Once again, via Brian Lamb a synchronous text-editing tool that I hadn’t tried. I like Writely because:

1. The registration was simple, allowing me to get up and running in minutes, the only obstacle being that it didn’t work with my Safari browser. However, it works well in Internet Explorer, which is what the majority of our instructors and many of our students seem to be using anyways.

2. The interface is intuitive and uncluttered, which means I didn’t waste valuable time trying to figure out where to go and what to do.

3. It builds on what most users will have as prior knowledge, namely how to use Word documents, which means the learning curve is minimal.

Increasingly, course approaches (constructivist approaches) are adopting group work and collaboration on projects as assessed course activities, and students are largely stuck fumbling with sharing word documents in a discussion forum, through IM, or through email. Obviously, distance students don’t have the luxury of being able to meet face to face to work on projects together, and even if they can, sometimes it’s not always the most efficient way of getting something done.

The nice thing about synchronous text editing tools such as this one is that they don’t have to be used synchronously (but obviously can be used that way if needed). Personally, I think that the asynchronicity of online courses is what gives them the potential to be so great, especially for adult learners who don’t want to be stuck with the task of trying to fit synchronous course activities into their already busy schedules. However, some of our course instructors have noted an increased amount of requests for a chat tool option for student-student communication (but not student-instructor communication, which is interesting). But that’s a whole other discussion…

I’m thinking about introducing Writely in a couple of ways:

1. In a case study course, as a space where students would work on developing a group response to a case.

2. In courses where peer-evaluation of writing is required, allowing a peer, or group of peers to comment and assist each other’s work.

I would also recommend it to faculty who are collaborating on research articles. I’ve been using Peanut Butter Wiki for the co-authoring of an article, and while I highly recommend it as a password protected wiki, I feel restricted in the level of formatting that wikis can provide. I like the option to change font colours, easily add images, and spell check (which Writely does) without having to find out how a wiki will let me do that.

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