See the great picture above? That is my view this morning as I look out off my deck. I am amazed at the possibilities of distance education when I can sit on the beach with my laptop and continue course work.
With out the opportunities that distance education affords me, I would not have been able to travel and continue to work on my classes.
As I think about collaboration 20 years ago, I think of face-to-face meeting with groups of individuals. These groups would meet at set times that were decided upon by the group or by a boss or professor. Meetings were held with synchronous conversations and information was shared and developed at that time. I can remember getting together with peers and developing PowerPoint presentations or going over calculations in aircraft design. The most difficult part of these meetings had to do with setting an agreed upon meeting time that fit in with our schedules. At this time, there were very few means available to have any sort of collaborative meeting other than face-to-face.
Today, these types of face-to-face collaborative meetings are still held even among the most technological. However, face-to-face meetings are no longer necessary for collaborative work to be done. Many new web 2.0 technologies, like Skype, now allow meetings to occur synchronously over vast distances. Other types of web 2.0 technologies, like wikis, allow for asynchronous collaborations. In these collaborations, group members do not need to meet at a common location to accomplish shared tasks. With wikis, group members can post work on the wiki and have other members edit it until the finish work is ready to be published. Another new type of collaborative software, Google Docs, allows members to create, post, and edit work on a document or presentation either synchronously or asynchronously.
These are just two of the amazing collaborative tools available for collaboration that now exist. The strength of these types of tools is phenomenal. Imagine conversations and collaborations being held by hundreds of individuals instead of just a few. The scope of possibilities of the collaborations is now only beginning to be explored.
The following video represents the need of education to adapt to these tools to meet the needs of learners today who are crying out for the use of collaborative technologies like these to learn.