As many of you know, I am a fan of JotSpot. One of the interesting things that came out of my interview with JotSpot co-founders Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer is that they plan to build workflow syntax and functionality into their wiki product. Which brings me to Scott McMullan’s post….Scott makes the following comment about traditional groupware products:
The limitation with these TeamWare products is their strength: they nicely pre-integrate sets of tools that certain teams find very helpful, but if your team can’t or doesn’t care to work within the processes best-served by those tools, you’re out of luck! There’s never been a TeamWare platform that gave most teams immediate value out of the box, but could then be easily programmed to enable self-service, tightly integrated mini-apps for specialized needs (ie., Situated Software).
The point here here is about workflow, not in the grandiose enterprise sense but in the every-day how-do-we-get-things-done sense. It’s about software that affords doing a job in the way that comes naturally to us. That can be fundamentally idiosyncratic for a lot of important and frequent tasks. What’s the best way to brainstorm an idea? Come to a group conclusion? Research a topic as a group? Each group does these things a little differently. And if the tool doesn’t fit the way you tend to do it then your group is probably not going to end up utilizing that tool.
This is just a more general case of the point I made a while back about how, in Blackboard, all the virtual classroom chairs are bolted to the floor. Education is filled with microprocesses–brainstorming, fact-finding, experimenting, etc. And many of these micro-processes are fundamentally idiosyncratic, based on the particular teacher, the particular group of students, the particular content being taught, and the particular raison d’etre of the course. The ability for teachers to edit micro-workflows easily is going to be critical for the development of better online learning platforms.