Software for International Collaborations
K. M. Swigger1, Ferda Alpaslan2, R.P.Brazile 1, Brian Harrington 1
1Department of Computer Science University of North Texas, Denton, Texas 76203 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
2 Department of Computer Engineering , Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
This paper describes a software system called International Collaborative Environment (ICE) that supports a, a system implemented as a collection of components written in Java. The current software is a platform independent, highly interactive set of tools that help groups collaborate over the Internet. Moreover, the system is aimed at supporting users who are located in different geographical areas, but who need access to the same information. The special cooperative interface relies on a shared, real-time window system (i.e., What You See is What I See) that allows groups that are geographically separated to execute controlled tools. The software is designed to run over the Internet. It supports collaborative activities through specially designed whiteboard, editor, chat, browsing, e-mail, and file sharing, application and console sharing tools (see http://zeus.csci.unt.edu/publications.jsp). Although many of these components are available in commercial software products, this particular system is unique because it is platform independent and has record keeping capabilities. Thus, users (or instructors) can collect and analyze data about how groups use the system and compare that usage with success or failure of performance on different tasks. The software also supports a set of administrative tools as well as a scheduler that help users identify their availability on specific days and times.
Over the past two years, the system has been used by computer science students at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, Texas and Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. Students from the two Universities were divided into workteams and assigned programming projects to be completed using special collaborative software. The programming tasks ranged from simple design projects to more complicated assignments that required extensive collaboration. Overall, the findings from the two-year study show that it is possible to teach groups of computer science students who are geographically distributed how to use a suite of computer-supported collaborative tools to design, program, and test programming projects. The study also demonstrates that critical to the success of such an initiative are the cultural attributes of the group, technology factors such as adequate information and scheduling infrastructure, and human resources such as training, on-site coordination support, and administrative support. Results from this study are now being used to customize the collaborative software to recognize and facilitate successful collaboration.