In 2011, Penny Ralston-Berg and I published our book, MindMeld: Micro-Collaboration Between eLearning Designers and Instructor Experts. The book was the result of my seven years of doctorate research at the University of Wisconsin into best practices for developing online interactive learning objects (ILOs). The central tenet of MindMeld is my Five Factors of Micro-Collaboration, which lay out the conditions under which ILO teams have the highest chance of creating a deliverable that lets users learn by doing:

Aleckson's Five Factors of Micro-Collaboration

Aleckson’s Five Factors of Micro-Collaboration. Learn more at

Lauren Cifuentes

Lauren Cifuentes teaches at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. She is also the Director of Distance Education and Learning Technologies.

A few days ago, I was delighted to learn that my model for micro-collaboration has been applied and evaluated by researchers at Texas A&M University. Lauren Cifuentes, a professor at Texas A&M, and Seung Won Park, a postdoctoral researcher, are in the midst of writing up their findings and were kind enough to allow me to share a few paragraphs from the first draft of their manuscript:

A collaborative, interdisciplinary team of professors in Genomics, Philosophy, and Instructional Design was formed to design, develop, implement, and evaluate an online Ethics in Genomics course consisting of case-based e-learning modules that address social and ethical issues in genomics. The key goal of the course was to facilitate undergraduate and graduate students’ understandings and abilities to think critically about social and ethical questions raised by genomics technology, with the ultimate goal of broad dissemination into the learning environment as a MOOC.

The purpose of the study was to examine the effectiveness of Aleckson and Ralston-Berg’s (2011) micro-collaboration model1 in the instructional design and development process. We also hoped to generate guidelines on how to successfully achieve micro-collaboration between instructional designers and subject matter experts separated by geographic distances. Our efforts to validate the micro-collaboration model are guided by the following research questions:

  1. How satisfied is the design and development team with their product development experience?
  2. What is the impact of applying each of the five factors of the micro-collaboration model on design and development team processes?
  3. How are constraints of interdisciplinary and geographically separated teams addressed by the micro-collaboration model?

The researchers used design and development research methods to validate the micro-collaboration model and generate guidelines for instructional designers who work with a diverse, distanced group of subject matter experts. Richey and Klein (2008) define design and development research as “the systematic study of design, development, and evaluation processes with the aim of establishing an empirical basis for the creation of instructional … products and tools and new or enhanced models that govern their development” (p. 748).2 This research pertains to studies of the development, validation, and use of design and development models and processes as it focuses on exploring the effectiveness of the micro-collaboration model coupled with a modified ADDIE instructional design model.

Data collection took place during design and development of the alpha and beta prototypes for the course. A micro-collaboration survey was administered to team members periodically during the project and summarized. The contents of a design journal, design documents, and interviews were analyzed and focus-coded around the research questions. Preliminary findings indicate that the model worked well to alleviate constraints associated with interdisciplinary teamwork and distance collaboration. Guidelines for applying the model are being generated.

I was very pleased to learn of these promising initial findings. My understanding of the Five Factors has certainly informed our design and development processes here at Web Courseworks over the past few years, and it’s great to have my work independently verified. Good luck to Lauren and Won with their research, and I look forward to reading the published work!

Works cited:

1. Aleckson, Jon, and Penny Ralston-Berg. 2011. MindMeld: Collaboration Between eLearning Designers and Subject Matter Experts. Madison: Atwood.

2. Rickey, Rita C., and James D. Klein. 2008. “Research on Design and Development.” In Handbook of Research on Educational Communication and Technology, edited by J. Michael Spector, M. David Merrill, Jeroen van Merrienboer, Marcy P. Driscoll, 748. Routledge.