Designing a Problem Space for a Collaborative Work Environment

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| Collaborative Environment Design | Collaborative Scenario | Sample Collaborative Environment Plan | Introduction to Ill-Structured Problems | Designing a Problem Space for a Collaborative Work Environment | Preparing an Online Collaborative Environment Plan

Part 3 - Designing Problem Spaces for Collaborative Work Environments[edit | edit source]


In order to solve an ill-structured problem, learners must create a mental representation of the initial state, goal state and constraints of the problem (Foshay, 2003). This mental representation is the problem space. Other factors to consider include the problem context, resources and tools available. Since intermediate states are common when solving ill-structured problems, the transition between problem and solution must also be anticipated.

When designing a problem space for collaboration, the goal is to allow for expertise to flow freely among collaborators. Since learning “can be seen as change through activity” (Wilson, 2004), the problem space should be designed to encourage interaction among participants and establish ground rules for usage. Open communication and shared access to resources is key when online collaboration is required for problem solving. This encourages the sharing of expertise among the group, allowing team members to present, support or challenge ideas as appropriate to achieve progress.

Let's take a look at the components of a problem space in detail since they are the driving forces behind collaborative environment plans.

1. Problem Description[edit | edit source]

The first step when designing a problem space is to provide a brief explanation of the ill-structured problem being faced. Include details about whose problem it is, what the problem is about and who will help seek resolution.

2. Initial State[edit | edit source]

The second step is to consider the initial state(s) of the problem. The main purpose here is to better understand the status quo in order to begin visualizing the future. Since the problem-solving process will be transitional, intermediate states must also be explored. A good question to ask is "Where are we now?".

3. Context[edit | edit source]

The third step is to analyze and anticipate the various factors affecting the problem/organization. Several methods are available to accomplish this:

  • PEST Analysis: political, economic, social and technological analysis
  • SWOT Analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis
  • "Elements and Standards": critical thinking wheel (Hold CTRL and click link to open a new window)

4. Constraints[edit | edit source]

The fourth step is to list the limitations that exist. These hindrances could be related to time, budget, resources, policies and procedures, legal regulation, etc.

5. Resources[edit | edit source]

The fifth step is to find out what can be used to solve the problem. Resources can be people, data, money, surveys and so forth.

6. Tools[edit | edit source]

The sixth step is to determine what technology will be needed. This could be systems, physical materials or processes.

7. Goal State[edit | edit source]

The final step is to begin identifying the desired goal state(s), understanding that many possibilities may exist given the nature of ill-structured problems. Questions to ask include where do we want to be in 6 months, 12 months and beyond?

Quiz[edit | edit source]

A handy mneumonic device can help you remember the steps. Using the acronym PICCRTG, please fill in the blanks below with the full name of the associated step (all lowercase letters, please). Sing the letters for additional memory retention. P-I-C-C-R-T-G!

1 Complete the acronym

P –

2 Complete the acronym

I –

3 Complete the acronym

C –

4 Complete the acronym

C –

5 Complete the acronym

R –

6 Complete the acronym

T –

7 Complete the acronym

G –

Click Next to proceed to the final section of the lesson.

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