But Colaab has those of us who are more likely to share plain old written documents covered, too.
When we log into a workspace (which may be one of several that we see on our personal dashboard), we see tabs on the right side showing recent actions, news feed, and communications as well as a list of all co-collaborators in the group, with those who are currently logged in lit up green. These real-time feeds, along with full audit trails of all actions in the workspace, ensure accountability among teammates, a critical piece of collaborative learning work.
We can easily initiate chat, set up a videoconference, or send a personal email from these tabs on the right, or we can start working with our team resources. Just about any existing file can be uploaded and shared through Colaab, or we can create documents (.doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, or .pdf); images (.png, .jpg, .psd, or .gif); videos (.wmv), or XPS files right there on the site. Or, a teammate can enter a URL and Colaab will get a screen grab of it for the group to work with. All team members can work on these resources together in real time, or we can opt to add input asynchronously, as our personal schedules permit. Feedback is easy to give and receive with the use of the resource toolbar, which allows collaborators to add comments or annotations to the open resource. The comments can actually be connected visually to a specific area of the image or document, and the annotations can be markings of any kind or color – a great way to convey ideas about the resource without having to express (and for the receiver to interpret) the right words! The screen shot below shows what we might see if we were collaborating on the design of a house. Note the pointed comments and the circle annotation around the window.
Responding to these notes is as easy as clicking in the comment box. These annotation and commenting methods can be used in written documents, photographs, and even in videos, which users can opt to watch with or without comments and annotations visible. Ideas can be refined by the group as they pool their individual knowledge and perspectives to their project.
Colaab has just been introduced at University College Falmouth in the U.K., where it is used by students in the schools of art, design, media, and performance. With the use of this DeepZoom-enabled software platform, people working in the visual arts won’t need to co-locate to work together as they have in the past – more art and design classes could be structured as online learning experiences. And even those who do share the same physical location may find that communication and collaboration flow more freely with the use of Colaab. A drama teacher could record and upload dress rehearsal of a performance and then the entire cast and crew could annotate, wordlessly pointing out areas that need to be improved by simply circling someone’s position on stage, for example. No words need be exchanged, and yet the message comes across to the person who is standing out of position, with the likely result that she will be more careful to hit her mark on opening night. This added layer of communicating could engender trust among teammates – the set painter feels comfortable pointing out the flaw he notices in the lead actress’s performance to improve the final product that they all have invested in, and she appreciates the opportunity to adjust something she hadn’t realized needed the tweak.
So, Colaab offers many dimensions of interpersonal communication, ranging from rich transactional videoconferencing to interactional notes or drawings, but we would have liked to have seen more to help with our intrapersonal musings. Workspaces are set as either public or private, and everything on the space falls into that same category (with the exception of email messages, which are always private). It would be useful to have a post-it note/reminder tool, or a journal that we could keep within the workspace that is strictly for our own future viewing rather than for sharing with the group.
Another add on our wish list is a survey or polling tool, which could come in handy when a group consensus is needed. Overall, the Colaab site offers enough to be useful and to make it stand out from its competitors, especially if the collaborators are working with high-resolution images or are visual thinkers. The sites looks great, is easy to navigate, and offers real time updates on everything that’s happening within the workspace. And it’s relatively new, with a team of developers who actively solicit feedback from users. It’s worth checking out! Go to www.colaab.com to learn more or to start your 30-day free trial.