Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Finding right fit between group tasks and software

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Wikibooks is a great example of groupware, ‘an application software designed to help people involved in a common task to achieve goals’ (Wikipedia). The key words for this definition are ‘common task’ and ‘achieve goals’. In order to measure success or failure of software we need to understand whether it promotes the goals that were set up for a particular group and whether it succeeds to support task execution. My only experience with Wikibooks was during HCI587x class. In our case, I have difficulty to define what were the tasks, the goals and whether students were required to act as a group.

If the goal was to document independent thoughts of students on cases or issues related to learning material, then I would define Wikibooks as successful. 1. The software provided “system perspective” (Caroll , 8.3), allowing users to understand the scope and content of work done jointly. 2. All the participating students could express their thoughts without moderation, all participating students had full access to other student’s materials. The coordination was minimal; mostly playing a role of providing basic structure for topics to discuss. 3. All participants and artifacts were equally important (Caroll, 8.4.1)

However, if the motivation of this group was to create a collaborative working environment, than not only Wikibook technology itself did not have enough capability to support this joint effort, but also the way the tasks were defined and the way Wikibooks was prescribed to use, didn’t motivate collaboration. 1. One of the earliest definitions of collaborative software is 'intentional group processes plus software to support them’. (Johnson-Lenz, Peter (30 April 1990). "Rhythms, Boundaries, and Containers". Awakening Technology). In our case, there were no group tasks. On contrary, students were not encouraged to edit or comment on other students work. There was only passive way to collaborate with others: read other’s content or produce a new content. As a result, HCI wikibook is a collection of separate ideas. 2. Besides, technology itself didn’t provide tools to support collaboration activities, such as brainstorming, commenting or chat.