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#46-Using Teams LX to Facilitate Online Collaboration

June 06, 2005

LTA Overview

One of the challenges of teaching an online course is creating a sense of community and collaboration. Course management systems (CMS) such as Blackboard and WebCT and others have tools that enable instructors to post content and conduct discussions. In Blackboard, for example, instructors can create content areas, facilitate discussions on the Discussion Board and divide the class into groups for group collaboration. While these tools are helpful in delivering content and facilitating the discussion of that content, there are limitations on the level of collaboration that is possible especially for groups who must work together to produce a collaborative document. What is needed is software that will allow groups of students to view the draft document at the same time and work collaboratively just as they would if they were in the same room.

Credits

Dr. Ron Shope
Professor of Communication and Research ( Grace University Omaha, Nebraska)
Research Methods Associate Professor (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
rshope2@unl.edu

Teams LX was produced by Learning Objects, and offers a way for groups of students to work together collaboratively on a document. The program was originally developed for use with Blackboard, but efforts are currently underway to have versions of Teams LX available for WebCT, eCollege, and Sakai. Teams LX is a wiki webpage that allows users to create and revise and even upload images and documents to a webpage without a webmaster. Students can also comment on each of the pages that they are building. In this way, all members of the group are able to not only see the document at the same time, but can benefit from the comments of the entire group. They can also make and post changes as they work as part of a problem-based approach to learning.

LTA Outcome

At the conclusion of this LTA, the user will be familiar with the basic procedures for using Teams LX.

Skills Required to Complete This LTA

Users should be familiar with adding content to their CMS site as well as how to copy and paste content via Windows or the Macintosh OS into the CMS site.

Software and Hardware Required to Complete This LTA

In order to complete this LTA, users will need a CMS that enables the installation of third-party software. Teams LX was developed by a third-party vendor, and requires a version of the course management system at the institution to support the installation of third-party software. The example presented in this LTA is based on Blackboard CMS. To run Teams LX in Blackboard, an institution should be running the Learning System Enterprise edition of the CMS. Users will need to consult an IT department to determine if the CMS will support the use of this third-party software.

Creating a Team Site with Teams LX

A team website can be added to any Blackboard content page. For example, if a user has groups of students working on a semester group project, there may be interest in creating an entire content area for that and building a menu button into the main course menu. Or, if a user prefers students collaborate on a single document, a team website may be added to any of the content pages

To create the team website, the user simply goes to the content page where the site is to be created and select Team Group Site from the pull down menu on the right and click “Go.”

This takes the user to the configuration screen where information regarding a site name and description of the site are to be inserted. There are also a series of questions regarding how the user wants to configure the site, and a place to assign students that may wish to have access to the site. In addition, the user may choose whether students can make comments on the pages and when students who are not part of this team may view the site and make comments on the pages.

Once the site has been configured and the information is submitted, a link to the site will appear on the content page. To view the site, just click on the link located under the name of the site.

Creating and Editing Pages

The user is now ready to begin building the site. There are two ways for building the sites. The students can build the site from a set of site requirements, or the instructor can build the site that contains standard pages and content.

The first page that is built is the Home Page. Like any website, this is the initial page that is opened. To edit the page for the first time, just follow the link that is provided on this page. This opens the editing window. The menu bar at the top of the window allows the user to add images and links to the page. It also allows the user to change the size, styles, and color of the text. It is possible to change the view of the editing window from text to HTML by clicking on the icon located on the bottom right of the editing window. Using the HTML view allows the user to write in HTML or to paste HTML code from other sources.

As the user or students create new pages, they can be linked to other pages by using the “Add Links” button. Users can even create a menu from the Home Page or sub-menus from any of the other pages that allow the user to navigate the site much like other web sites.

Assessing Student Progress

Teams LX has a built-in tool that allows users to assess the level of group participation in the creating and editing of the pages. This indicates the level of group collaboration on the project. In addition to reading student comments, users can also determine which students have worked on the site and what they have done to contribute to the site. In Blackboard, the assessment tool is found in the menu item, Assess/Export Teams site that is located in the Control Panel.

Users may view a list of the students that edited the site and the details of their edits including the dates that the site was edited. In addition, the site can be exported for further assessment, or for loading onto a different web server. This allows student work to be available for viewing after the course is completed.

A Practical Application

I have used Team Sites as part of the online class I have been teaching in Qualitative Research Methods. The major class requirement is a team research project. Each research team had a team site that I designed with links to parts of the project and a link from their site to the team’s Blackboard group area. Throughout the semester, the team could post parts of their project to their team site for team member comment and during designated weeks, for comments from other members of the class. The teams would then use the comments to edit and update the parts of their project.

As the instructor, I could monitor the comments and add my own to each site. In addition, I could use the assessment feature to monitor who was accessing each team’s site. This process not only helped team members collaborate, but allowed other class members to see the other projects that the research teams were doing which provided another means to enhance community overall in the course.

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