Digital collaboration solutions in the classroom and administrative office have become an absolute necessity. Simply put, collaboration occurs when two or more people work together toward a mutual goal. But the ambiguity of the term and its wide application across numerous technology solutions has left district users utilizing a variety of applications that, paradoxically, contribute to a lack of collaboration at a basic level. As the state continues its discussion on the environmental state of the 2020-2021 school year, it’s likely we’re looking at a hybrid learning approach. No matter the outcome, it's vital that districts build resilience now through a prepared response that moves beyond video conferencing. The foundation of this response is your collaboration architecture: empower your organization with a collaborative mindset, an understanding of your people and processes, and crucial data to choose the proper platform for your district.
Before choosing a collaboration platform, it’s key to define which technology applications you’re already using or missing. It’s particularly important to discern which applications aren’t truly enhancing your unique collaborative environment, despite operating features that enable communication.
Video Conferencing: These platforms enable users to transmit live video during a call. Some devices, such as phones, have a native application but there are several web-conferencing solutions that have video capabilities for large organizations. Some can chat, do polls, and have break-out sessions within the meeting, but they lack the ability to foster collaboration after the meeting is complete. As we continue to work remotely on a more continuous basis, these platforms help humanize communication and relieve any stress on location.
Examples of Current Use Cases: Teachers holding an online learning session; District Board Meetings through a virtual webinar.
Team Communication: Sharing thoughts, asking quick questions, and providing feedback have never been quicker than with a team messaging solution. They can help lessen the time it takes between responses and moves tasks away from email inboxes to a collaboration platform that enables work at a person’s convenience. Any user can message (one to one or one to many), schedule meetings, or share documents if needed to ensure collaboration does not halt when the meeting or instruction does. These platforms have both mobile and desktop applications for ease of accessibility.
Examples of Current Use Cases: Communication between teachers and students; Facility Operation Managers receiving notifications from building security systems.
Document Sharing: Working to ensure everyone is on the same page with a document without overlapping edits or multiple versions, document collaboration enables version control and help alleviate stress-related to working with multiple files. It can also offer some version of a secure, single repository for final documents.
Examples of Current Use Cases: Classroom Teachers and Special Education Specialists sharing documents with student data; Curriculum Specialists working together as a team on a new core curriculum guide.
The above sample of applications allows moments of communication, but they don’t really foster an ongoing collaborative culture that enhances your ongoing workflow and communications. For example, the State of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Education have selected Microsoft Teams as their collaboration platform because it contains the versatility of all features above, such as video conferencing, file sharing, messaging, scheduling, and much more, enabling collaboration throughout the day, local or remote.
Modern collaboration platforms enhance our ability to communicate effectively and work seamlessly no matter your office or classroom location. Assembling a digital workplace using collaboration solutions that work for all your users will have to meet the long-term goals of the district and the demands of the operation. Administration and key-decision makers should evaluate a collaborative platform only after they’ve assessed the organization’s people, process, and current technology. In our June eNews article, we’ll talk about how you can put assessment to best use as we rebuild from COVID-19.
We’re always interested in hearing from you. Please consider taking our brief survey on your district’s readiness and future needs during this state of emergency. The summary of anonymous results will be shared with all participants, so you can see where you and your peers stand. This information will also be applied to create future professional development materials that support your district’s technology planning needs.
Karl Seiler also contributed to this article and is the President of DataServ.
Joe Prchlik is the Director of Operations and Technology at Northern Buckeye Education Council (NBEC). DataServ and NBEC are the founding alliance members of the ShareOhio partnership.
Read previous articles from Joe: Read This Before Turning Your Parking Lot into a Public Wi-Fi Network," and "State of Emergency - Strategically Planning Your Network Infrastructure."