TAO/Online Co-Creation

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In 2011, research was conducted on the current usage of SeniorWebNL’s web contact possibilities, which has given the organization insights in present context and practices of the offered services such as forums, mailing lists and their corporate social networking site ‘Trefpunt’. Within this part of the research project SeniorWebNL needs to determine the functions and user requirements to fulfill the needs of their members with regard to the development and reformation of the web contact possibilities. Therefore, two co-creation sessions were organized: an offline ‘world café’ and this explorative variant of the same research methodology online (further referred to as ‘online co-creation’).

Methodology and data[edit | edit source]

In order to explore the participatory potential of an online variant of the research method ‘world café’, similar group discussions were organized in an online co-creation environment around the same topics as the offline world café: doing & sharing, how & why and learning. The aim of this setting for informal, open collaboration between participants is to share and generate new ideas about the web contact services by SeniorWebNL.

The choice of an appropriate online co-creation platform was based on several requirements.

  • First, the platform had to facilitate real time communication between multiple participants, in order to simulate an offline group conversation as good as possible. Features like voice over IP, webcams and a shared workspace or desktop were considered necessary to accomplish this.
  • Second, supportive features for structuring group communication such as chat possibilities were desirable. Also, the interface of the platform had to be user-friendly to seniors, which excluded too complicated platforms with too much features that would just confuse the senior participants.
  • Furthermore, the platform had to work on both Apple and Windows operating systems and be accessible through different Internet browsers.

The platform ‘Adobe Connect’ was chosen because it matched these criteria and was already available in the project.

The initial research methodology was based on the online co-creation by participants from their individual home settings. This way, it would be possible to gather insights in the potential usage of this methodology in the future by SeniorWebNL to co-create with their members in an online, open, informal way. The advantage of such an online platform for participation of members in SeniorWebNL’s innovation processes is that they do not have to attend a physical location anywhere in the country, which can possibly form a barrier to participation due to senior’s reduced mobility.

However, in mutual consultation between the researchers and SeniorWebNL was decided to first explore the potential of online co-creation from a more controlled environment than the members’ individual home settings. This decision was based on the grounded belief that technological challenges and difficulties could stifle online co-creation between participants and, in a worst case scenario, could cause undesirable agitation in SeniorWebNL’s members’ community. Therefore, it was decided to simulate several home settings at SeniorWebNL’s headquarters in the city of Utrecht, where participants all were offered their own room and a researcher to assist with technological difficulties if necessary. The given assistance and the safe, controlled environment should be taken into account in regard to the results and conclusions based on these explorative sessions.

During the first session, the research methodology was explored in its most open form of online co-creation between the participants, without interventions in the group’s conversation and work. Therefore, the first session was peer-moderated by the participants, enabling a better and more natural social climate within the group dynamics. Contrarily to the first session, the second was not peer-moderated but moderated by a discussant, a role performed by one of the present researchers.

Qualitative research data from the two organized online co-creation sessions was gathered mainly by screen capturing and audio-recording of the sessions. Also, a short printed survey was taken among the participants and comprised background control variables such as age and gender and a self-estimation by participants of their experience with online communication software like voice over IP and chatting.

Complementary, as a try out for the non-simulated real home settings from the participants, a third session was planned to take place with some of the participants from the first two controlled-setting sessions. Unfortunately, they indeed encountered too may technical difficulties and this is why the third online session had to be cancelled after 15 minutes.

Recruitment[edit | edit source]

Both SeniorWebNL’s members and ambassadors (volunteers that take care of training, assistance and teaching) were invited to voluntarily participate in the online co-creation sessions through SeniorWebNL’s newsletter mailing, which goes out to over a 100.000 members, and through the so-called ‘members panel’. A special notion was made in the invitation that in particular seniors with some experience in online communication tools were invited to participate, but less-experienced seniors were not to be excluded. In the first and second session, respectively four and five members participated.

Procedure[edit | edit source]

Both the online co-creation sessions were organized on the 18th of April 2012 at SeniorWebNL’s headquarters in the city of Utrecht, where five separate rooms were available to simulate the distance of the seniors when participating from their home setting. All the rooms in this controlled environment were equipped with a desktop computer with microphone and webcam, on which the Adobe Connect platform was pre-installed and tested already.

Before the start of the sessions, one held in the morning and one in the afternoon, the groups were welcomed and requested to fill in the short survey. Then the session started with a short introduction to the research project and a plenary introduction to Adobe Connect, its features and the topics and assignments. We have also requested permission to record both the screen (video) and audio during the sessions.

Participants then had to split up and go to their ‘own’ room, accompanied by a research assistant who functioned as a facilitator, offering assistance when the participant encountered technical problems with the microphone, webcam, etc.

Both the peer-moderated session and the discussant-moderated session took about 2 hours. In this time, the peer-moderated group of participants focused on assignments about ‘doing & sharing’ online and the topic ‘how & why’. The other group focused on assignments for the topic ‘learning’. The assignments were designed as presentation slides in the collaborative workspace in Adobe Connect, where participants could each write or draw their own input. Each session was closed with an evaluation of the session with the participants.

A third online session was organised on the 3rd of May 2012 to evaluate the first two sessions online with the available participants. This created also the possibility to verify whether the participants were able to work in an online environment in their home situation, i.e. a non-controlled environment.

Topics[edit | edit source]

For each online co-creation session, one or two topics were assigned, comparable with the offline world-café sessions. The topic ‘doing & sharing’, applied in the first session, was focused on the current online activities of the participants, which activities they would like to perform together with other SeniorWebNL’s members and what kind of information they would like to share. The second topic ‘how & why’, also included in the first session, was focused on how members would prefer to have contact with each other online and why in that specific way. The second session was entirely dedicated to the topic of ‘learning’, which is one of the key topics in SeniorWebNL’s services. Here we focused on the potential of learning online, together with fellow SenioWebNL members, and the subjects one would like to learn about.

Data processing[edit | edit source]

Both the online co-creation sessions were, with the permission of the participants, recorded by screen- and audiocapturing. The evaluation conversation with the participants afterwards was also recorded in both video and audio file format. All these qualitative data files were processed anonymously and used in addition to the notes taken during the sessions.

The very small quantitative dataset collected with the short printed questionnaire was processed in a database with IBM SPSS Statistics.

Analysis[edit | edit source]

The results of the two online co-creation sessions with SeniorWebNL’s members are analyzed per session and topic. In the first session, 5 members participated of which three men and 2 women, with an average age of over 68 years old (M = 68,50, SD = 10,53). The second session’s participants group consisted of three men and one woman with an average age of 70 years old (M = 70,00, SD = 2,94).

Evaluation[edit | edit source]

An important observation points to the reasons why and how online applications are used by elderly. Whereas SeniorWebNL (SWNL) as an organization also aims at increasing the use of online applications to build relationships and stimulate online collaboration between their members, participants repeatedly indicated that they use SWNL’s online applications mainly for practical reasons. According to SWNL, members of the organization can benefit from their online applications, as they offer a great variety of services available. Nevertheless, older persons appear to use the organization’s services mainly to solve problems, raise questions, and obtain information about developments within the organization. During the different co-creation sessions all participants mentioned not being open to having contact with other members for social reasons. However, in their private lives they frequently contact relatives through various online applications. Yet, this is often also because of a practical point of view. The fact that the idea of increasing engagement in online activities is based on a somewhat incorrect assumption is self-evident.

Another important observation includes the use of online applications. The online co-creation sessions allowed us to observe and analyze how older persons deal with non-daily used computer applications such as Adobe Connect. The differences between the first and second session were noteworthy, since - during the second session - the participants were unable to install their microphones, leading to an early end of the session. The preconceived image which was included in the research method appeared as rather true. Nevertheless, one can question whether the participants’ knowledge of installing hardware is applicable to all older persons. The problems could also be generated by a lack of knowledge on how to assist elderly online. Evidently, it appears that this method is more appropriate for the comparison of research methods than for obtaining relevant output, as the concrete output regarding the improvement of web contact services was less satisfactory.