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Higher Education Taps Teambox For Social Collaboration

Teambox, as a task-oriented, cloud-based social collaboration tool, is a flexible option for collaborative learning and other campus projects.
The use of Teambox has been transformational for Western Wyoming Community College, Bodily said, allowing it to do a much better job of addressing its entire service area, which is the size of the state of Rhode Island. Putting the nursing program online has made it possible to serve many students who could not have found time to drive hundreds of miles, sometimes in dangerous weather, to attend class in person, he said. "This has opened up an opportunity for people who had no opportunity before."

Before the college could make distance learning practical, however, it needed a tool that matched its teaching strategy. The nursing program follows a methodology called Problem-based Learning that was developed for use in medical schools but can also be applied to other professional disciplines. This is a student-centered approach intended to focus on developing problem-solving skills, which forces students to define what they need to learn to solve a problem under the guidance of the instructor, who acts as a tutor and coach rather than a lecturer.

"It's been around since the 1960s, but it's not commonplace," Bodily said. However, his college has found it to be effective, he said.

An example of a problem-based learning exercise would be to present students with the case of a 57-year-old truck driver who stumbles into the cab of his truck, sits down slowly and falls over backward. A bystander calls 911, and the man is brought into the hospital as a suspected heart attack victim. As Bodily explains, the problem for the class is to make sure this man will be treated for the right thing: "Not so fast -- how would you know if someone's had a heart attack? What are your responsibilities in the emergency room?

"The process itself is absolutely collaborative," Bodily said, but until recently the teaching methods to support it were only available in the classroom. Now, more of the discussion about the right way to respond to this incident can take place online, he said. Meanwhile, Teambox's task management and file sharing capabilities allow him to manage course assignments and deadlines, as well as the distribution of course materials, he said.

Students with more social media savvy may pick up on how to use Teambox a little faster, but those who have made regular use of any Web-based application, such as online banking, get the idea pretty quickly, Bodily said. "The people who have trouble with this technology would also have trouble with the LMS," he said.

Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+, along with @IWKEducation.