Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lotus Connections and Social Software displace eLearning

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This week I'm down in Sao Paulo training some of the Tech Sales resources in South America on, what else, Lotus Connections. I stayed at the Hilton Sao Paulo and had the following great view of the Octavio Fritas de Oliveira bridge from my hotel room's window.

At the office, I got to meet one of the local tech sales resource who told me the story of how Lotus Connections has completely displaced an eLearning program that was set up at a university. At that point, I'm like "Are you kidding me?? I just blogged about this a couple of weeks ago!!"

Use Case: Lotus Connections at a University

So here's the situation. The local ministry of education allows technology courses to be 20% online. Thanks to this, a bachelor's degree can now be completed in 3 years and all homework submitted online. Last year, the university tried an eLearning solution, but it didn't work because it was designed for courses that were 100% online. At that point, the university decided to deploy Lotus Connections.

Professors have blogs which talk about the classes and give another perspective on a day's session. They also use it to follow up on questions from the student body that could not be answered during class. This also allows those students who weren't able to attend, to get course information through the blog. Some professors also use Dogear to link to related materials for a specific course.

Promoting adoption

Additionally, when students join the university they are highly encouraged to work in groups. At the end of the semester, they have to do a presentation based on what they've learned. This is purposely done to simulate the professional work environment. This group collaboration happens through Lotus Connections Communities. Each team created for a particular course has a corresponding community in Lotus Connections. However, there are also more generic communities for Java, PMI, etc.

Students also have to create a team blog for every student group to exchange information about their specific project. Professors are encouraged to participate in the blog by commenting, or perhaps by being a co-author to the blogs.

To help coordinate these efforts and facilitate adoption, the university has set up coordinators. These coordinators create an Activity Template with all the due dates for each individual project. Once the professors approve the Activity Template, student groups create an activity based on these templates. Students then post their documents and other collateral in the activity. Professors then review the material and can suggest corrections or grade them as needed.

Partnering with other universities

Finally, a partnership was reached with a college in Florida where students from both universities work on projects together. All information exchange must happen through Lotus Connections and follows the same model as above (i.e. team blogs, activities, and communities).

This university will soon be a reference for Lotus Connections. Once I have the "go" to publicize the names, I'll do so in this blog. Stay tuned!

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