Collaborative writing as an essential skill in academia is a highly complex process. Combines cognitive and communication requirements. Linear writing is not considered an optimal process.
Described a project which involved a large group of students working together on a jointly authored document with bounded word count and a time constraint. The groups of students were re-formed every 2 weeks. Students were required to formulate their individual understanding and then collaboratively work together to relate their readings to given themes. Changes to the joint document could be seen via a document revision history with version numbers and author id. As tutors, it was difficult to keep track of the various revisions and individual student input, so needed a tool to support this. So, they developed a revision map, topic evolution charts and topic based collaboration networks – all as visualisation tools. Colour coding to give a quick snapshot vie of the work undertaken on a document paragraph by paragraph.
Able to see where most revision ( and least) took place, when work was carried out, whether students worked sequentially or in parallel and how many students worked on each paragraph. Also able to see how topics develop over time and are referenced in later work. Some discussion of the potential discomfort with editing or even deleting text inserted by another student, although it was not clear how this was managed, ie was there a discussion forum or some other way of communicating about text changes?
Interesting to see some simple visualisation tools reflecting back the core activities in a resource heavy piece of collaborative text based work. Collaboration does not in itself = quality of output, although is clearly recognised as a key skill. And one which needs to be developed. Perhaps an allocation of some marks to collaborative input might encourage this?