Friday, June 25, 2021

Collaboration Tools Have Limitations with Large Numbers of Users

The ASCILITE TELedvisors and Learning Design co-webinar: Learning design for ePortfolios presented some ideas on portfolio pedagogy  and assessment. However, I found the demonstration of the Miro collaborative whiteboard very confusing. This illustrates the problem of real time online collaboration with a large number of people. 

There were about 40 people editing in Miro simultaneously. On my old laptop with a low speed broadband connection what I saw was trippy, but not very informative.

First some jellyfish floated by, while small tropical fish darted about. It turned out the jellyfish were actually a bubble diagram and the fish were the color coded pointers of the people editing. Later some text appeared which eventually lined up with the bubbles. But I still couldn't work out what this was because there were still pointers darting about and the content constantly changing.

It was only when I took a screen shot to write a commentary on this queasy experience that I could see what I was looking at. It was part of a rubric used for assessing student work. The bubbles where to highlight key points for the students, with lines running off to part of the student's assignment (which was not on screen).

My impression was this was a tool which might work with a small group of a half dozen people, if they had suitably speedy Internet. But I don't know how you would handle accessibility of the freehand drawing for people who can't see the lines.

I have taken part in group activities using document collaboration tools. These cope with a slow link better, as they don't have to transmit hand drawn images. However, with more than a half dozen people editing, it still gets very confusing. Pointers fly around and text appears, disappears and moves in front of your eyes. But with a small number of people it can be very productive. Communicating by audio it is like a multiplayer game: "Okay I am going to tackle the introduction, while you kill that second table...". ;-)

However, as I found, a group collaboration where your technology, or your understanding can't keep up can be intensely frustrating. This is especially the case with students online, who can't simply put up their had to ask a tutor what they should be doing. As a student I had that experience for much of my three years studying online for a graduate degree. For an inexperienced student, this can induce dangerous levels of stress.

No comments:

Post a Comment