What is a Virtual Research Group?
We are all the only educational researchers in our respective departments, but by forming a virtual research group, we have many of the benefits of a larger group found at different institutions. We have regular research group meetings, work on collaborative projects, share data, mentor and encourage each other. Much of this is made possible through the use of Web 2.0 tools. We also gather periodically at one campus or another for intensive planning and analysis sessions.
Tools we use
- Skype: We conduct weekly group meetings as a Skype group conference. We have been able to use a small grant to purchase one premium account, which allows form group Skype conferences between all the members. We normally keep the meeting to one hour.
- Blackboard: We have a organization site set up on the WKU Blackboard server. This has much the same functionality as a Blackboard class site, except that it is not tied directly to a course. We have found particularly useful the Teams LX Blackboard plugin, which allows us to set up different wikis that we all can edit. (This gets around the fact that the WKU Blackboard administers make it difficult to give general site editing privileges to the external members.) Some of the things we have use the wikis for include:
- Share papers of interest to all and write summaries, functioning much as a on-line journal club.
- Share data from one site with researchers at other sites
- Post information and documents for collaborative grant proposals that we are working on
- Post notes from meetings
- Google Docs: When we need to work collaboratively on a proposal or other document in real time, we will set up a Google Document. One person creates it and then grants editing access to the others. All three can edit it at the same time, with changes immediately appearing to the others. We only need to watch where each other's cursors are 9shown in the document) to make sure we are not changing the very same text.
- Email: While not technically a Web 2.0 technology, we also use email to stay in contact, share files, and provide updates outside of our meeting times. To facilitate this, we have a mailing list set up on the WKU server.