When it comes to online communities, be it communities of practice, learning communities, task based communities, or networking communities, one thing is certain – if you build it, they will not necessarily come. The Internet is littered with failed communities of every shape and size. To often the technology and design becomes the point of discussion not the way in which the community or network will be managed.
Whether the context is developing a collaboration space for a task force or building an online community of practice among grantees, we have found that building the technology is, in fact, the easy part; getting busy people to adopt and use the technology, and to contribute to the community is by far the hardest part.
Building on the research and theory behind communities of practice, learning communities, social networks and membership organizations, Collaborative brings practical tools, processes, innovations and technologies to better link people with passions who want to create results.
There is nothing worse than drowning in a sea of content. Collaborative has proven expertise in tackling content from a variety of perspectives. We can:
- Conduct content audits to document existing content either on a web site or within an organization
- Organize content through proven information architecture practices such as card sorts and create resulting underlying structures such as site maps and structural diagrams
- Write content for web sites, interactive tools and online learning modules
- Manage content by providing style guides, editorial processes and editorial calendars
- Translate dense research and complex ideas into web sites and online tools. We move research to action!
When it comes to content we work with our clients to either build their internal capacity through training and mentoring or to provide ongoing content services.
Our use-centered and strategic approach to online work sets us apart. Through the use of in depth interviews, online surveys, usability testing, focus groups and other audience research and analysis tools, we engage target audiences early in the process. Having such a strong background and deep content area expertise in education, we know what questions to ask and how to frame those questions in the user’s context. We examine how a particular audience might engage in online education, what motivates them to participate in a particular program or what are their particular preferences are for online interactions.
From our research, we use information architecture tools such as user personas and use case scenarios to present a full picture of the needs, desires and preferences of the audience within a particular context.
Every successful online strategy puts its user at the center an your success hinges on knowing your audience. Collaborative is uniquely qualified to help our clients succeed online. We custom design our strategies and solutions based on your audience’s needs, capabilities and preferences.
Through a process of discovery we consider the following:
- How current social media efforts are working together to reach the right people and motivate them to action
- How to potentially leverage partner relationships to expand the reach of an organization’s message, through inclusion on partner Web sites, a regular presence in partner email newsletters and co-sponsored Webinars
- Whether and what mobile applications can be used to engage which audiences to take which actions
- What existing online discussions, such as education blogs, Twitter feeds and enewsletters the organization should participate in, to reach target audiences
We use an iterative approach to Web design and development, producing and presenting a set of increasingly detailed deliverables to ensure that we are working as efficiently as possible and producing an effective and engaging design. This iterative process, with staged deliverables, is beneficial in facilitating consensus building.
This iterative process allows us to make technology recommendations based on the needs (feature set, user experience) of the particular project and client. We consistently recommend solutions that are simple, flexible and scalable.
Once the Web site or tool is created, Collaborative works with our clients to ensure that the product can be used, managed, and its performance measured over time. Our holistic process ensures that we evaluate the training requirements for a system from the beginning of the project. Our deployment includes ensuring that clients can update and manipulate a system. We work with you every step of the way.
Further, we believe it is critical to know if an online product is achieving expected results. To that end Collaborative works to:
- Establish appropriate tracking mechanisms and performance metrics
- Perform regular analysis (or help clients establish a process)
- Make recommendations based on data
- Create long term growth plans
Our clients have a wealth of information such as publications, research results, reports and statistics. We partner with our clients to take this information, analyze, synthesize and distill it into engaging and useful online tools such as calculators, interactive learning modules or multimedia educational games. We use the same iterative approach we use when it comes to web design but focus our actions on a specific tool or educational module.
In our experience a key component to the success of an online engagement is a clear and realistic understanding of what it will take to manage that engagement. We work with clients to determine what will be required in terms of time, resources, knowledge, skills as well as policies and procedures. We ask if an organization has the capacity to keep a web site current and consistent, engage an online community, implement a social media campaign, or have the right processes in place to make it run smoothly. If not, we provide a variety of methods to either build that capacity or provide it externally. Some examples of our services include:
- Creation of overall management frameworks,
- Establishing policies, procedures and content management business rules
- Establish appropriate policies for the use of social media
- Developing internal capacity through hiring - we help identify the skills necessary and can create job descriptions, and conduct searches for talented interactive personnel
- Training to build internal capacity
- Project management for design and development projects