Virtual Environments for Collaborative Innovation and Learning
J.UCS Special Issue
(Department of Digital Systems, University of Piraeus, Greece
Peter B. Sloep
(Open Universiteit in the Netherlands, Heerlen, The Netherlands
Abstract: Networked technologies, especially social software
applications, provide new affordances that facilitate collaborative
creativity among staff members of organizations. This editorial paper
gives an overview of the scope of this special issue which focuses on
the design of virtual environments for collaborative innovation and
Keywords: open innovation
Categories: K.4.3, L.3.0,
L.3.0, L.6.1, L.6.2
To invent and design innovative products and/or services requires,
nowadays, collective creative performance: creative action in
collaboration with others. To achieve excellence in innovative product
or service development, coordinated collaborative problem solving
activities from all team members are required, making maximal use of
the collective creative power.
In the literature, more than 90 creative/innovative problem solving
techniques can be found, such as TRIZ, SCAMPER, Six Hats, 5W1H
([Boden, 2003]; [Craft, 2006]. Each one of them has been proposed in
order to encourage people's original thoughts and divergent
thinking. All techniques try to steer thought processes and help the
individual or the group to find a structured approach to answer
questions; they all try to see problems in their entirety, quickly to
elicit new ideas and to generate faster and better decisions.
Literature on use of explicit, dedicated pedagogical strategies to
enhance creative problem solving is relatively scarce [Baruah and
Paulus, 2008]. Thus, there is an open research and development issue
on learning strategies that could effectively promote creativity and
innovation. This special issue tries to address this issue by
identifying sound theoretical foundations for the design and
development of virtual environments for collaborative innovation and
learning processes. All foundations are based on such related
disciplines as psychology, cognitive science, and communication
Moreover, networked technologies, especially social software
applications, provide new affordances that facilitate collaborative
creativity among staff members of organizations. In network-supported
collaborative innovation and learning environments, actors go through
cycles of divergence, in which new ideas about a given problem are
generated and explored, and convergence, in which new ideas are valued
and detailed. These cycles rely on knowledge elicitation and knowledge
sharing. It is well documented that there is a genuine need for
appropriate supportive tools to facilitate collaboration and the
management of distributed knowledge creation [DiLiello and Houghton,
2008]; [Shneiderman, 2007]; [Walling, 2010]; these tools should also
ease the generation and reuse of ideas as well as their critiquing or
even their rejection.
This special issue, then, focuses on the design of virtual
environments for collaborative innovation and learning. The designs
discussed are all based on solid pedagogical methods and cognitive
strategies that help distributed group members collaborate for
creative problem solving as well as developing innovative products.
The papers in this special issue cover two main categories. The first
is about sound theoretical foundations for the design, development and
deployment of virtual environments for collaborative innovation and
learning, by looking at the research in related disciplines such as
psychology, cognitive science, and communication sciences.
Vahey et al. made a study to elicit innovation supportive behaviours
in a virtual 3D world environment in SecondLife®. Based on the
research literature and after having done multiple forms of analysis
which offer rich understanding of participants' behaviours in that
virtual 3D world environment, they introduce a framework of innovation
based on behaviours identified. The paper also presents implications
for how organizations may scaffold group interactions to increase the
chances of successful collaborative innovation. Sie et al. propose a
way to simulate behaviour in networked collaborative innovation that
could lead to effective collaborations. Their agent-based social
simulation approach is based on cooperative game theory as well as
observations from literature.
The second category is about virtual environments for collaborative
innovation and learning - with a domain dependent or independent
scope - that have already been used and evaluated in practice for
their capacity to augment learners' experiences.
Brocco et al. present design guidelines and an architecture for
computer-supported collaborative systems that enhance open
creativity. These guidelines have resulted from interviews conducted
within companies in the German ICT sector.
Dolog et al. describe a recommender system for supporting
collaborative real time editing from needs of brainstorming or
collaborative decision making among workplace team members who are
physically distributed. A small-scale experiment showed that a concept
of recommendation which is based on the collaborative real time
activities of team members can indeed offer improvements in work
Kotis et al. consider ontology engineering as an innovative process
and propose the use of (Shared)HCONE, a novel technological approach
for enhancing learning in the creation of ontologies within a
collaborative, open and socially constructed environment.
The issue of context-aware recommendation support is also dealt with
in the paper of Sielis et al. They describe how a context-aware
recommender system integrated into creativity support tools and more
specifically, collaborative creativity support tools (CCST), can
enhance creativity process. This system makes recommendations based on
the user's input during the creativity process and on context
information that already is available from previous creativity
3 Concluding remarks
This special issue tries to highlight the critical question of "How
can collaborative creativity be taught and leveraged in a networked
learning environment?" Authors have written about virtual
environments for collaborative innovation and learning which have
common characteristics; they all support:
- Generation of new perspectives, new ideas
- Articulation of yet 'tacit' knowledge
- Exchange of ideas, finding common ground
- Learning from each other, existing knowledge
- Evaluation of ideas
- Collaborative 'construction' of new proposition
- Scaffolding using recommendation mechanisms
It is worth further to investigate to what extent the use of virtual
environments for collaborative innovation and learning affects the
users' experiences and can effectively as well as efficiently
contribute to productivity.
This work has been partially supported by the ISTFP7 idSpace project:
Tooling of and training for collaborative, distributed product
innovation (ref num: idspace-2008-216199).
[Baruah and Paulus, 2008] Baruah, J. & Paulus, P.B. (2008). Effects of
training on idea-generation in groups. Small Group Research, 39,
[Boden, 2003] Boden, M.A. (2003). The creative mind: myth and
mechanisms. Widenfeld and Nicolson, London.
[Craft, 2006] Craft, A. (2006). Fostering Creativity with
Wisdom. Cambridge Journal of Education, 36(3), pp. 337-350.
[DiLiello and Houghton, 2008] DiLiello, T. C., & Houghton,
J. D. (2008). Creative Potential and Practised Creativity: Identifying
Untapped Creativity in Organizations. Creativity and Innovation
Management, 17(1), 37-46.
[Esquivel, 1995] Esquivel, G. (1995). Teacher behaviors that foster
creativity. Educational Psychology Review, 7(2), 185-202.
[Shneidermann, 2007] Shneiderman, B. (2007). Creativity support tools:
accelerating discovery and innovation. Communications of the ACM,
[Wallin and Von Krogh, 2010] Wallin, M. W., & Von Krogh,
G. (2010). Organizing for Open Innovation: Focus on the Integration of
Knowledge. Organizational Dynamics, 39(2), 145-154.