Connecting organizations, partners or team members by:

  • Using systematic approaches for online collaboration;
  • Designing workflow and communications for collaborative projects or communities;
  • Training to build collaborative attitudes and skills; or
  • Evaluating collaborative processes.

The Taxonomy of Online Collaboration is based on the premise that collaboration is not a single activity, but a set of inter-related processes and work designs. By mapping these activities, the Taxonomy of Online Collaboration can be used for planning or analyzing online or hybrid virtual and face-to-face collaborations. A key for understanding the elements of the Taxonomy is posted in the sidebar.

This conceptual framework consists of a taxonomic schema for describing three essential processes and three levels of progressively more complex and integrated collaborative activities. The Taxonomy also recognizes the individual ‘s roles , experiences and reflections within the collaborative process. Steps carried out by individuals, such as project research, preparation or reflection, are indicated by the single star and arrow.

The Taxonomy of Collaboration is a framework educators, instructional designers or managers can use to create opportunities for a systematic progression of skills development in online collaborative communication and work design. These Visual Response maps show that the collaborative process is not linear, and stages may occur in a variety of sequences.

While not all collaboration crosses disciplines, most work that crosses disciplines is collaborative.

Working Beyond a Single Discipline

In such efforts, the steps described in the Taxonomy to develop communication protocols and mutually-respective review processes require even more attention. Can we find and use a common terminology? Do we trust each other enough to review and critique each other’s work? Do we work within the same or different standards for quality? What ways of knowing do we value: positivist, interpretivist, or pragmatic? Do we think new knowledge is best created using qualitative or quantitative methods? How is our work evaluated — by individual or collective achievement? To what extent are our professional identities bound in the discipline? How open are we to the possibility that by transcending discipline we will form a new one that is more inclusive? And given today’s digital world, do we even use common information and communications technologies?

 More about the Taxonomy, as applied to collaborative e-learning and collaborative projects, can be found in the following resources:

Podcast: On Teaching Online.

Salmons, J. (2007). Expect originality! Using taxonomies to structure assignments that support original work. In T. Roberts (Ed.), Student plagiarism in an online world: Problems and solutions. Hershey: IGI Reference.

Salmons, J. E. (2008). Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning. In L. A. Tomei (Ed.), Encyclopedia of information technology curriculum integration. Hershey: Information Science Reference.

Salmons, J. E., & Wilson, L. A. (2009). Online collaborative integration and recommendations for future research. In J. E. Salmons & L. A. Wilson (Eds.), Handbook of research on electronic collaboration and organizational synergy (Vol. II). Hershey: Information Science Reference.

Experience & Expertise

Experience & Expertise:

  • Research on online collaboration and collaborative e-learning; see Publications area.
  • Over 16 years as an online graduate faculty member at Capella University’s School of Business, where I developed and taught courses in team leadership, and supervised research on virtual teams.
  • Experience managing collaborative projects virtually.

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