writeboard.com. Since many of our colleagues had never used something like that before, I invited people to try out a collaborative page. That page still exists! If you go to the Collaborative Writing document that I started in 2008 at http://123.writeboard.com/19fb2cf0f68038b98/login, you can still login using the password: collabwrite.  

Knowing how reluctant readers of blogs are to comment on posts (here's a post on another blog of mine about just that), I suspected that there was a good chance that the response to the would be underwhelming - and it was just that.

But 8 years have passed and using tools like Zoho http://www.zoho.com and Google Docs http://docs.google.com for collaboration are more common and Writeboard seems primitive. I feel that also is the way wikis are viewed, though collaborative websites still aren't easy to do.



mobile sample

I use Dropbox as often as shared Google files. We have not gone "paperless" despite hearing that battlecry for about 25 years, but it is rare that I email a file or hand someone a paper document to read and make comments. Getting feedback from a larger group, keeping track of everyone’s copies, and maintaining one "final version" is really difficult if you're not collaborating online in the cloud.

With services like Dropbox, you share your file with several people at once, and they can leave comments on specific parts and maintain one version. 

Now, Dropbox Paper is another way to help teams create collaborative docs and share important information. They also have a new Paper mobile apps for iOS and Android that you can use for on-the-go access.

It is progress that online collaboration is much more common with researchers and writers who also share email, files and meet live with web conferencing.

You can ask people - perhaps your students - to upload files to your Dropbox even if they don't have an account.

I keep telling people to sign up for a free Dropbox account if only to protect important files (docs, photos, whatever) with automatic backup. Usually, people do it AFTER their hard drive crashes, which is like buying insurance after the accident.

 


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