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LIDC Praised at International Conference for Using Online Collaboration Tool

LIDC’s use of a new online collaboration tool to help its members establish links with each other was widely praised at a recent international educational software conference. The LIDC members’ database, which enables LIDC members to search for other members and their interests, was showcased at a poster session at the Blackboard World Conference in Barcelona from 6-8 April.

 

LIDC’s poster was the most visited by delegates at the event staged by Blackboard – a company which designs online learning environments for educational institutions. It generated widespread interest, particularly from employees working for universities in the UK and Scandinavia. The search engine used within the LIDC members’ database is a new development for Blackboard and the software package, also known as a ‘building block’, can now be used by all Blackboard users worldwide for free.

 

 

LIDC was established as a membership organisation in 2007 to encourage collaboration between researchers and academics working on international development in The Bloomsbury Colleges. As part of this work, LIDC uses Blackboard and the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) as an ‘intranet’ to store internal documents for members, utilising tools including podcasts and discussion boards. Members are provided with secure login to access Blackboard and only registered LIDC members are assigned the rights to view the LIDC area.

 

From the outset, LIDC needed a simple method to register Bloomsbury staff as members of the Centre and also required an efficient way to keep track of members’ details. These details are used to help bring together groups of people with similar interests. LIDC was supported by the

APTSTAIRS project team, which suggested that Google Docs could provide the solution. The free application run by Google offers a number of word processing tools, which can be used collaboratively by simultaneous users as the file is viewed online. A registration form, created in Google Docs, was created for prospective LIDC members to complete online. The form takes a few minutes to complete and users are able to send it back to LIDC at the press of a button.  The information from the form automatically feeds into a password-protected Google Docs spreadsheet, accessed by LIDC staff only.

 

The most important part of the project was to encourage members to make links with one another by being able to search for colleagues with similar interests. A simple search tool was therefore required that would encourage members’ use and would give clear results. LIDC contracted a developer to produce a simple search engine that would search the information held in the Google Docs spreadsheet and then display it on the LIDC’s Blackboard ‘intranet’ site.

 

The LIDC search engine, which is now live on the site, allows general development terms to be searched, such as malaria, or climate change.  The results that are returned provide the email address and website of the researcher and further information about their work.

 

If, as a Blackboard user, this tool is of interest, please email jiscapt@gmail.com .
 
By Abigail Deamer, Administrator, LIDC