I am currently teaching online courses in graduate programs (M.Ed. and Ed.D programs) that use the term “collaboratory” in the course title. The term collaboratory is considered a combination of the terms collaboration and laboratory (Lunsford & Bruce, 2001; Wulf, 1993). The courses use a collaboratory approach and learning spaces to support graduate students examine their practice and learning from engaging in meaningful inquiry in the field.
Students in these courses are generally full-time professionals completing graduate programs and are grouped into cohorts or class groupings based on their specializations. As such, the Collaboratory of Practice courses were designed to support the application of knowledge in real world settings by graduate students in cohorts who investigate and learn from inquiry in the field and examine problems of practice in their workplace or related to their professional work using various research methods and a collaboratory approach.
The collaboratory approach is also considered a fusion of two important developments in contemporary research: communities of practice and collaboration. Communities of practice are groups of people (in this case cohorts based on specializations) who deepen their knowledge and expertise in an area by engaging in active inquiry. A collaboratory can also be considered a learning space or laboratory for learning and collaboration. In this collaborative virtual environment, scholars work together and learn alongside peers in their cohort. Since students move through many courses with a similar cohort, they develop relationships with cohort members and can build trusting and collaborative relationships.
One strategy used by instructors to help students accomplish work in the course both individually and in collaboration with peers is to organize small groups (~5 members) within the cohort into studio groups (Grego & Thompson, 2008). Studio groups provide students with an opportunity to collaborate with peers in a writing and sharing space for collaborative knowledge building and idea improvement. Various online services can be used to support studio group collaboration including threaded discussion forums, shared documents (i.e. Google Docs, presentations, etc.), virtual meeting spaces (i.e. Adobe Connect, Skype, Hangouts, etc.) and other collaborative online spaces. The collaboratory approach and learning spaces used in the Collaboratory of Practice courses serve as a source of active inquiry and learning, an opportunity to respond to contextually based problems of practice, and an opportunity to take an inquiry stance in the company of peers.
Copy of slides from the session “What is a Collaboratory” for EdD graduate students on July 9, 2015 presented with Dr. Brenda Spencer – EdD Collab Lunch Session_Slides
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