Online Collaboration bases the system on what have been started by the earlier PC networking system. Users in certain local area and other network are capable to communicate each other on their PC by swapping files and mails in text file, although during the early time it was limited to text data in small size. As technology has developed more sophisticated facilities, it is possible for people to use the complete system to transfer information anywhere in seconds, enabling people to cut time and travel and having the whole work, outline, discussions and commands transferred through the wire.
People are depended on computers to connect to each other nowadays. With the emergence of the internet, many industries will find an open door to spread the news and support the growth to anywhere in the world. Controlling the whole world's business will need the most effective way to unite people in the entire organization. The technology has offered its capability to contact a group of people and bring them in a forum where they can chat, send messages, transfer file, and perform exactly like what they do on a traditional meeting, only this one is done through the net.
Online collaboration varies on several kinds of usages. According to Levitt (2002), IT projects nowadays have employed collaboration from sending and receiving emails, instant message, team work space, video conferencing, and portals, that enable closed community to share content and application for real projects.
People work in many brand new occasion and location in the world; day-by-day portable computers are more in demand due to the high mobility tendency of the community. Many people even work as remote workers where they work thousands miles away from the office but still in need to communicate to their headquarters. On the other hand, the company may also need to monitor the workers inside and outside the office, but whenever they need a meeting. It requires an advanced and solid networking system to make everything in control.
According to Laiserin (2000), when personal computer was in the early age like Mac OS and Microsoft DOS, it had very limited processing power, memory, storage, and the processing system was limited to single tasks. Collaboration in the mean time, while it had stated an important fundamental for the convenience and ease of working and communicating in distance, was not properly supported by the technology. The existing one at the time was UNIX, in which also set the standard in developing internet-based communication.
Prior to the current software, Lotus also launched notes that enabled people to transfer more complicated and data-rich files like graphics, voice, and video attachments. Notes also developed the discussion concepts like bulletin board system (BBS). Using similar approach on the use of the software, the current systems are being developed for more user-defined collaboration software.
In the future, online collaboration will be expected to facilitate all interactive necessities that communities need, such as business meetings, interactive entertainment media, online classes, distance learning, worldwide conferences, health services and consultation, physical operations conducted from different area, and so on.
2. How is Online Collaboration Applied?
According to Woolley (1998) the first networking trend had emerged in the middle of the 1980's with the fundamental of online communicative connection. That was the first time when online discussion became popular in the community network and big scale businesspeople. At that time, an online forum is specified to provide a room or space for members or users to connect in one location. The forum sets a system to be a place where information can be shared "quickly and easily."
This process only takes seconds to start; a local issue is specified to be the topic of the discussion at the time. Members can log in using their user name to have access to the service. In this kind of discussion, the users can use "conference" in many kinds of forms such as chat room, message room, audio conferencing, or video conferencing.
In the message posting forum for example, the system uses text based information transfer here after logging in, a user will be able to see all public messages posted and post answers to particular or all messages.
In text-base the chat room on the other hand, participants are invited to gather at a specified time and post their comments and get the respond immediately from other users. It enables people to speak through like those of speaking over the telephone.
There are two kinds of conferencing system that can be applied: web-based conferencing program and non-web-based conferencing program. A web-based conferencing system uses web browsers and servers as the heart of the system.
Unmodified web browser and server give good promise since it is convenient to use and easy to access in the wide range and big number of web users and intranet users. Web browser may need users to install a browser but it gives user a better user interface.
However Woolley explains, until now the use of the web conferencing program is concentrated on users in a group discussion program that uses text messages in the computer as the communication medium. The synchronous or "real-time" communications like voice teleconferencing and video conferencing still takes time to find the most appropriate application to suit the need of the users.
Handling a conference online despite its advantage in time and space saving needs a certain thought to do it better. It is certainly does not differ much from conventional meeting, only sometimes it takes an extra expertise to make it effective, as the stated goal before. Taking a wrong perspective in web conferencing might only lead to waste of time and money for the technology invested.
Woolley gives hints on how to handle online conferencing effectively. He notes several elements to include:
1. Clear Purpose
Although many interesting topics could pop up at the same time, there has to be a clear and specified purpose for each topic, broken down into discussion subtopics, which are not overlapped to each other. It needs to be clearly stated why it is necessary to form a forum and why the forum is needed to discuss about the issue. The addressed participants and keynote speaker has to be informed and expected to bring up the specific topic to meet the goals and control the discussion process.
Many people are interested in web conferencing nowadays. They sign up to a lot of mailing lists, newsletter, and discussion groups that carry out meetings almost every time. It is essential to have the purpose of the meeting informed to all members, what is expected, what problems, kind of participation that are required from the participants must be on, so that the participants really understand why they join this discussion and what they should put the effort in and what goal they should make.
It is important to see why the forum and discussion is different from the others. To help participants grab the clue, it is recommended to give them "real-world issue" and how real solution could be achieved with the meeting.
2. Experienced host
Every forum has a host who will take part as the moderator. The moderator will open the discussion and continue with a series of process: "sets the tone, establishes ground rules, initiates topics of discussion, encourages participation, and generally tries to ensure that the conference serves the purpose for which it is intended."
Not everyone could be a good moderator for the first time of the topic introduction. Everything has to be in control without burdening the participants with a bunch of rules and characterization of the discussion.
However, the host need to pitch questions to audience and generate their enthusiasm to give valuable feedback and information. The host also needs to work hard to "get the forum off the ground."
3. Interested participants
Woolley emphasizes that people need some good reasons to participate in web conferencing. Not as picky as choosing an offline seminar but still they need to ensure that they have good equipments (hardware, software, internet connection) that facilitate them to the discussion forum. Also they need to be skillful to use the equipments in front of them, effectively. If a company considers including web conferencing programs in the agenda, it is necessary to have the staffs trained first on some internet basics skills, plus some glossing over about online forums.
The last but not least are time and motivation. Many online participants are projected to be the key player businesspeople that would be very busy with their schedule and real world meeting. How would this meeting benefit them besides consuming their time? The forum itself must be attractive enough to motivate the audience and keep their interest in.
4. Good software
The web has undergone certain development in the online communication system. In the old days, before 1994, online community utilized bulletin board system to conduct networking. As mentioned before, the board can only transfer simple text,…