University of Washington – Center on Human Development and Disability
Medical Home Partnerships for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs
and Their Families
August 31, 2009 Deliverable
G. Autism Grant Activities
Task G.1. Provide results of technology information sharing
G.1. Report of results
TECHNOLOGY COLLABORATION RESEARCH
PURPOSE: The Department of Health, Children with Special Health Care Needs Program collaborates with local and state partners across Washington to improve health care and related services for children and youth with special health care needs and their families. As active partners on many DOH-CSHCN activities, Medical Home Leadership Network project staff saw a need to learn more about new effective ways that our project and the many groups collaborating across the state could use to work together with minimal travel or training costs. We proposed as a DOH contract activity that we would begin to explore low cost electronic collaboration options for ourselves and other DOH partners.
Faye Louie, Medical Home webmaster, led the effort under the guidance of Kate Orville and Kathy TeKolste, MHLN Co-Directors. Together, we developed the following parameters for the electronic tools we investigated:
; Employed by the University of WA, local or state public health, early intervention programs, family
organizations, health care programs etc primarily in WA state (e.g. not wealthy and probably with limited
tech support available)
; Beginner or medium-skilled technology user
; Easy to use
; Low budget
; Recommended by similar users
; Electronic Workgroups
; Online Discussion
; Document Sharing and Collaboration
; Group Conference Calls
; Online Meeting/Conference (webinar/presentation sharing)
; Video Conferencing
; Additional Distance Learning Tools
; Social Media (blogs, social networks, etc.)
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Expected Size of User Groups
; Document Collaboration: up to 10
; Group calls: about 1 – 20 (up to 100)
; Webinar: about 10 – 20 (up to 100)
There are an enormous variety of tools available at all levels of complexity and cost. It was impossible to explore every option. Faye identified a range of tools in each category and the relevant questions to ask in determining which tool to chose for any particular task. We then we narrowed down our investigation to a more indepth exploration of several tools within each category that were recommended by non-profit technology users (such as the organization TechSoup.org) and relatively easily accessible to our target audience. The report includes detailed information about each of the highlighted options.
This project took place over two months so there was not time to do indepth testing of each chosen tool, but we have begun testing individual tools such as those for document sharing and collaboration. One interesting outcome has been how a tool that looks very useful and relatively easy on paper, such as MS Office Live for document sharing, can prove itself to have a much steeper learning curve in real life. We initially thought this would be the tool we would recommend for collaborating on documents but identified a number of sizable barriers to its use when we used the tool to develop this report.
Readers can use this report to identify logical starting points for experimenting with new electronic collaboration tools. The MHLN project staff will also continue to explore individual tools. We look forward to ongoing dialogue about these and other tools.
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In the interim while searching for tools that will help us collaborate better with folks
across the state, we have developed what we call “electronic workgroups”. This
category does not necessarily classify as a collaboration tool per se, but is mainly
used as a one way communication for groups to get information. We have set this up
for both open and password protected pages.
Depending on the level of interaction and editing needed, a more suitable solution for this type of sharing may be to use an online discussion tool or document sharing/collaboration tool, both of which are listed below in the next sections.
Online discussion tools are great to support collaboration, have a discussion or
exchange ideas on a particular topic anytime on the Internet. Some tools include:
; Discussion Groups
A listserv is an electronic mailing list that consists of email addresses for a group
in which the sender can send one email message and it will be distributed to all subscribers of the list. It can be used as a tool to distribute a message or encourage discussion on a particular topic to those subscribed to the list. Posts may or may not be moderated. Posts may also be archived in threads for viewing at a later time or to view and follow a particular discussion (threads consist of emails that are a series of responses to an initial email).
We currently have set up several listservs set up through UW Mailman services:
; “mhln_teams” (130 MHLN team members and state and local partners),
; “medautism” (circa 60 clinicians and others interested in medical issues around autism, especially
diagnosis- moderated by Dr. Chuck Cowan),
; “wffn” ( xx members of the Washington Family to Family Network),
; “devscr” (11 members of a developmental screening workgroup- listserv currently not being used)
; “yakdevscreen” (12 members of workgroup focused on developmental screening efforts in Yakima).
A forum is an online discussion site, like a bulletin board that is online. It is similar to a listserv in that it can be used as a tool to post information or questions and to elicit discussion. One significant difference between forums and listservs is that listservs automatically deliver new messages to the subscriber, while forums require the member to visit the website and check for new posts. Forum users access posts by going to a website that is organized in threads (by date and subject). Because members may miss replies in threads they are interested in, many forums now may offer an "e-mail notification" feature, whereby members can choose to be notified of new posts in a thread.
Discussion groups can work like listservs and forums with the added ability to support uploading and commenting on documents. The disadvantage to this type of tool is that after editing a document, each user must remember to upload their updated version before others can view the changes. If documents are edited frequently, information could easily get out of sync. Examples of such tools are: UW Go Post, Google Groups, and Yahoo Groups.
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For more in-depth collaboration on documents, see the section below on document sharing and collaboration.
Document Sharing and Collaboration
The traditional ways of emailing documents and versions back and forth have been
cumbersome and difficult to track. Using online collaborative editing tools may help
save time and stay organized. There are a lot of tools and options available for file
sharing and collaboration with multiple people, but we concentrated on the select few
low budget, easy to use or recommended options:
; UW ShareSpaces http://www.washington.edu/lst/web_tools/sharespaces
; Google Docs http://docs.google.com
; Zoho Docs http://docs.zoho.com/jsp/index.jsp
; Microsoft Office Live http://www.officelive.com/en-us/
; Writeboard http://writeboard.com/
; More advanced tools: Wikis or Project Management Tools